As 2010 begins, the manufacturers are turning in their sales numbers to the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), and the picture ain’t pretty. It’s looking like 2009 was a severe blood-letting for many OEMs, with the market shrinking a dramatic 41 percent. BMW sent out a cheery-sounding release bragging its sales had sunk a mere 22 percent. “Flesh wound!” you can imagine hearing in a Bavarian accent, “mere flesh wound!” (Of course, there may also be much rejoicing at BMW from the news that subsidiary brand Husqvarna posted sales gains.) Harley-Davidson’s fortunes have come a long way from the heady 6-month-long customer waiting lists of the 90s and early Noughts, with 2009 sales down almost 40 percent by the end of the third quarter , prompting it to dump Buell and MV Agusta. Kawasaki and Honda have shrunk their racing efforts and the sound of belt-tightening is audible industry wide. There are reports of moto-journalists being served previously frozen shrimp at industry events. Woe! The end times are upon us.
So a positive press release from Triumph was a refreshing change. “Triumph has consistently gained market share in the United States every year for the past five years” said the communique, “and one of only two marques that never lost market share in that time period.” In fact, “sales of Triumph motorcycles in the United States increased 5.49 percent in December 2009 over the same period the prior year, [when] most manufacturers reported double-digit decreases.”
Triumph won’t release exact numbers, but I can imagine they are somewhat north of the 12,000 units sold in the U.S. in 2006 and perhaps well on the way to Triumph’s goal of beating its 1967 sales figure of 28,500 units by 2012. And the successes aren’t confined to the USA: 2009 sales in Canada were 20 percent more than 2008, and sales in the U.K. grew to 7450 in 2009, an increase of 26 percent, remarkable compared to the 10-percent decline in U.K. demand for large motorcycles (over 500cc). In fact, Triumph claims it is the “world’s fastest growing motorcycle brand…increasing its market share in all major markets in which it operates.”
Is Triumph’s comeback complete? Its successes to date, going from an antiquated and shuttered factory to a very modern global presence with a small but outstanding product line, are undeniable and on par with Harley-Davidson’s impressive renaissance in the 1980s. Triumph used some clever strategies to get to where it is: over-engineered, modular designs, a small product lineup focusing on the most profitable segments, and the use of global outsourcing to keep prices in line with Japanese competitors-and far lower than most other European brands.
MD Readers Respond:
- I bought my first and only Triumph in 1997, a brand new 955cc T595 Daytona Triple in “Strontium” Yellow. I love that bike and still ride it on a regular basis (along with my 2005 BMW K1200S). But until Triumph gets brave enough to introduce a successor to my Daytona, and achieves the same accolades they were able to generate for the mid-weight 675 Daytona, their return to glory will never be complete. I promise that if they introduce a new big-bore sport bike, I’ll buy it. Nothing can equal the sound of my T595 Daytona Triple at full boil, but I’ve been waiting 13 years now for its successor! Greg
- Finally-an intelligent motorcycle company that isn’t jumping on the latest trend, just building solid performing, reliable, timeless bikes! There’s no comparison to the “Harley of the 80’s” since Triumph doesn’t have the U.S. government backing them like Harley did then. Harley in trouble again? No big suprise! Their motto should be: “Harley-Davidson, the 20 year plague”. Or better still: “Harley-Davidson, we make great clothes”.
- Triumph’s successes to date are on par with Harley’s in the 1980’s. Remember, though, that Harley played with a much higher handicap. (If I understand golf terminology…) Justin
- It’s about time and a BIG Hooray to them! This may also show the direction the newer younger rider is taking us and Triumph has positioned itself well. Rick