U.S. buyers of motorcycles are getting old and may soon convert to buyers of RVs and golf carts, according to a survey by J.D. Power and Associates.
The average rider age in the States has gone from 40 years old to 49 years old in the nine years since 2001, and while that might seem to be a foregone mathematical conclusion, it means that among all new-bike buyers around the U.S. the average guy or gal is almost 50.
Hand-in-liver-spotted-hand with that news is the finding that the number of buyers who are doing it for the first time is getting smaller for the second year in a row.
It’s all bad news for the U.S. motorcycle industry, of course, but the survey points out ways that motorcycle dealerships can help improve their business.
The 2010 U.S. Motorcycle Competitive Information Study, which used responses from 8,490 people who bought a new 2009 or 2010 model street bike or dual-sport motorcycle, suggests that following “best practices” will improve a dealership’s profit. “Among motorcycle owners whose brand delivered on all of the best practices, 84 percent say they ‘definitely will’ recommend the brand, and 63 percent say they ‘definitely will’ repurchase the brand,” the J.D. Power press release points out. Those numbers drop to 65 per cent and less than 33 per cent when a brand has missed four or more best practices.
Two of the most important “best practices” are managing owners’ expectations through proactive communication — which means giving the guy who just bought your Honda or Harley a phone call afterward and asking him what’s up — and providing personal service, including making it easy for them to have work done on their bikes.
The study determined that dealerships that provide a pleasing customer experience will sell a lot more in accessories and service.
The study looked at six areas of the motorcycle ownership experience: product, build quality, cost of ownership, sales, service, and warranty. It found that “quality has declined from 2009, with the industry average increasing by 29 problems per 100 motorcycles (PP100) to 152 PP100 — the same level reported in the 2008 study,” and half of all owners reported at least one problem with their bikes, with 44 per cent of the problems being in the engines.
”Among motorcycle owners who experience at least one problem, overall satisfaction is significantly lower than among owners who did not experience a problem with their new motorcycle (792 vs. 862, respectively). The problems that have the greatest negative impact on the overall satisfaction score are gearshift problems, clutch chatter and the engine lacking power.”
The survey emphasizes the need to bring new riders into the fold, of course, but Canadian writer David Booth reports in the Montreal Gazette that Honda and Kawasaki efforts to bring out bikes that will attract new riders — such as the CBR250 and the Ninja 250 — are, as good as those examples are, close to being too little, too late. Booth says old farts like him need to stop passing judgement on young buyers and their tongue piercings — but what he should be saying is that old motorcycle companies need to get in sync with young buyers, if they want to stay in business until those kids get old.