JD Power: Cycle Quality Improving

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Owners of new 2006 model-year motorcycles are reporting fewer problems with their bikes than they have in the past, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2006 Motorcycle Competitive Information Study.

Owners report an average of 159 problems per 100 (PP100) motorcycles in the 2006 study, improving significantly from the 199 PP100 scored in 2005. Engine-related problems account for 65 PP100, or 41 percent of the total average problems reported, which is also an improvement since 2005. A lower PP100 score reflects better quality.

"The motorcycle industry is improving in terms of quality," says Tim Fox, research supervisor at J.D. Power and Associates. "But while the number of problems reported has declined, the expectations relating to quality have increased. Quality in the motorcycle industry, like in the automobile industry, is becoming the price of entry. There are other issues, such as the sales and service experience, the ride and handling, and the styling and performance of the bike that are increasingly important in creating a competitive advantage."

Among the 10 motorcycle brands studied, Honda and Suzuki performed particularly well in the quality factor while BMW, Harley-Davidson and Victory performed well relative to the dealership experience in terms of both sales and service.

"The quality performance of Honda is noteworthy, as their diverse product lines make it even more challenging to maintain high levels of quality across the board," says Fox. "The good news is that from an industry perspective, the gap between manufacturers with respect to quality continues to narrow."

Satisfaction with the overall cost of ownership has improved significantly since 2005, but it is still an area of great concern. Given the importance of this factor to overall product satisfaction, brands that improve could gain a noticeable competitive advantage. Brands performing well on the cost of ownership factor include Buell, Kawasaki, Triumph and Victory.

The study also finds that having a positive sales experience is extremely important to the overall ownership experience. Consumers who are very satisfied with their sales experience are significantly more likely to both recommend and repurchase the same make.

The service experience for motorcycle owners is heavily influenced by the success rate of repair work performed. Owners who took in their bike for repair rate their service experience much higher if the work was done right the first time, compared with owners whose problem was not remedied on the first attempt.

The 2006 Motorcycle Competitive Information Study includes responses from 6,916 owners who purchased new on-road motorcycles between September 2005 and May 2006. The study has been conducted annually by J.D. Power and Associates for the last nine years. The project measures ownership experience and examines the five major components: product, quality, cost of ownership, sales and service.

A ratings list of each OEM studied is given on this page. — Guido Ebert

Product: Score is based on customer satisfaction with the motorcycle's five product/performance sub-measures: comfort and convenience; cockpit and controls; looks and styling; engine and transmission; and ride and handling.

Sales: Score based on how customers rate various aspects of their motorcycle sales experience with regard to product offering, sales personnel, sales process and delivery.

Quality: Score is based on the number of problems that customers report with their new motorcycles. A higher number of stars indicates a higher level of quality (i.e., fewer problems experienced).

Service: Score is based on how customers rate various aspects of their motorcycle service experience —service department accessibility, service personnel, service delivery and quality of work performed.

Cost of Ownership: Score is based on how customers rate various aspects of the cost of owning their motorcycle, including the initial price of motorcycle; cost of insurance; maintenance and repair costs (including parts); and cost of accessories (i.e., pipes, saddlebags and other accessories).