Nov. 2, 2009 – 3Q new unit sales down, but stabilizing

The latest data on new two- and four-wheel retail sales provides some sobering news to the industry: The decrease appears to be stabilizing but a sudden change for the better doesn’t appear likely.
Overall new unit sales for motorcycles, scooters and ATVs, as reported by the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), are down nearly
40 percent from a year ago. That’s somewhat better than the first half, when the industry was down nearly 42 percent.
“I like to use the quarter look at retail sales to dispel any thoughts that this will be a V-shaped recovery,” Polaris Industries CEO Scott Wine said during the manufacturer’s recent earnings report.
Wine was speaking specifically to Polaris’ retail sales but could have been referring to the industry at large.
Industry categories that largely defied the retail challenges of 2008 — on-highway motorcycles and scooters — remained far off their previous-year pace. On-highway motorcycles are down more than 43 percent, with more than 309,000 being sold through September this year. That’s more than 239,000 less than a year ago.
Scooters also remain far behind 2008 levels, down 62 percent, with 26,288 sold this year through September compared to 69,227 last year.
However, both Polaris and Harley-Davidson officials in their quarterly earnings reports noted some encouraging signs in retail sales.
“While the environment remains challenging for us, we are mildly encouraged by the moderation in the decline of dealer retail Harley-Davidson motorcycle sales,” Harley-Davidson CEO Keith Wandell said in a company press release.
September, in fact, did show promise compared to much of the spring and summer. On-road motorcycle sales for the industry were off only 27.7 percent compared to the year-ago month. That is in sharp contrast to June, when sales declined nearly 55 percent.
Other segment results through September include:
ATV sales have declined nearly 31 percent and through September totaled 244,309;
Off-highway motorcycle sales have decreased 33.2 percent from the year-ago quarter, but were off only 17 percent in September;Dual-purpose motorcycle sales continue to be sluggish, with year-to-date sales down nearly 44 percent, although September sales only dropped 17 percent compared to a year ago.

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