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Consumers adding miles, opening pocketbooks

MIC Symposium provides members with a look ahead

An incongruous array of carnival rides greeted the attendees of the 15th Annual Motorcycle Industry Council Symposium in Carson, Calif. MIC president Tim Buche couldn’t resist commenting that those battered rides couldn’t hold a candle to the thrill of motorcycles and ROVs — the perfect segue to kick off the industry association’s “Inroads to the Future” session and to introduce MIC board chairman Mark Blackwell.

“We want the MIC to be the first one you turn to for issues facing powersports,” said Blackwell, noting that MIC is entering its 100th year of service in 2014. However, a century of service to its members and the industry as a whole is no reason to rest on its laurels. The recent decision to allow dealers to become MIC members is a prime example of the council’s commitment to moving forward.

“Our goal is ultimately to have at least one dealership member in every congressional district to make sure the voice of motorcyclists is heard,” Blackwell said.

Speaking of dealers, MIC also created a Dealer Advisory Council to ensure that the industry hears what its happening from the front lines of retailing.

Blackwell’s brief “state of the industry” assessment did offer some positive news.

“After 16 consecutive years of growth, we saw things slow down in 2006-2007 before the crash came in 2008,” he said.

And for the first time since 2008, the industry is seeing improvement, led by the aftermarket. The important statistic of “miles ridden” is up and attitudes toward motorcycles continue to improve, according to the MIC Owner Survey.

Set for release to members by the end of the year, the information provided by the Motorcycle/ATV Owner Survey provides essential unbiased consumer demographic and behavioral data, including unique insight into the needs, wants, attitudes, influences and expectations of the riding population. In short, it is the customers telling MIC members what they need to know about the ownership experience.

It was also the prefect way to tee up former Tucker Rocky CEO and current MIC board member Steve Johnson’s comments.

“The good news is we have all survived and are still here,” Johnson said. “The used vehicle market has been good in the past year, and the aftermarket is a bit brighter.”

Johnson also cited numbers from the Owner Survey that indicated that people are riding motorcycles again.


“In 1998, 15 billion miles were traveled on two wheels. By 2012 that number improved to 27 billion miles traveled. Not only are they riding, they are also spending money on tires, batteries, repairs and routine maintenance.”

In fact, the average rider spent $373 on those items in the past year.

Consumers tired of waiting

“Consumers have a new perspective for the first time in five years,” Dr. Paul Leinberger said in his 2013 “State of the Consumer” address. Back by popular demand, and an expert on brand and market strategy, Leinberger says the free fall is over and the consumer is gaining a foothold on recovery.

Author David Nour returned to the MIC Symposium to offer insight on branding and marketing strategy. (Photo by Scott Cox, Resmarket.com)
Author David Nour returned to the MIC Symposium to offer insight on branding and marketing strategy. (Photo by Scott Cox, Resmarket.com)

“I’m finally feeling better about myself despite what is happening in Washington, D.C., and on Wall Street — this is the pervasive attitude we have now,” he said.

Consumers are tired of waiting for things to change and will begin spending money, he added.     “We will never return to the free-spending days again. However, things have stabilized. Making do with less is being viewed as a choice rather than a burden,” Leinberger said. “Consumers will buy less, but they will buy better.”

Later, author David Nour shared his views on “NewNorm, Evangelism and the Sharing Economy.”

Since the last time Nour had addressed the MIC, he has added more motorcycles to his stable, taken classes at several riding schools and done five track days. However, he is also a fresh set of eyes on our industry, challenging everyone in the room to change. “The end of ‘average’ is near,” claims Nour. “‘Can’t’ is dead — ‘will do’ killed it.”

Although Nour tended to pounce on OEMs and aftermarket companies alike, he did offer a number of strategies for success, geared around the idea that passion still drives the industry as a whole. “Money follows passion, not the other way around,” he concluded.


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