Focus: Dealer Expo 2004

Customer satisfaction among new motorcycle owners continues to increase as manufacturers produce higher-quality bikes and do a better job of meeting customer needs at dealerships, according to the J.D. Power and Associates Motorcycle Competitive Information Study.

Although there are moderate increases with respect to the quality and performance of new motorcycles, the largest increases in satisfaction have occurred at the dealership service departments, where ratings are up more than 10% in the past two years, according to J.D. Power.

“Continual year-over-year improvement within the service department, which was once the Achilles’ heel of the motorcycle industry, is causing the satisfaction gap between motorcycle dealers and their automotive counterparts to narrow,” said Todd Mundorf, director of the J.D. Power and Associates powersports practice.

“Improvements in the service department are driven by higher-quality repair work and the ability of the dealership to have the bike ready when promised.”

The study finds that Japanese manufacturers continue to build higher-quality bikes; however, consumers generally report greater levels of satisfaction with the overall comfort, design and performance of bikes built by domestic and European manufacturers.

Consumers continue to report that style and design are the most important elements of their purchase decision when considering a specific bike, followed by the brand name and the bike’s performance and handling.

The study finds that the average age of a new motorcycle buyer has increased from 41 in 1998 to 44 in 2003, with the number of riders 40 years old and older now accounting for nearly two-thirds of the total new motorcycle market. In addition, more women are entering the market. More than one in 10 new-motorcycle purchases are made by women—up nearly 30% from 1998.

Nearly one-half of these women report being first-time motorcycle buyers, compared to only one in five male buyers.

“As more female buyers enter the market, it is increasingly important that both motorcycle and aftermarket accessory manufacturers address the needs and expectations of this owner group,” Mundorf said.

The study also finds that the Internet is becoming an important shopping tool for motorcycle buyers. Nearly 40% of all owners surveyed report that they conduct research online before eventually heading to the dealership to purchase their bike. Consumers most frequently turn to the Internet for information regarding product features and specifications, as well as to shop for aftermarket accessories and parts.

“The fact that the average new motorcycle owner spends approximately $1,000 on bike accessories within the first year of ownership has parts and accessories companies clamoring to increase their presence on the Internet,” Mundorf said.

The 2003 Motorcycle Competitive Information Study includes responses from 11,347 owners who purchased new on-road motorcycles between September 2002 and May 2003. Owners were surveyed between October and December 2003.
Headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates is an ISO 9001-registered global marketing information services firm operating in key business sectors including market research, forecasting, consulting, training and customer satisfaction. The firm’s quality and satisfaction measurements are based on responses from millions of consumers annually.

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