May 12, 2003 – J.D Power talks helmets

Part, or perhaps all, of your business is in selling accessories. On your counter are catalogs detailing available brands of saddlebags, chrome, tires, seats, jackets, helmets and whatever. But what brands of each do you order? You wish you could know which brands were best in quality, and the best values, then you could just order those and keep your customers happy. What could be simpler?
Well, this is one area in which we can be a great deal of help. When it comes time to decide which helmets are best in terms of customer satisfaction, and will likely thus provide you with greater customer loyalty down the road, we have the answers.
The answers are provided by J.D. Power and Associates in the company’s Motorcycle Helmet Satisfaction Study (MHSS). Helmet questions were part of the 2002 Motorcycle Competitive Information Study (MCIS) that was mailed in October of 2002 to 43,491 new motorcycle owners who had purchased a new street or dual-sport motorcycle between September of 2001 through May of 2002.
Names were selected at random by J.D. Power and Associates from lists furnished by each of the manufacturers. Each questionnaire included a $1 bill as an incentive, and alert postcards were mailed a few days before the survey was mailed. J.D. Power and Associates received a total of 10,339 usable responses (a 24% response rate) to the overall study, including 9,700 responses to the Helmet part of the study.
Helmet purchases
While 24 brands of helmet were mentioned, by consumers when asked which helmet they had most recently purchased for themselves, here are the top 11 in terms of sales to buyers of new motorcycles, and their percentages of that market. Overall, these 11 brands represented 83.9% of the market, while the remaining 13 brands fought over the remaining 16.1%.
Clearly, the helmet market is dominated by HJC, Shoei and Arai, which together own 54.9% of the market for new bike buyers.
What type/style is it?
To give a bit of historical perspective on this, we compared the latest figures with those of three years ago.
A major swing is occurring in favor of full-head hats, while half-heads have lost nearly half their popularity in three years. The flip-up (convertible) helmet has gone from an insignificant portion of the market to 3.3%.
Timing of helmet purchase
While riders commonly purchase a new helmet when they buy a new motorcycle, this is not always the case. In the survey, more than half reported that they had purchased their latest helmet within the past 11 months and 85% purchased within the past three years.
Purchase Influences
Survey participants were asked to mark the TOP Three factors that influenced them to select the particular helmet they purchased.
Purchase location
Traditional motorcycle outlets are slowly losing ground to the Internet and mail order. However, keep in mind that some of the companies offering helmets by Internet and mail order are in fact dealers.
Also, the main reason listed by 68.2% of respondents above for buying a particular helmet was comfort/fit. Near as I can figure, only dealerships, accessory shops and events offer the buyer the opportunity to actually try on the helmet prior to purchase. That advantage will not evaporate anytime soon. However, consumers who repurchase the same brand/style of helmet are already aware of the fit characteristics of a particular helmet.
Purchase price
While 64.1% of buyers paid $200 or less for their latest helmet, the other third were still willing to pay significantly more for what they perceived to be higher quality/fit, and better graphics.
Consumer Satisfaction
The question you all want answered is who makes the best helmets in terms of consumer satisfaction. The answer was derived by asking each respondent to rate their helmet on 12 performance factors including fit and comfort, quietness, ventilation, the face shield, etc. The final factor was an overall rating of the helmet.
For the fifth straight year, since this survey began, Arai helmets ranked the highest in consumer satisfaction, and performed well across the 12 attributes measured.
J.D. Power and Associates reported that the brand received particularly high marks for fit and comfort, color/graphic design, ventilation/air flow, as well as the consumers’ overall rating.
Todd Mundorf, senior research manager for J.D. Power and Associates was quoted in a press release saying that, “While the gap between Arai’s scores and those of the other brands has closed considerably this year, Arai consumers continue to be very satisfied with nearly every aspect of their helmet, particularly in the areas of aesthetic appeal and fit and comfort.”
Each manufacturer was rated based upon a 1,000-point scale, and Arai ranked highest with a score of 798. Schuberth (with its flip-up helmets) was second at 771, and Shoei third at 750. Other brands that scored above the industry average included Harley-Davidson (746), AGV (725) and Nolan (724); the industry average was 724.
Brands scoring below the industry average included (in order of finish) KBC, HJC, Bell, Fulmer, AFX and Bieffe. Included in the study, but not ranked due to small sample size, were Buell, Cyber, GMAX, Kawasaki, M2R, Simpson, Suomy, Suzuki, THH, Vector, Vega and Zeus.
For more information about the 2002 J.D. Power and Associates Motorcycle Competitive Information Study (MCIS), or the 2003 J.D. Power and Associates Motorcycle Helmet
Satisfaction Study, visit the Web site.

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