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Motorcycle Sales and Demo Rides

Aprilia’s recent announcement that it is welcoming prospective owners to demo its machines at various “track days” around the United States reminded me of the discrepancy in demo ride policies between various manufacturers and dealers.

I realize it is somewhat of a generalization, but Japanese manufacturers tend to prohibit demo rides (except for once-a-year at Daytona, and other restricted events), while European manufacturers tend to be more liberal in allowing demo rides before you purchase a bike.

In the automobile industry, it would be almost unheard of for a dealer to prohibit a prospective buyer from a test drive of the car he is interested in. Why is it so different in motorcycling? Obviously, motorcycle riding requires more skill than driving a car, and car driving skills are more common that motorcycle riding skills. Apart from this, however, there seems to be little to defend the practice of prohibiting prospective buyers from test riding motorcycles.

Surely, there is insurance available to dealers to cover this type of situation, and some sort of screening would be tolerable (How long have you ridden a motorcycle? Summarize your experience for us.) Triumph here in the United States has had a policy of allowing demo rides to just about anyone with a valid, current motorcycle license. We have not seen a rash of lawsuits against Triumph dealers as a result of this practice.

The availability of “demonstrators” also appears to vary by geographical region, to some extent. It is my perception that demonstration rides are more readily available in parts of Europe than they are here in the United States. It this a cultural thing?

Of course, some motorcycles simply could not be the subject of a demonstration (off-road motorcycles, for instance, where there is no place to ride them near the dealership). I just can’t understand, however, why many dealers (apparently, backed up by their manufacturers) simply prohibit all demonstration rides to prospective buyers. I will be interested in MD’s readers’ thoughts on this.