Ahead of the pack – July 24, 2006

Sales of sport bikes appear to be fueling the overall increase in U.S. motorcycle sales.
Motorcycle Industry Council first-quarter numbers revealed on-highway motorcycle sales in the United States were up 8.6 percent. But industry sources, in many cases, are putting sport bike sales up significantly higher than that.
Yamaha Motor Corporation reports a season-to-date increase of 15 percent for on-highway sales. That increase has been driven by its core demographic of 25- to 35-year-old males, and Yamaha’s Brad Banister states R6 buyers skew even younger.
At Triumph, North American unit sales are up overall more than 35 percent year-to-date with sales double the previous year’s in the sport bike segment. That sports bike sales jump is due largely to the new Daytona 675, boasting the first triple-cylinder in its class, according to company spokesman Todd Andersen. He added that Triumph’s overall consumer base has very similar demographics to the industry as a whole, but with higher incomes and more riding experience.
Glenn Hansen, the communications manager for Suzuki, said sales are up more than 7 percent through May in both total motorcycle sales and the sport segment. But, he was quick to add, “while that may look like it’s slower growth than the total industry for sport sales, remember that Suzuki is the market share leader here, with more than 35 percent of the sport bike segment.”
Kawasaki is reporting record-breaking sales for its Ninja 250R, media supervisor Russ Brenan said. Brenan also revealed the 2006 Ninja ZX-14 has already retailed more than the total of ZX-12R sales for all of 2005 and the Ninja ZX-6R is the company’s top-selling motorcycle.
Ducati North America, with more than 25 models in its lineup, also is seeing growth.
“Retail registration-wise, we are up 16 percent year-to-date in the United States….from January through June,” says McCabe. “We had our biggest month ever (in June), and saw over 1,100 units being delivered to customers,” a demographic McCabe describes as “educated, affluent, experienced and very passionate, often times living in urban metro areas.
“The numbers so far are beating our internal projections for healthy and steady growth. We hope to sell 8,000 units in the United States this year, and feel that it is possible.”
So what is fueling the buying frenzy? Is it the increase in mainstream TV exposure, technology, the increase in gas prices or a combination of the aforementioned?
The consensus among manufacturers point toward the increased exposure of mainstream television race coverage and the popularity of the sport bike culture, particularly in the urban scene. Many of these experts downplay the high price of gas, saying it’s likely hurting, not improving, sales numbers because it’s taking disposable income away from consumers.
OEMs also like to point to their successes, both in design and in technology, as to why sport bike sales are increasing.
“We have been concentrating on the product and design at the manufacturing level in Italy,” said Ducati’s McCabe, “making the quality better and the design more attractive (like with the S4Rs and the new Sport Classics).”
“The bikes are simply outstanding,” Suzuki’s Hansen boasts of the championship-caliber line of GSX-R sport bikes dating back to the groundbreaking 1985 GSX-R750. “We do a lot with technology and updates to the GSX-R products, and that is appreciated by consumers,” many of who are repeat customers.
Just who are the riders racing down to the dealership? They can largely be broken down into three generations, specifically “Generation X,” “Generation Y,” and the “Baby Boomers.” Kawasaki’s Brenan said.
“In 2006, the Gen Y population is 12 to 29 years old and represented 25.8 percent of the total U.S. population. The Gen Y is nearly as big as the Baby Boomers (42 to 60 years old), who represent 28.2 percent of the U.S. population. Even though they may not be as large as the Boomers, Gen Y will surpass Boomers in total consumption. This will also be the driving force for the sport bike market for several more years to come.”
Brenan added that Gen X, the 30- to 41-year-olds, represents 16.4 percent of the U.S. population. psb

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