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Are Motorcycle Dealers Closing?

Why Are Motorcycle Dealers Closing?

What do motorcycle companies like Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha have in common with off-road and farming brands like Arctic Cat, BRP, Polaris, and John Deere? All of these powersports manufacturers have fewer dealerships than they did in 2006. Are motorcycle dealers closing? At first glance, yes. But why?

Harley-Davidson

Harley-Davidson, stalwart of the motorcycle industry, has seen their number of dealers down roughly 11%. Sure, Harley-Davidson has some challenges, but I personally think that some of the late 00’s early 10’s reduction in the number of dealers may have been a culling of the herd:

Harley began placing new demands on dealerships, rumored to demand both 60,000+ sq ft locations as well as highway visibility. Some dealers, like Poole’s in the Hamilton Ontario area, had been selling new Harley-Davidson’s since 1955, but could no longer afford or justify to keep meeting the Motor Company’s blanket gentrifying demands.

The fact that Harley’s numbers have been relatively flat since 2013 would indicate that they they’ve moved past this. Until the next wave of demands (has the HD Riding Academy rolled out in your town yet?).

And don’t go thinking that the Japanese are doing much better

Honda has experienced double-digit shrinkage as well. Their dealer count is down over 16%. Some of it may be due to changes in Honda’s own structure as well:

Honda has been pushing for more Honda Powerhouse Dealers: Traditional Honda car dealerships, now selling motorcycles and other power sports vehicles. Because, you know, everyone wants to want to buy their motorcycle from a car salesman who couldn’t ride his way out of the parking lot.

Why Are Motorcycle Dealers Closing - Graph as a Percentage

Source: AIM Expo Magazine

Typically, each dealer is to get their own private trade area (sometimes referred to as a “Dealing Marketing Zone” or “Territory”). The idea is not to have dealerships competing for the same customers and driving prices down. In Canada we’ve seen a couple dealers not see their dealership agreements renewed/extended.

When an indie shop applies to be a Honda dealer, even if they have the huge capital that’s required to carry such a brand, if they’re within reasonable distance of any Honda Powerhouse dealership that sells CBR-1000RRs next to Honda riding lawnmowers, guess what? You’re buying a bike from the guy who’s idea of a sweet ride is a 2018 Honda Fit.

Some things just shouldn’t happen.

In fact, sales across the entire industry are down

To quote MarketWatch:

Millennials get blamed for the death of many iconic products and brands. Add motorcycles to the list.

Of course, there’s always the point that motorcycle sales are down across the board. Old riders are leaving the sport (some by choice, others less fortunately), but there aren’t enough people getting into it to replace. Add that to bikes lasting forever and a revival of interest in cheap (often junkie) 1980s bikes. Also add that the number of women in motorcycling has doubled (and dealers suck at selling to women) and we’ve got a perfect storm for flat motorcycle sales for the last half dozen years.

But if you’ve been following YouMotorcycle for more than five minutes, you already know that, and I don’t want to beat a dead horse, so let’s move on and talk about who’s doing things right.

Oh, and if you haven’t been following @YouMotorcycle on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or via email alerts… what’s wrong with you?!

Why Are Motorcycle Dealers Closing - Graph as Volume

Source: AIM Expo Magazine

One brand stands alone, kinda

Are motorcycle dealers closing down in your area? If it feels like the answer is yes, you’re probably right… but if feels like same ol’ same, you might not be wrong either: Not all manufacturers are seeing their numbers decrease. As mentioned, some brands, such as Harley-Davidson are seeing their dealer tally has been pretty consistent as of late.

But other brands, well, one in particular, is seeing really strong turnarounds. And that goes to Polaris. Indian Motorcycles has been moving some units and gaining some traction over the last few years, and they’re back within 2% of their 2006 numbers. They aren’t about to take a serious bite out of Harley-Davidson’s 50.8% market share (in the 600cc+ class), but still, this is worthy of celebration. Good job, Polaris/Indian!

COMMENTS: Are motorcycle dealers closing or no longer carrying new vehicles (going used-only) in your area? Have you seen more dealers close or open? Let me know!

About YouMotorcycle

YouMotorcycle is a lifestyle motorcycle blog to be appreciated by those who see motorcycling as a lifestyle and not simply a hobby, sport, or method of transportation. Most of the posts on the site are written by past and present motorcycle industry staff. We remain fiercely independent, innovative, and unconventional. Our goal is to encourage more people to enjoy the world's greatest outdoor sport by helping new riders get started and inspiring current riders to get out more. We motorcycle, do You?

10 comments

  1. Wow, that You Tube video sure brought out the Harley haters, the vast majority of whom have never ridden a modern Harley, but were only too happy to display their own insecurity and dump their uninformed nastiness onto a comment page. Harley’s sales numbers are down and price is a big reason. Their demographic is growing old (including me), but Harley is starting to make style, function and price changes to change that, like a business has to. If you are thinking about counting Harley out, attend the Sturgis motorcycle rally or count the Harley’s you see during a day riding on the open road. Not everyone wants to go 165 mph on a motorcycle or bend themselves into a pretzel to fit on it. There are plenty of reasons that different people ride different types and brands of motorcycles and that is OK.

  2. i hear grandpa Abe Simpson shouting EPPA EPPA, but the sound does nothing for me so how about union wages

  3. I wouldn’t trade my 2011 V Star for anything. Nearly 20,000 miles and no problems. Only spent on oil,tires, filters, and mods. It’s a cruiser, not a crotch rocket. Every so often I think about trading it for a Harley, but then I think” why spend twice as much for another cruiser that will cost more in upkeep because it has Harley on the tank? Nope. Until HD has more reasonable pricing, I’ll stick with the V Stars ( I’ll survive without an HD t shirt).

  4. Re: “But if you’ve been following YouMotorcycle for more than five minutes, you already know that, and I don’t want to beat a dead horse, so let’s move on and talk about who’s doing things right.

    Oh, and if you haven’t been following @YouMotorcycle on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or via email alerts… what’s wrong with you?!”

    There’s nothing wrong with me just because I didn’t know about you, you condescending prick. You ADVERTISE where?!? Have never seen you at trade show, nor in a trade rag. A customer only off-offhandedly mentioned YM yesterday. Know that I’ve worked in the MC industry for 28+ years, the last 8 managing the companies web presence and never once came across your simpleton web site. You are suffering from all manner of puffery and are baned from our shop.

    • Dear stranger, I’m not surprised you haven’t seen or heard of my “simpleton” site before – only 1.2 million motorcyclists have. My readers are a truly awesome bunch with a great sense of humor. If that doesn’t sound good, this site probably isn’t for you.

      I want to thank you though, because today you made my day: you taught me that even offline, people are talking about a site that has been informing and entertaining motorcyclists for nearly ten years. I built that site, so hearing that one of your customers was talking about me all the way in Massachusetts, that made me really happy.

      Since you asked, no, I don’t advertise anywhere. When your content is good, you don’t need to. YouMotorcycle gets 30,000 visitors per month. I’m happy with that.

      Maybe after 28 years in the industry, it’s time to rethink your approach.

      Ride safe brother, I wish you well.

      Adrian

  5. Another brutal reality is the sheer cost of doing business. Rent, heat, hydro, taxes et al are shoving dealers out of major urban centres into the hinterlands. The ones that seem to be making it (in my observation) are the ones that provide a total experience – new/used machines, parts, accessories AND service.
    Spreading the load out with ATVs, UTVs, outdoor power and marine products seems to help too. Sad fact, but the smaller guys are going or gone except for niche marques.
    Maybe once the Chinese decide to take a real run at the North American market we’ll see a change.
    There are creative solutions but they take time and money. We’ll see figures it out and takes advantage – I’m hopeful.

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