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Motorcycle News

Motorcycle industry in deep trouble and needs help fast

Motorcycle industry in deep trouble and needs help fast - Forums [Biker Match] Motorcycle industry in deep trouble and needs help fast - Forums [Biker Match]
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Motorcycle industry in deep trouble and needs help fast

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A group of two dozen concerned motorcycle veterans has published a comprehensive research document that addresses the question, "Can this industry be saved?"

Maybe, it concluded, but it's not going to be easy.

Former Indian Motorcycle executive Robert Pandya formed the Give A Shift group this fall, hoping to find a consensus of opinion among his friends and colleagues.

He began with a written survey, which included 300 participants, and proceeded to a two-hour roundtable discussion in Long Beach, on Nov. 16, with 25 of the most ardent influencers.

Their comments, made anonymously for fear of offending employers and business associates, paint a dire picture.

Sales are flat or falling in almost every area.
Baby boomer buyers, the most consistent motorcycle consumers, are aging out of the industry fast.
The industry has failed to increase sales by making new riders out of women, minorities and millennials.
The old dealership model is broken and needs a makeover.
The arrival of autonomous vehicles may push motorcycles off the road entirely.
"The message is, 'We are in trouble, and there is no silver bullet,' " Pandya said.

Among the key findings in the report, which can be read in its entirety here:

The motorcycle industry does not need better product, but its marketing and advertising methods are failing to attract new riders in part because they are too focused on selling bigger, faster, more expensive machines to veteran riders.

"There has never been a more compelling and interesting time in motorcycling," the report said. "It's clear … that the bigger issue is lack of general interest in riding."

The industry also has failed to appreciate the importance of the female rider, losing sight of the concept that mothers who ride tend to produce children who ride. Instead, manufacturers focus too tightly on the more typical male consumer and, when it comes to women, rely on the careworn "shrink it and pink it" approach to apparel and gear manufacturing.

"There is clearly a path to attract female ridership that does not come from traditional motorcycle marketing and must be explored," the report said. "The increase in female ridership will have a huge influence on young riders' access to motorcycling."

The panel faulted motorcycle dealerships for being outmoded and unimaginative, and for employing sales personnel primarily interested in selling top-of-the-line products to well-heeled buyers while ignoring the entry-level beginner.

"Dealers still often do not know how to sell to women, couples, families and non-traditional customers," the report concluded. "Being enchanted by motorcycling can quickly be dulled by a poor, confusing or dismissive dealership experience.

Even more worrying, Pandya's report said, is the approaching widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles, whose prevalence on public roads may leave no safe space for motorcycling.

"There is a very real risk of motorcycling being completely cut out of the conversation for future vehicle infrastructure systems," the panel concluded. "The single biggest threat to motorcycling overall … will be the incompatibility between autonomous vehicles and existing motorcycles."

Though the panel's conclusions were bleak, its members did have ideas for slowing the erosion in sales and enthusiasm.

The paper called on the power sports industry collectively and riders individually to self-correct, self-police and work together to improve motorcycling's image.

Manufacturers must "promote motorcycling as an activity for everyone," "tell a compelling story about the benefits and joys of motorcycling" and "affect acceptance of the positive aspects of motorcycling."

Riders, in turn, must be better ambassadors for the sport they love and better at sharing the message.

"If just 20% of existing riders were able to bring a new rider into the mix every year, the shift would be dramatic not only in sales but in camaraderie," the report said. "Motorcycling can no longer be our secret."

Blaine Schuttler, managing director of Husqvarna Motorcycles North America, said a major challenge is in simply identifying consumers and connecting with them.

"Our marketing activity plans are geared toward people who are currently in the sport, and toward trying to attract returners to the sport," Schuttler said. "At the same time, everybody in the industry is trying to attract people who haven't been exposed to motorcycles or have never ridden motorcycles before."

Some companies, the report charged, have failed to produce enough motorcycles that are appropriately sized and priced for new riders, or have failed to make them sufficiently attractive.

But even those who have built splendid lineups of starter motorcycles, like Honda, are having trouble capturing the attention of potential riders whose free time and disposable income already are occupied by online gaming, streaming video content and other popular outdoor activities such as cycling, mountain biking, hiking or RV camping.

"There are so many options for that audience in terms of transportation and recreation," said Lee Edmunds, national motorcycle advertising manager for American Honda. "I don't see anything approaching what we need to do with that audience."

The problem is made particularly acute, the report said, because many millennial consumers were "bubble-wrapped for safety in their youth" or raised by overprotective parents who discouraged risk-taking.

"Adventure is not at the top of the list," said MotoQuest tour company founder Phil Freeman. "It's more about comfort and security."

Industry consultant and former Honda executive Chris Jonnum, who was not part of the panel but endorses many of its conclusions, observed that the thrill of motorcycling alone should make it an easy sell.

"What we have is cool and fun and genuine and appealing," he said. "Everyone who does it knows how great it is, and how fun it is. What we're trying to do here shouldn't be impossible."

Matt @ 14/12/2017 19:37  


American marketing - to me, motorcycling is more than a "sport".
GHW @ 15/12/2017 00:30  

Agree totally GHW 👍

AWOL ... (Alternative Way Of Life) is the acronym used amongst my lifelong friends. I don't ride (pilly only) mainly due to no time, but money available or vice versa, no money but plenty of time. Poor excuse in some folks eyes but work/marriage /mortgage/children/divorce has certainly conspired against me. However, both my children were actively encouraged to learn to ride; son tried it wasn't interested, daughter rides and is adamant that she won't learn to drive. She say she is a biker, why would she want to be 'caged'?! As for the 'industry' it should be looking to make it more affordable, easier to attain and keep striving for riders rights.
Lindsay @ 15/12/2017 06:57  

Learned to ride before I could drive and now at an age where I can enjoy riding my bike on a weekend. The industry does still tend to ignore women and as for clothing.... shrink it and pink it is still the same thinking as 30 years ago, I still have to buy blokes clothing.
feistygirl @ 15/12/2017 10:38  

The industry is in trouble due to insurance being so high or simply not available because of the growth in thefts
JP @ 15/12/2017 13:35  

High insurance and lack of police interest in stolen bike's are a cause. However one of the growing areas of new riders are women.

I walk into a dealer and immediately get shown to the cruiser type bike.....or after pesuading the rep I don't want a cruiser, I get told the price of the bike along with "oh and it's another £xxxx to have it lowered". So as most women are shorter we are penalised financially. No one wants to feel ripped off when an extra £xxxx is added.

Sick of female clothing not fitting properly, pink or pastel. Not enough pockets as, and I quote, "well most females only pillion so don't need the same or equivalent kit".

Insurance attitude. ...."well you won't be riding in the wet or cold as you are female" (nope they didn't get the business)

I specifically choose mens gear now as, although it's not a brilliant fit, it covers my needs as a rider....and I get a whole lot less abuse and less challenging behaviour when other road users don't clock I am female....another quote " f***ing hell its a f***ing bird, mate burn her up" (yeah right, go for it you stupid twonk in a white van)

Then you can start on the problems young riders experience. Cost is one, insurance is another, three tests as opposed to one for car drivers of the same age is another.

Congestion in towns and cities is horrendous. Add on that cities n towns are removing bike parking.

Public attitude that bikers are trouble and dangerous added to the insurance and police attitude that it is usually the biker's fault when an accident happens just stinks.

All in all no one is helping the biking community or seem to bothered if it survives.

rowanblossom @ 15/12/2017 18:23  

Hmmm mm it does make you wonder though.... I mean look at the cost of taking your test these days and how hard it is to move up from a 125 until you are a certain age etc and they've not done that with cars........ I'm always a suspicious conspiracy theorist but someone doesn't want bikes to be promoted or easy to acquire......
Would hate to think maybe they don't want young ones to be freedom fighters anymore...... They can't control the freedom fighters so easily can they... .
xSuzix @ 16/12/2017 19:18  

I think sport is a fair desciption of motorcycling.

It's an extreme sport.
Way expensive to be a main form of transport...and not supported enough with at work facilities.

The Brits have also been slow in adapting to change. Love of track bikes and race replicas for decades hasn't helped. They weren't keen on females getting involved with a man's world, either.

Would love to see Matt build some options for surveys on here. We could get some valuable insights into why the majority of members are middle aged - or over...and male :)

So...going to play devil's advocate with this argument.

How many existing bikers are actively encouraging new riders? The report says it will help.
I strongly agree with that.
I suggest very few. Most bikers won't go out with a learner or 125cc bike.
They encourage getting bigger machines, yes - then it's OK.

There's a divide between the folks starting out and existing full licence bikers. It needs to be more inclusive. There's very little ongoing support for riders passing their CBT and getting structured practice.
Instructor schools don't have a commitment to stay in touch with their students, encouraging ongoing training and group activities. I reckon training schools have less awareness of their community than the police, who make regular attempts to connect with them.
What would happen if a 125 rider asked about doing Bikesafe scheme?

Why don't instructors also ride 125cc machines during training..? Hmm....

How many parents prefer to finance their kids education at university rather than encourage or support an interest in biking?
How long to pay it off?
How many parents encourage learning to drive a car before - if ever - the bike test?
More practical, right? Yep. For sure. Safer too, right? The stats seem to say so.
More practical with the British weather? Damn straight.
And you don't have to chain a car to the inside of your garage to get it insured.
As it happens, my bike insurance has always been cheaper than for my car.
Vehicle manufacturers have been crap at taking responsibility for improving security of their products.
Customers still don't complain the right people, that is :)

125cc bikes are desperately underpowered for modern traffic and road conditions. But that was the intention. It's the most influential gamechanger nobody objected to strongly enough.

My sister tried to find support locally while she was taking CBT and rider training for more experience and connect with local clubs. They weren't keen...even includes a couple of lady biker clubs.
I regularly made the 200+ mile round trip to go out with her across the 2 years before she passed her full test.

As an aside, she's fully kitted out with female gear. Much support from Newbury's Pro Bike. Respect to them.
Shame Hein Gericke weren't supported enough to survive - poor business sense, too. Their female gear is excellent. Online shop is still active and worth a look.

Totally agree with the comments about the biking community making more effort to be ambassadors for the industry. But I do think bike producers need to focus more of their funding on reaching out to younger people with more funky, imaginative machines and marketing in the same way car ads do.

Promoting the biggest and fastest can only attract the older folks who've got cash to spare.
nickscafe @ 18/12/2017 09:17  

Bit of a late reply from me, sorry.
Nick - brilliant points! You've hit the nail(s) on the head I think.

Question is - what can we do to help? BikerMatch is perfectly placed to help fix this, I'm sure! We need to start a campaign of some kind, bringing new bikers together particularly with smaller bikes and also women-only ride outs maybe? Or maybe that's being exclusive of men.

Surely we can muster together the (wo)man-power to get something going.
Matt @ 16/01/2018 15:14  

There are a few women only bike clubs going and plenty of events aimed at women but when you look at the pics there are as many blokes as women there. Can someone tell me why blokes have to turn up at a women only event ?
JP @ 16/01/2018 16:39  

I would like to see monthly bike meets have more prominence.
Although I understand how much space they can take up in the calendar, we should be encouraging local folk to meet up locally - or further afield if they choose.

In my opinion, JP, Jack and Co have been a real hardcore duo of this site in terms of social events. They've worked bloody hard for years and do an amazing job of setting up BM events.
I salute you.

What we also need, is a better local events diary that works at a community level.
We're spread out across the country, some of us work crazy hours and need to find an easier way to connect.
Maybe a specific links page on local meets - but it needs to be kept current.

It would also be great to see some of the newer riders here on the smaller machines getting involved without fear of being left behind. I see it so's not a nice thing to do.

Group riding, touring / foreign trips takes practice and learning to be a pillion. It doesn't come easily or naturally. It would be great to see the knowledge and experience here shared for the benefit of learning, developing and socialising.

@ JP
No idea...unless the guys don't like the idea of being left at home :)
nickscafe @ 16/01/2018 18:51  

Come on JP, you know the answer to that one ... !

I'm gonna say it for ya ... To see if they get lucky n find a sh#g.

Being on a women only bike do is no different to being on a women only night out. Some sleaze balls think women only congregate together in order for 'them' (the sleaze balls) to take their pick for the night/day.

Sorry guys but we do actually like female company and don't need to be leered n letched at.

I say this from one of the lucky/ugly one's (who doesn't get this attention) point of view I hasten to add!!! Not that I'm bitter or owt ... Lmao

Anyway back on topic, I think it would be a great idea to sort something for the ladies on the site. Although as I don't ride I would have to attend via other transport or not attend! I have noticed very few women riders will take pillys. My daughter has taken her mates on occasions. I wonder why so few do!?

Lindsay @ 16/01/2018 19:01  

That's not what I was thinking I'm more on the lines of they don't think your able to find your way there without them or not capable of riding without them being there to be the hero on the bends lol. As for your idea of somethink on the site for the Lady's how about a sewing or knitting group ? Just a thought.
Nick always run our ride at the slowest bike and let the speed freeks do there own thing

JP @ 16/01/2018 20:01  

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