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A promising start to ‘06 – June 5, 2006

The first-quarter report from the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) shows strong early motorcycle sales while ATV sales have slightly dipped.
Overall, 2006 is starting off much better than its predecessor, with year-to-date sales of reporting MIC companies up 3.5 percent compared to 2005. Of course, 2005 turned out to be the 13th straight year of growth for two-wheeler sales.
Even though Mark Blackwell, vice president of Victory Motorcycles and international operations for Polaris Industries, doesn’t put a lot of emphasis on first-quarter numbers, he does see reason for optimism.
“Even if it was flat or even down a little on top of an all-time record year last year, I think that would bode really well for the full year,” Blackwell said.
Among the biggest first-quarter highlights were:

  • On-highway motorcycle sales were up 8.6 percent (134,557) thanks to a huge January, which saw a 30-plus percent boost from 2005.
  • Although small in overall numbers, dual motorcycle sales increased more than 27 percent (3,507) from the previous year’s first three months.
    One explanation for the quick start to 2006 could be the fact that the industry is feeling the effects of years of growth, said Ducati North American CEO Michael Lock.
    “Success breeds success. You keep bringing people into the industry, year in and year out,” said Lock, and pretty soon “you start getting a head of steam just because you have more people, not because you’re doing anything different. I think that’s an unglamorous explanation, but I think to a degree it’s true.”
    Sales numbers for ATVs and scooters were somewhat mixed.
    Scooters got off to a hot start, with January sales up 28 percent compared to 2005. But scooters slumped in February (minus 0.9 percent compared to ‘05) and March (minus 6 percent). Still, with 7,130 sold through March, scooters remain 2 percent above 2005 sales numbers.
    ATVs started slow with January (minus 2 percent) and February (down 4.6 percent) tracking below 2005 monthly totals. But sales rebounded in March (plus 3 percent), helping first-quarter total sales of 159,684 draw close to 2005 numbers (160,761).
    Besides the MIC first-quarter numbers, Victory’s Blackwell said he’s seen other positive signs, including record attendance at motorcycle shows and steady traffic at dealerships.
    One potential stumbling point for the industry, Blackwell said, could be if gas prices and interest rates continue to climb. “By the end of this year, it could start to have a real material effect on overall consumer spending,” he said.

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