Feb 1 2010 Harriet Ridley
Bike firms ride the recession
WITH the UK officially out of the worst recession since the Second World War, now's the time to sit back and take stock of the ravages of the economic downturn.
Despite the crisis, a look at the motorcycle market in 2009 shows the industry has been spared the worst of the decline.
Statistics released by the Motor Cycle Industry Association show a 20 per cent overall reduction in sales of motorcycles of all capacities during 2009. The figures for the end of year show that in total 111,513 bikes, scooters and mopeds were sold in the UK.
Notably, half of the reduction in the number of new registrations can be attributed to the lower capacity bikes up to 50cc. Of these 10,000 machines, around 60 percent were from the inexpensive unsupported, online brands, mainly from China and Asia. In light of this, the overall motorcycle market has faired well.
The market experienced mixed fortunes throughout the year, although certain sectors faired (or should I say unfaired!) better than others.
Naked bikes, that's road bikes with no fairings, have ridden the economic storm most successfully. In September, naked bikes experienced a surge in sales, gaining a 25.4% increase in market share.
As the year ended, sales of naked bikes were at the same level as they were in December 2008 with a total number of bikes sold reaching 21,266, the highest for any sector.
Traditionally, sports machines have always sold best on British soil while naked machines have dominated sales on the continent. But it looks like we too are now moving towards more practical every day machines.
It's hard to tell whether it's down to a shifting trend in bike fashion, or the average age of bike riders slowly creeping up. Or could it simply be that naked bikes with their comfortable upright riding positions make better commuters?
However, sports bikes (600cc-plus supersports and 1,000cc-plus superbikes) continue to be popular in Britain. They're the UK's second highest sellers of 2009 (18,930), with a 20 percent market share. The third top sellers are Scooters (16,943), with almost 18 per cent of market share in the over 50cc class, pushing the still fashionable Adventure Sport into fourth place overall with 10,416 sales, although the share of the market for this class has remained stable during 2009.
A relatively stable motorcycle market during the recession is a reflection of commuters waking up to the fact that two wheels are an effective way of slashing the cost and hassle of the journey into work.
This is supported by government figures which show there are 1.5 million active riders and the government's statistics reveal that more than half (52%) of all motorcycle trips in 2008 were for commuting, compared to just one-third (34%) of bicycle journeys and one-fifth (22 %) of car journeys.
The National Travel Survey also found that the average motorcyclist uses their bike as their main mode of transport for more than one third of all trips, making eight motorcycle trips a week, and travelling an average of 80 miles.
The industry is keen to halt the trend of declining sales and has called on government to introduce a scrappage scheme for the motorcycle sector.
However, the scheme has been implemented in the car industry to help struggling manufacturers.
But Triumph's huge successes in 2009 - it reported a whopping 26 per cent increase in sales in the UK and has overtaken Kawasaki as Britain's fourth largest big bike brand - may have put a spanner in the works.
With those kinds of figures, government ministers may well question the need for a scrappage scheme to support an industry that's not exactly struggling in every area to sell its wares.