The times they are a changin’, and that applies as much in the motorcycle world as it does in the rest of the world around us. As face masks, social distance, and a desire to be off-grid and away from society grows in popularity, so too are changes taking place in the motorcycle world.
Fun fact: The Motorcycle Industry Council indicates that new off-road motorcycle sales were up 18.9% from January through March 2020 in the United States.
Motorcycles have always been a terrific get-away vehicle. There’s freedom, a cool breeze, space to move through your lane, through or around traffic… You’re apart from everyone else on the road, not a part of everyone else on the road.
It makes sense that more people looking for more ways to get out and get away would reflect in a big spike in off-road motorcycle sales early on this year. But what motorcycle brands are getting the most interest from would-be motorcycle buyers?
NADAguides has shared some data to show us what brands are the most researched on their site, by four key categories: Off-Road, Sportbike, Cruiser, and Touring.
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Let’s start with Off-Road motorcycles, since we’ve already mentioned them a few times:
If your first guess was KTM, you’d be right. At first glance KTM’s dominance in the off-road segment doesn’t seem super clear. The Austrian motorcycle company represents 28% of all off-road searches, which is only 3% more than Yamaha (25%) in second place, and only 5% more searches than Honda (23%) in third place.
You already know who the top four brands will be in this segment of the motorcycle industry, but their order might surprise you:
Kawasaki and Yamaha each represent the two most searched manufacturers for Q1 of 2020 at 22% each. Suzuki followed up at 17% of all searches, Honda 16% of all searches, and Ducati, the best of the non-Japanese brands at 11%.
We should keep in mind that searches don’t translate into actual purchases, or reflect what’s really on the road. I had a friend who knew nothing about motorcycles at all but bought a Kawasaki solely because “I want to be able to tell girls I have a Ninja. They know what that means.” He sold the bike at the end of the season, and six years later continues telling women about how he used to ride a Ninja.
We both know that Harley-Davidson is going to be #1 on this list, but if you think Indian is in second place, you’re in for a surprise.
Harley-Davidson rules the cruiser kingdom, representing over 62% of all NADAguides Cruiser motorcycle searches in Q1 2020. The next closest brands are Honda at 11%, Yamaha at 7%, and Kawasaki at 5%.
The real story here, which you might be asking yourself, is where’s Indian? Well, the now defunct Victory Motorcycles got 4% of all cruiser searches, while Indian Motorcycles represented 3% of all searches. To put this in perspective, Indian did as well as Triumph did for cruiser searches. And those Triumphs may not even be made in the UK anymore either.
Harley’s dominance was even more pronounced, but that was a given, but who are some of the other options out there?
Harley-Davidson has the touring market in the palm of it’s iron fist, representing a phenomenal 80% of all NADAguides Touring motorcycle searches in Q1 2020. Honda and Yamaha once again followed up in second and third at 8% and 4% of Touring searches respectively.
BMW’s growth in the touring segment saw them take fourth at 3% of all searches, which meant there were three times more people were looking for BMW touring bikes than Indian motorcycle touring options. Sorry Chieftain fans.
So what does all of this mean?
The importance of understanding this data, is it helps us to determine what’s in demand. Anyone can list a motorcycle for sale, but what are people actually looking for? What are people actually interested in?
By understanding what quarantined motorcyclists are searching for, we can start to see early changes in demand that will effect motorcycle sales down the road.
We’re living in strange and volatile times. There’s a virus. It’s an election year. There are strong cries for social change.
Before, motorcycle manufacturers, dealers, and even the average rider like you or me just trying to sell our motorcycle, we would look into our crystal balls and try to predict the future of motorcycle sales.
Our crystal balls don’t work anymore. There’s too much in motion, the water isn’t still, everything is murky. But one thing is for certain: the more interest in your brand, the more easily you can sell your motorcycle for more money.
UPDATE: June and July Sales Changes by segment
Some information on sales changes year over year were just released:
At this rate, dealers that were closed earlier in the year won’t be catching up to where they should have been any time soon. But considering dealers are reporting in-store visits are down by as much as 90%, it’s good to see that sales volumes are starting to return to normal levels.