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Touring: A resilient segment that appears ready to grow

By Neil Pascale
The current trend of more of the on-road motorcycle market falling under the touring category appears likely to continue into the near future, industry officials believe.
The touring segment — a new unit complete with windshield and hard or soft luggage — represents a higher percentage of the overall motorcycle market now compared to 10 years ago, says Craft Long, a touring product manager for Kawasaki Motors Corp. U.S.A.
“I think that’s attributable to the new product,” he said. “There’s a lot of new product in the touring category.”
That new product, of course, isn’t just a cruiser with a few add-ons but also reaches into the sport and off-road segments. Totaling all of those categories, touring sales have more than doubled in the past decade, Long says.
“They’ve been very, very strong for Kawasaki,” he said of touring sales.
Bill Savino, manager of the motorcycle press for American Honda Motor Co., says touring sales remain a positive for Honda.
“According to our sales team, retail has been steady, especially for the Gold Wing,” Savino said. “I am sure it does not hurt that these customers are a bit older and with that usually brings more disposable income, but this segment seems to continue to march on.”
Industry officials say the touring market has tracked closely to the overall on-road market, showing steady growth through 2006 and since then giving up some of those gains. “It’s not really showing a lot of different performance than the overall market,” Long said of the touring category.
Savino notes the touring segment remained steady last year even into late fall when the industry as a whole slumped a bit after gas prices fell. “It seems this segment is very resilient,” he said.
On the V-twin side, Harley-Davidson data shows touring bikes made up a larger percentage of its build in 2008 than five years ago. Touring bikes represented 33.5 percent of its 2008 build, an increase of more than 4 percentage points compared to 2004.

Mainstream U.S.A.
“What I think is really cool,” Loft said of the touring category, “is we’ve broken that bad boy image. It’s an open market to mainstream U.S.A.
“We’ve done quite a bit of research here in the last few months and many of ‘The Intenders,’ people who tell us, ‘Yes I’m interested in buying a motorcycle,’ many of them do not fit the old traditional motorcycle customer demographic,” Long said, drawing a reference to the stereotypical touring rider — the middle-aged, white male.
“I think we’re going into this new market where the market is opening up to new demographics,” Long said.
Although how fast that new market — and increased demand — arrives isn’t known, the role touring bikes will play in that heightened demand seems apparent.
“What there is, is a temporary lack of capacity to buy new motorcycles,” Long said. “A lot of that is due to the shaky economy, the credit crunch and people’s low confidence level. When there is more credit available and there is more stability in the economy, we would certainly see touring take off again.”
And not only in its traditional sense — the cruiser with a windshield and luggage — but in other forms as well.
“People have this desire to go explore on all types of motorcycles and the way we traditionally define touring bikes is probably going to expand,” he said. “So we may see some lighter-weight bikes that have windshields and bags get classified as touring.
“We may see more cruisers that come with small windshields and small bags but are classified as touring.”

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