Survey: Quality of new bikes is improving – January 22, 2007

The quality of motorcycles being built by the industry’s leading manufacturers appears to be improving, but the industry is struggling with its sales performance, according to a new buyers survey.
Owners of new 2006 model-year motorcycles report an average of 159 problems per 100 motorcycles in the J.D. Power and Associates 2006 Motorcycle Competitive Information Study. The study, now in its ninth year, measures ownership experience with new motorcycles and examines five major components of the ownership experience: product, quality, cost of ownership, sales and service.
The 159 problems per 100 motorcycles is a significant improvement from 199 in 2005, J.D. Power and Associates reported.
Engine-related problems account for 65 problems per 100, or 41 percent of the total average problems reported, which is also an improvement since 2005.
“The motorcycle industry is improving in terms of quality,” said Tim Fox, research supervisor at J.D. Power and Associates. “While the number of problems reported has declined, the expectations relating to quality have increased. Quality in the motorcycle industry, like in the automobile industry, is becoming the price of entry. There are other issues — such as the sales and service experience, the ride and handling, and the styling and performance of the bike — that are increasingly important in creating a competitive advantage.”
BMW, Harley-Davidson and Victory perform well relative to the dealership experience in terms of both sales and service. The brands with predominately single-line dealers greatly outperform those with multiline dealers on sales and service satisfaction.
“It is much more difficult for multiline dealers to have a consistent sales and service process for each brand they sell than it is for dealers who sell only one brand,” said Fox. “Therefore, it is in the best interest of the OEMs to either increase the number of single-line dealers or find a way to emulate the processes at these single-line dealers that lead to higher levels of satisfaction.”
From a product standpoint, Victory has performed well in meeting the needs of its customers in the cruiser and touring segments. Victory receives high ratings from their owners in the product factor, which includes styling, engine and transmission, controls, comfort and performance.
Among the 10 motorcycle brands included in the study, Honda and Suzuki performed particularly well in the quality factor.
“The good news is that from an industry perspective, the gap between manufacturers with respect to quality continues to narrow,” Fox said.
Satisfaction with the overall cost of ownership has improved significantly since 2005, but it is still an area of great dissatisfaction. Brands performing well on the cost of ownership factor include Buell, Kawasaki, Triumph and Victory.
The study also finds that having a positive sales experience is extremely important to the overall ownership experience.
For more information on the performance of motorcycle brands, visit the J.D. Power Consumer Center at www.jdpower.com/autos.

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