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, 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.
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.
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!