Heavy handed safety regulations have been blamed for declines in the off-road bike market, but an increase in sales for road-going models indicates that the Australian motorcycle industry remains healthy in 2022.
Data published today by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) show that road motorcycle and scooter sales grew by 4.8- and 11.4-per cent, respectively, when compared to the first six months of last year.
Meanwhile, off-road vehicle sales (ATVs and side-by-side models) fell by 45 per cent year-on-year, and dirt bikes dipped 12.7 per cent. Combining all sectors tallied, the market as a whole recorded a decline of 14.2 per cent.
Figures published by the FCAI serve as a strong indication as to the state of the Australian motorcycle industry, however, they do not represent the retail performance of all manufacturers as the likes of Royal Enfield and CFMOTO (among others) do not publicly disclose sales numbers.
INFO MOTO predicted a stabilisation of new-bike sales in 2022 following three years of anomalously strong growth brought on in part by changing buyer habits during the Covid-19 pandemic and its associated travel restrictions. Notably, sales of off-road vehicles in 2022 still remain higher than pre-Covid years in spite of Australia’s soaring cost of living and ongoing global supply restraints.
Customers across the entire automotive landscape have reported unprecedented wait times, while new motorcycle launches are commonly delayed.
“Global shipping remains unpredictable,” said FCAI chief executive Tony Weber.
“This is impacting both production of motorcycles, scooters and off-road vehicles and their freight to Australia.”
In a press release published today, the FCAI said that the drop in off-road vehicle sales in the first half of 2022, compared to the same period in 2021, can be attributed to the discontinuation of general-use ATV models in Australia.
Key players 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. ATV models in the ‘sport’ and ‘fun’ categories are not subject to the legislation and remain available.
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.
“Safety standards must be evidence-based, in both criteria and testing methods, to internationally accepted standards,” said Honda Australia’s Robert Toscano in 2020, shortly after the deadline was set.
“Honda has provided research to show the negative outcomes of the governments’ proposal but unfortunately it was not considered and we are here in this position today.”
Yamaha Motor Australia director Brad Ryan told a similar story.
“The decision to make the fitment of OPDs compulsory is disappointing. The ruling has forced us to withdraw utility ATVs from the Australian market because as a manufacturer we are not willing to gamble with our customers lives by bolting untested devices onto our specifically engineered and designed ATVs.”
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) argues that the fitment of OPDs to utility ATVs are a necessary step to improve safety.
“Quad bike accidents are the leading cause of death and injury on Australian farms and the mandatory safety standard will be critical in saving lives,” said ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh when the rule took affect in October.
“A high proportion of quad bike accidents are due to rollovers, and the additional safety requirements that are about to come into force include physical design changes to mitigate rollover risks.”
In the FCAI’s 2022 motorcycle sales report published today, the automotive industry body attributed the drop in off-road vehicle sales to the discontinuation of major ATV models, but admitted that abnormally high sales in previous years ‘coincided with a huge rush by farmers to buy their favourite brands of ATVs before they sold out’.
The FCAI reiterates the importance of motorcycles as a means of travel in Australia and calls for policy makers to make planning considerations for recreational off-road riders.
“With increasing congestion in our capital cities, decision makers need to be planning with road motorcycles and scooters in mind. These vehicles are an important tool in improving traffic flow, therefore reducing trip times for all road users,” Mr Weber said.
“We are seeing public land which riders have traditionally been able to access for recreation being locked up. As an industry we are calling on decision makers to consider the needs of recreational riders in land use planning decisions,” he concluded.
Take-up of electric cars has seen a significant boost recently, both locally and internationally, though the trend has not translated to the motorcycle industry.
Factors including a lack of variety, limited riding range and high pricing appear sticking points for would-be electric bike buyers in Australia. With emissions targets and overseas petrol phase-out deadlines fast approaching, INFO MOTO believes that affordable, compelling alternatives to internal combustion (ICE) motorcycles must materialise, and fast, if the industry is to remain healthy in years to come.
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.