A sickening statistic

Karin GelschusI was appalled when I saw the results from J.D. Power and Associates’ latest bike buyer survey of about 8,000 new bike buyers – the largest survey of its kind. The fact is the percent of women new bike riders has not budged for the past four years — a shocking and unacceptable statistic.

Before I say what percent of new bike buyers are females, let me say it’s estimated that women determine 80 percent of all consumption in the United States. It doesn’t stop there. During the next decade, women are predicted to control two-thirds of consumer wealth in the United States, according to A.T. Kearney, an international consulting firm.

With those percentages in mind, consider this: Female riders made up only 12 percent of the new bike buyer population in 2009. To me, that’s pathetic. If the industry wants to grow, we’re going to have to tap into that market. How?

Intimidation is one of the main reasons women steer clear of the industry. The key is to make women feel comfortable, and lose the stereotypes. Our views need to be more accepting of the female demographic and their buying power. Both dealers and manufacturers need to start taking the female buyer more seriously. Otherwise the percent of new women bike buyers will continue to be essentially frozen, leaving trillions of dollars untouched.

What are you doing to cater to the female buyer?


  1. There are now more female buyers and other employees in dealerships in Indiana than ever. One store have a female service manager. Nearly all of the HD motorclothes managers is female. Dealerships have hired female sales people. Dealerships are stocking way more female oriented product. Not all are perfect. there are things to improve on. Three different Indy dealers have womens nights. Yet after all of this the female specific items are the slowest moving items in the store. I understand the intimidation factor, but msf courses, ladies nights, female managers and other employees, what more do you want

  2. I think as an industry the motorcycles OE’s and the aftermarket are doing a very good job of catering to and trying to attract the female rider. Several brand managers at Parts Unlimited are female, leading to correct brand decisions that appeal to women. All of the aftermarket distributors have an emphasis on brands that are appealing to the female rider. The OE’s are offering more and more product designed with women in mind: seat height, entry level models, etc. Why are the numbers not increasing, good questions. Perhaps a bit more in-depth research at the “seat” level will supply some answers. There is no doub’t that the female rider is considered a growth area for our industry and I believe if changes are necessary they will be made.

  3. We have been working on attracting female Buyers, with some success. As a Yamaha dealer our sales of new cruisers to women riders went up by 20% with the introduction of the V-Star 950. However the FEMALE specific items in store are slow moving. Maybe we are over estimating the potential.

  4. Sorry, but I think that women buyers being 12% of the new motorcycle buyers is an incredibly high demographic. Almost too high, and probably arrived at by a huge advertsing and marketing program from the US motorcycle manufacturers / distributors. Considering that any form of motorsports is principally a male passion.

    Look at some other motorcycle venues besides street riding, like professional roadracing to motocross racing, the number of women drops to around 1%. While in professional car racing (from Indy, to F1, to NASCAR, etc) its even less, with Danica Patrick in roadracing currently the only exception. Or Ashley Force in Pro Fuel Drag Racing.

    I’m also into sports cars and hot rods, and I attend car events or track days most weekends, and out of 200-300 patricipants pulling up in Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche and Corvettes, there is usually not one woman driver / car owner. How many women do you see on Speed TV’s Barrett-Jackson auction coverage bidding on $100,000 muscle cars? -0-

    Motorcycle and Motorcycle Product manufacturers would find their advertising dollars spend more wisely by targeting any and all new riders to come into the sport, male and female, by offering entry level bikes and scooters. Targeting just women alone to draw them into the sport will never be as cost effective per capita, but 88% more expensive compared to only targeting men as evidence by the current 12% of women riders in the sport, now.

    All us guys would love to have more women join us in the sport as riders and bike owners, but it will never grow beyond the current levels.

  5. Our clientele is roughly 40% women. That said, women-specific items are still slow movers. What women ARE buying are small, lightweight, easy-to-handle bikes. (Of course, we’re a scooter shop, so that’s all we sell!)

    Other than that I believe the key is treating all our customers with respect. Don’t scoff at the “beginner” questions, and don’t be surprised if a woman reveals herself to be an experienced rider. You want a welcoming, inviting, comfortable atmosphere in your shop or women will leave and never come back.

    That’s what works for us.

  6. “Sickening, shocking, unacceptable”? “It will never grow beyond the current levels”? We’re talking about business here. I don’t believe our industry is actively alienating women or we are such wise predictors of the future that we can accurately forecast what will “never” or “always” happen.

    I do believe women influence the vast majority of consumer spending and, as a multi-brand dealership business mgr, I know those decisions include many powersports purchases for themselves and others. I also believe OEM’s and PG&A manufacturers have done a good job of offering women-friendly products and will continue doing so.

    Change is incremental, business cycles and economic factors like gas prices will influence the number of new riders of both sexes. In May, our shop is hosting a chartering event for a new Star chapter instigated by two cruiser-riding women. Let’s remain focused on good business decisions and share in the fun of everyone who enjoys our passion.

  7. Women prefer to ride next to you, rather than behind you

  8. While I’m not sure that a lack of participation by the fairer sex in powersports is “shocking”, it is certainly a fact. Other than testosterone injections, we might think of addressing the fear factor that women mention, over and over, when confronted with anything powersports related. Women are intelligent consumers who value safety and “getting back home” as priorities in any endevour before “adrenaline rush” and “excitement”. Argue as we may for whatever biological and sociological reasons may contribute to this, when the technology became safer and easier to access, a huge increase in female participation occurred. So why do so many dealers and suppliers focus on pink helmets and lowered seats when airbag jackets and improved mass centralization will bring more sales? The answer? I’m waiting. So are millions of women, young and old. My advice, create a separate market that caters to women’s interests without diminishing the other market that men maintain. Be creative.

  9. We can argue about the numbers, but the fact remains women are present at every level in powersports, as consumers, employees, owners, leaders, educators or someone that specializes in the retailing aspect. We must remember the slide rule, we also have more men participating in riding so the additional women riders may very well be still around 12 percent. With that said, we have many more women entering the dealerships to make purchases. It makes no difference if they ride or not to me, it’s what I can sell and will my staff learn or take an effort to do so….If you can’t sell to women, you need to learn how, it’s just a little technique in salesmenship

  10. I wonder how many dealers are frustrated by being told they have to “cater” to a female audience. Asking questions instead of rattling off features is called “selling” not “catering” to a particular audience. The same applies to both female and male buyers. They just want to know how it is going to enable them to have more fun or look cooler. Women buyers aren’t that different from male buyers. Motorcycle dealers have just been preaching to the choir (men who grew up riding) for so long they don’t realize that the same techniques and practices that help them sell to women, will help them sell to a broader range of men too. Maybe THAT is the reason that the motorcycle industry is having so much trouble connecting with youth? Kids are savvy, demanding consumers. They have more research at their disposal, and peer reviews are the norm. All buyers want to know “what is in it for them”, nothing to do with gender.

  11. I would put my money on the belief that women simply don’t have the desire to take the riders seat. I can’t tell you how many women wouldn’t even get on the back of a bike let alone take complete control. I don’t see any female alienation in our industry. Motorsports are simply more of a male thing and always will be. 12% seems very realistic and acceptable.

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