By Karin Gelschus
Between last year’s gas prices and this year’s economy as well as last year’s lack of inventory and this year’s early sales numbers, OEMs are having mixed thoughts on what scooter sales are going to be like this summer.
First quarter 2009 scooter sales aren’t showing positive numbers — not even close, yet some OEMs are still relatively optimistic for this year’s riding season.
Scooter retail sales numbers reported, however, are skewed because some major scooter players, including KYMCO and SYM, don’t report their sales numbers to the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC).
Also not reporting its numbers is CF MOTO, and Ivan Escalante, national sales manager for CF MOTO, thinks the actual number of units sold is about double what the MIC reports.
While first-quarter MIC numbers this year showed dismal results, some industry associates are taking them with a grain of salt since last year’s numbers were outrageously high compared to prior years.
March had a decrease of 46.2 percent compared to March 2008. This year, 4,803 units were reported sold vs. 2,583 this March.
Year-to-date sales aren’t as bad, but they still took a significant hit. Sales were down about
37 percent compared to the year-ago period.
Sales also are down for Genuine Scooter Co., but not even half has as bad as the industry. Genuine President Philip McCaleb says as of mid-May his sales are off 14 percent, but they were expecting about that.
“I’m not freaking about it at all,” he said. “I’m not that anxious because a lot of it is out of my control. I’m anxious that the dealers stay positive and keep good attitudes and continue to be aggressive because now they have to be.”
A growing dealer network is one reason CF MOTO’s sales are fairing considerably well thus far. Escalante says the company’s sales for its first two quarters are up 107 percent over the year-ago period.
“We had a very successful Dealer Expo trade show in Indianapolis and our rapidly growing dealer network helped,” he said. “Also due to the present economy and credit crunch, I’ve witnessed many competitors drop off and go out of business. A big house cleaning continues for 2009.”
Some scooter manufacturers’ sales dropped off last year after the major spike in sales due to lack of inventory, but most OEMs believe they’re better prepared this time around.
“Certain model bikes would sell out and it was difficult to keep up with the supply and demand,” Escalante said, adding this year will be different. “We had the opportunity to work with a few dealers on pre-planning inventory and scheduling quarterly product deliveries so that we don’t run into the same problem as we did last year. Dealers that pre-plan and stock up early will be ready for the season.”
Some of the Genuine Scooter dealers, however, tried to plan a bit too much this year, says McCaleb.
“Dealers started very optimistically with a lot of inventory. They’re selling it at a slower rate than they did last year,” he said and continued that slow sales were partly due to spring’s late arrival. “The good dealers are doing fine. The weaker dealers aren’t focusing enough on the fundamentals of bringing people in, and they’re spooked a little bit by something out of their control. I’d say the combination of weather and a much, much more careful buyer this year” are reasons sales started off slower.
Despite the slow start, McCaleb thinks the summer will finish with decent retail scooter sales numbers.
“I think people will sell within 20-30 points of what they did last year, which if you look at that over ’07, it’s OK,” he said. “Scooter dealers are experiencing the same kind of correction in their view of the world as all other businesses, but our emphasis on transportation and not just toys distinguishes us from powersports. The powersports people as a result of lessening disposable income, they’re hurting worse.”