Covid-19 has affected just about every facet of human existence. The motorcycle industry hasn’t escaped its influences.
With stimulus packages no longer on offer and the JobKeeper element of govt subsidised income now a memory, consumer confidence is expected to take a dive in the remaining quarters of 2021.
While there are unique challenges for our industry, motorcycling hasn’t escaped the inherent erratic nature of consumption brought about by Covid-19 and its lockdowns.
Counter-intuitively, motorcycle sales and participation figures are well up. Across the board, retail sales for the last six months have shown a steady rise.
In fact, motorcycle sales in Australia saw an increase of 22.1 per cent in 2020, with 108,926 bikes finding new homes, compared to 89,199 in 2019.
Much of the purchasing in Australia has been carried out online, with motorcycles ordered from locked-down regions and ‘click and collect’ the new way of buying a bike. The numbers in regard to online spending support this as a strong factor.
In fact, GlobalData‘s E-Commerce Analytics reveals that e-commerce payments in Australia were estimated to grow by 13.9% in 2020 to reach $A52.2 billion ($US36.7 billion), as wary consumers stayed home and used online channels to avoid physical contact.
So, with all this bonhomie around the industry and new channels of purchasing becoming the norm, what could go wrong?
One of the main elements that could well stymie bike-sector sales buoyancy is that of supply. With global freight systems in disarray for myriad reasons, getting bikes and gear into the country and then into dealerships is proving difficult indeed.
Order some of the more popular bike models today, and indeed you could well wait four months for delivery.
That’s a shot to the heart of dealers, with one new bike salesman telling INFO MOTO “I have had five people in this week, looking to buy a new bike that day, and I’ve had to tell them that it will be four months. It’s a massive problem”.
Shutdowns at factories across the globe has meant that production rates have slowed to a trickle, particularly in the labour-intensive manufacturing sector. Smack-bang in the motorcycle wheelhouse.
Demand is indeed solid, but supply is nowhere near matching it, and many in the motorcycle industry fear long-term consequences. Boats, caravans, local holidays and four-wheel drives are all seeing sales booms. Across the board, discretionary spending is at an all-time high. “They’ll find other ways to spend it, for sure,” one dealer added.
The secondhand motorcycle market is booming, mainly due to that shortage of new stock. While that keeps bikes on the road, it does little for manufacturers and new bike dealers.
It also pushes the prices of used bikes higher, which will be felt when the slowdown comes with dealers unable to match trade-in prices with the customer’s original purchase price. Less money for trade-ins means less money for a new bike.
Shelves in bike shops are also bereft of gear. Where you could once examine many styles and variants of a helmet for argument’s sake, there will be far fewer choices. Also, all sizes may not be available. There will no doubt be a rationalisation of choice, but some distributors see that as a good thing.
“Too much choice is a bad thing and this will rationalise ordering to sensible levels,” a leading industry figure told INFO MOTO.
“There’s no point selling only four units of a particular style of lid across the nation. There’s just no margin in working that way.”
At retail level, selling has changed markedly.
“I don’t see any pluses to having Covid in the mix, but we have sold more parts during the pandemic lockdown than we were prior,” Hone told INFO MOTO.
“When people were not allowed to do much, working on their bikes was remedial. It’s therapy.”
With the changes in buying moving solidly into an online-dominated environment, the shopfront, showroom driven norm of motorcycle purchasing has been affected to the point of unlikely return.
“Our business became ‘click and collect’ and I can’t see that changing much. It’s about running your own race and being adaptable,” Hone added.
Time will tell, but one thing is certain. Motorcycling has been irrevocably changed by Covid-19 and those changes will reveal themselves over the long haul.
We watch, with interest.
Snag’s career in motoring journalism spans 26 years with stints at major bike mags Australian Road Rider, Motorcycle Trader and AMCN along with contributions to just about every other outlet worth a hill of beans. He was editor of Unique Cars magazine and hosts his legendary podcast ‘Snag Says’ when he gets off his date.