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J.D. Power Study: U.S. Motorcycle Riders Aging, and Leaving Market

Below is the press release issued by J.D. Power this morning concerning their 2010 U.S. Motorcycle Competitive Information Study.  The summary of the study contained in the press release is interesting for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the report that U.S. motorcycle buyers continue to get older, and are not being replaced with a sufficient number of new customers.  According to the study the average rider age in the United States has increased from 40 to 49 years since 2001.  Think about this for a minute, the average U.S. rider is nearly 50 years old.  Additionally, the study concludes that “the percentage of first-time buyers has declined for a second consecutive year.”  Here is the press release.

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif.: 16 December 2010 — Managing owner expectations through proactive communication and providing personal service has a considerable positive impact on overall satisfaction with the motorcycle ownership experience, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 U.S. Motorcycle Competitive Information StudySM released today.  

The study, now in its 13th year, measures owner satisfaction with new motorcycles by examining six major factors of the overall ownership experience: product; build quality; cost of ownership; sales; service; and warranty. 

The study identifies a number of action items based on key diagnostics that most significantly impact the overall motorcycle ownership experience. These best practices can be used by manufacturers and their dealers to improve overall satisfaction. Two of these best practices, which are common among high performers, are managing owner expectations through proactive communication (including following up after a sales visit) and providing personal service (including a fluid and seamless process in servicing their motorcycle). When best practices such as these are met, satisfaction averages 878 on a 1,000-point scale—more than 50 index points above the industry average of 827. In comparison, when manufacturers and their dealers do not deliver on these best practices, satisfaction averages only 752. 

“In an industry currently confronted with limited consumer spending, it is to the advantage of motorcycle manufacturers and dealerships to identify and implement the best practices that satisfy owners that may lead to higher revenue,” said Dennis Goodman, senior research manager of the powersports practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “Slightly more than one-half of motorcycle owners state that their brand missed on two or more best practices, indicating that there is room for improvement across the industry.” 

In addition, the more best practices that are delivered, the more likely the motorcycle owner is to recommend and repurchase the brand. For example, 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. In comparison, just 65 percent of motorcycle owners whose brand missed four or more best practices say they “definitely will” recommend the brand, and less than one-third say they “definitely will” repurchase. 

The study also finds 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. One-half of all owners report experiencing at least one problem with their motorcycle, with most of the problems being engine related (44%). 

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 study also finds the following key trends:

  • Sales volumes and revenue of ancillary goods and services tend to be considerably higher—by an average of $957—at motorcycle dealerships that provide a highly satisfying experience vs. dealerships that do not. 
  • The population of motorcycle buyers is aging, with the average rider age increasing from 40 to 49 years since 2001—an indication that many owners may soon exit the market. Additionally, the percentage of first-time buyers has declined for a second consecutive year, making it more critical now than ever for manufacturers to focus on attracting new customers.

The 2010 U.S. Motorcycle Competitive Information Study includes responses from 8,490 owners who purchased a new 2009 or 2010 model-year on-road or dual-sport motorcycle between September 2009 and May 2010. The study was fielded between September and October 2010.

91 Comments

  1. Flippy says:

    Im in the motorcycle business and started riding at 11. Now Im in my 40s. Had a ton of bikes, but like most of you mentioned, cell phones and texting are really scaring off a lot of people. 3 rider got rear ended this week, sitting at a light. But you also need to recognize that the American people are being trained to hate bikes. Why didnt we have a cash for bikes program during the recession? Why dont bike riders get a deduction for fuel efficient (low carbon foot print vehicles?) Legislation has turned against the industry. In my state many moto-cross tracks are closing and track days have dropped to 45.00 just to spur activity. New bikes are too expensive and the industry has mostly stopped creating good all around motorcycles. I dont need a bike that has less then a 5 gallon capacity. How wants to be at the pump all week? Whats with the gas mileage of cars lately? Despite rising prices motorcycles still lack a lot of modern day electronics. Prices have gone up and you get less for your buck. The accessory market is flooded with too many players who run over to China, break patent laws, and ship junk back to the US. With regards to the other posts, I am a geek and I love bikes. Everyone should be on bicycles and/or motorcycles…the world would be a better place…but I sense, it is becoming more of a sport where people would rather watch than participate. I support a tiered new rider system that only allows them to operate low cc bikes until certain criteria are met. I support education in the DMV which educates children and drivers to respect motorcyclists.

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  2. Jerry Sepulveda says:

    At 50 I now own a 2008 Aprilia Tuono Factory R (used $9000)for riding the back roads of Texas, and a 2006 GSXR 1000 (used $5000) for commuting to work while working in Florida -Both had less than 6000 miles and completely stock when i bought them! I enjoy riding “responsibly” as often as I can. I get totally twisted when I see a group of young squids tearing down the freeway at way past legal speeds, and stunting in traffic. I blame the motorcycle media/magazines for encouraging this ridiculous behavior and can see the negative impact it’s having on the industry. The older HD posers are also a problem having never acquired the proper riding skills and are constantly seen drinking and driving away from local “Bike Nights”-I cringe when I see them walking their bikes to a stop and peddling away from a slow start…However I can’t complain about the ladies who take advantage their rides to dress up in their finest boots and leathers (Bike Night is really a costume party!)
    I guess I’d just like to see sanity return to a sport/hobby I have been involved with, and enjoyed, for the past 30 yrs. When guys and gals enjoyed their machines for the ride and the wrenching to form friendships. “It’s not what you ride, it’s that you ride”!

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  3. Don H says:

    Think about this;How about some grass root promo work by manufacturers to re kindle the interest in the motorcycle world.Give the youth a reason to the leave the keyboard and see what they are missing.Make your choice,flat track ,motocross,ashphalt.Many of todays older riders can equate their passion for riding to the early exposure of racing.Its been over 45yrs. for me and many of my riding friends and the fire still burns.May be these marketing people need to reach back and realize what helped create loyality to our sport. Others of done it, seems to work.

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  4. Gary VV says:

    Forty year rider . I think it’s because besides the entry fee for the initial purchase, we’re looking at three hundred plus for a set of tires .Eight dollars a quart for oil. Fifteen dollar oil filters. On and on you find outrageous prices for bike stuff. Bikes are way too complicated to troubleshoot and repair for the average guy . Some of the dealers have three to four week waiting periods for service appointments. Ninety dollars a hour for labor rates for a very average mechanic to work on your bike. Sometimes they do more harm than good .Before anyone gets all bent over the last sentence, I’ve seen it over and over again. You can buy some cars for less money and when a decision is made as to which is more practical . Guess which one wins.

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  5. ytroy says:

    I have to agree with 8K dirtbikes and no entry level bikes, I just turned 45, got given my first bike at 4 and have never looked back. I have purchased new bikes from dealers but always feel as if they are only in it for a buck, no service, no place you want to stop in and talk to other bike owners, my current Ducati I bought on Craigslist from the original owner. The Ducati dealership in town only had one and they were not allowing test rides, I even offered to write a check before they took it off the stand, No Way No Deal No Test Rides. I watched Craigslist for 90 days, bought the same bike 1100 miles, Ti Pipes, Race ECU, Sargent Seat and a few carbon and billet bits for 2100.00 less than the dealer wanted. They wonder why they sell fewer bikes Hmmmmmmm……. That 2008 S4RS is still in their showroom and its 2011. Wake up Motorcycle dealers

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  6. takehikes says:

    As one of those older riders and having once been in the industry I think I have some insight to the problems in the motorcycle industry. I started riding at 14 some 45 years ago, at that time nearly everyone started with a small bike….a 160 Honda for example. It was cheap and reliable. HD sold a few 1200s and Sportys, Triumph/BSA/Norton made some in roads but the vast majority of bikes were cheap and small. There was not much in the way of off road bikes, it was mostly hare and hound and trials type bikes and it was barely a blip on the radar in sales. So you started with a small bike and slowly, SLOWLY, worked your way up in size until you got up to one of those bikes. The game changer was the Honda 750. suddenly you could get a fast reliable bike fairly cheaply. Along the way the whole gamut of bikes exploded and now what do we have? Near 200 mph capable bikes for first time riders and dirt bikes with sophistication that nearly none of us can use? The giant numbers HD posted were mostly my age group that suddenly had money and became a bunch of wanna-be’s…
    the future as I see it is every manufacturer is going to shrink their offerings with HD being very vulnerable. They have no bikes to feed to the high end. The other major manufacturers at least have some street and dirt bikes that can devlop brand loyalty when the ride ris ready to mov eup. Much like the auto industry there will be contraction.

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  7. Curtis says:

    I definitely think the cost of entry is a major factor. It will be interesting to see if the situation corrects once low-cost Chinese bikes flood the market.

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  8. Eric says:

    How mnay under 30 have good enough jobs? Japan and China have many of the jobs that used to pay good wages here…so they are getting what they deserve really.

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  9. Mr. Mike says:

    It appears to me that increased interest in motorcycling in the U.S. was just a fad and now it is returning to normal. Earlier in the decade Baby Boomers with disposable income saw motorcycling as the thing to do. A large proportion of them made their way in herds to the local H-D dealer, bought the bikes and the chrome and the logo-ed apparel. Some took once-in-a-lifetime tours, others rode on weekends and some just cruised a few times. Eventually the economy turned South, many aged out or just lost interest and now Craigslist is well stocked with great, low mileage bikes. Score!

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  10. Philip says:

    Kids know how to buy a bike, it’s called Craigslist. They use the internet! Few dealers have well designed websites with up to date information on specials. I think someone needs to research the effect that Craigslist has had on new bike sales. I have bought 4 bikes off of Craigs in the last two years. I look at my local Craigslist everyday for fun and usually find a few bikes of interest. Over 100 listings today in the middle of December! It might be hurting us all in the long run but it really is the best way to buy a bike right now.

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  11. G.Desjardins says:

    Tired of waiting for the CB1100, found a used 1983 CB1000 at 53.

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  12. mrsdoubtfire says:

    Wheres my 2011 Honda CB1100?

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  13. ABQ says:

    Older people getting out of motorcycles often enjoy getting into scooters. Many of the people I meet riding a Burgman 650, like mine, are seniors that have riden all of there lives. Now that they have discovered these new super scooter they have had a revelation. Why didn’t anybody think of these things before now?

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  14. Phaedrus says:

    Don´t see connection between aging population issue and the proposed solutions – Better quality, service, communication, etc. They are geared to satisfy the current aging user base. Nice for us the old farts, but far from what is needed to capture NEW riders.
    The name of the game is RECRUITMENT, plain and simple. What the industry needs now is the 3rd millennium equivalent to “With Honda you meet the nicest people” in whatever shape or form would excite the 15 year old to beg dad for a bike instead of the latest Nintendo game.
    From the ideal theme, then evolve the right bikes, outfits, communications, events, etc.
    So, marketing managers of the motorcycle industry, get to work before all you can sell are trikes to septuagenarians…
    Phaedrus

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  15. Wilson R says:

    I see a small problem….who would like to pay $8200 plus taxes and fees on a 2011 CRF450R dirt bike? Or how about $7200+ for a 2011 CRF250R? Not me, even though it really wouldn’t tax the budget. Ever disassemble one of these bikes and try to find where the $8000 was spent? Let’s see, 2 wheels, motor and frame, couple of plastic fenders and a plastic tank. Hmmmmm. About 240# of parts that were mass produced. Good grief, I could buy a small Ford economy car for that price and it weighs 2200#! Nope, Honda is not going to get my money as a used bike purchase is certainly in my future. They did it to themselves.

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  16. Brian says:

    I bet a majority of the 50 year old riders out there had their passion sparked by a minibike. The old 5 horse, or maybe an trail 70. Maybe even cruising around on their schwinn with a card in the spokes dreaming about the day they could have their own bike. Now kids do it all “online”. I tell my kids to go out and build their own adventures and dont live in video games. However that is not the case for many. If they cant pick something up and be MrCool in 5 minutes then its too lame. If it takes practice its whack. And the youth of today seems to enjoy buying a 1000cc crotch rocket and gettin gangsta. Whatever that is. My favorite memories were with my Dad working on whatever bike he found for me and resurecting it from the dead. Too much is disposable now. Really the list of issues with the youth market is long. The market and conditions has changed greatly. The economy has changed greatly. In the end whether the youth have the passion for bikes or not, they definitely have their work cut out for them! Of couse a mentor for these kids wouldnt hurt either…

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