New figures published this week appear to show that the Australian motorcycle sales boom is all but over, though the numbers alone do not paint a full picture.
The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), an industry body representing automotive manufacturers and importers in Australia, this week reported an *18.4 per cent decline in motorcycle sales for the first three quarters of 2022, compared to the same period in 2021.
Last year, more than 123,530 motorcycle, scooter and off-road vehicles (OHVs) found new homes, which translated to a 13.4 per cent increase compared to 2020. A significant number as 2020 itself recorded an increase of 22.1 per cent compared to 2019.
This year’s drop in sales can largely be attributed to the side-by-side and ATV (OHV) category, which has been hit heavily by new safety laws that have seen most manufacturers exit the market, as well as the recreational dirt bike (Off-Road) category that has felt the pinch of rising inflation and other economic factors.
The OHV category fell 48.3 per cent compared to last year, while the Off-Road category saw a sales drop of 17.6 per cent. More positively, scooter sales leaped 18.7 per cent, and road bike sales remained steady with a lift of 0.5 per cent.
INFO MOTO today spoke with FCAI’s motorcycle director Rhys Griffiths to get a bit of background behind the 2022 motorcycle sales figures.
“Over the course of the last 15 years, scooter sales have very much mimicked the rising cost of fuel,” Mr Griffiths told INFO MOTO.
“So when fuel goes up, people get the idea that it would be cheaper to commute on a scooter and we see an increase in scooter sales. I don’t think this is any different.
“ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) powered scooters are reaping the benefits or high fuel costs.”
In 2020 and 2021, sales of motocross, enduro and kids dirt bikes skyrocketed due in part to changing buyer behaviour during the Covid-19 pandemic and its associated travel restrictions. However, Mr Griffiths believes that economic instability has put a stop to this trend.
“The toys, as in the motocross bikes and the kids bikes, are very much influenced by current economic conditions,” said Mr Griffiths.
“I can read directly into this reduction [of sales in the off-road segment]. It’s people just seeing interest rates go up, the economy tightening and therefore, the purchase of toys is the first thing that gets crossed off the list.
“When you look at the overall market being down, and you put in ATVs and off-road bikes, that’s your market right there.”
ATV manufacturers like Polaris, Honda and Yamaha no longer sell utility ATVs in Australia as a result of new regulations mandating the fitment of Operator Protective Devices (OPDs) – effectively a cage designed to protect riders in the event of a roll-over.
When the Australian government set a compliance deadline of October 2021 for the mandatory fitment of OPDs, a number of major manufacturers announced they would exit the market thereafter.
“Our members threatened to withdraw their product [when the mandate was announced], the government thought that we were bluffing, they pulled the trigger and we withdrew from the market,” explained Mr Griffiths.
“The encouraging part is that road bikes have held their ground under the current circumstances.”
While the FCAI admits that the new motorcycle sales figures are “disappointing”, Mr Griffiths believes that the future looks bright for the industry as a whole.
“You can look at it in two ways: you could say that the halcyon days are behind us, or you could say that we are in a hiatus and the development of the next generation of motorcycles is taking time.
“As we know, battery technology is not quite there yet but putting in a heap of research-and-development into new ICE products is not going to be financially viable for [motorcycle manufacturers].
“This decade in particular running up to 2030, I honestly believe that there is going to be some sort of plateauing.
“I don’t think by any stretch of the imagination that this is the end of it. My firm belief is that when we get electric off-road products, that side of the market will just boom again.
“The recreational motorcycle industry to my mind has the world at its feet and it’s just a matter of them coming up with the right product at the right time.”
*The FCAI’s motorcycle sales figures do not include data from the likes of Royal Enfield, MV Agusta and CFMOTO (among others), which choose not to disclose sales information to the public.
Spencer has a keen eye for hard news, and does some of his best living on deadline day. He loves more than anything to travel on his motorcycle, and is adamant that Melbourne Bitter is a world-class lager. He also knows how to operate the big computery thing in the office. By night, Spencer plays guitar with Melbourne punk outfit LOUTS.