HAPPY NEW YEAR! Actually, it's still October as I write this. October has been an educational month for me. I've been calling dealers across the United States and Canada, reminding them to submit their entries for the Top 100 competition by the deadline date. I've spent some time poring over old issues (1966 to 1969) of Cycle World magazine. And I've chatted with Jan Plessner (PR manager at Kawasaki) about the women's market.
SO WHAT HAVE I LEARNED FROM ALL THIS ACTIVITY?
From my phone calls with the dealers, I've learned that while the official MIC sales numbers are down, the ups and downs are pretty even.
- I've talked with dealers who said business was slow, only to talk to dealers in adjacent counties who said it was good. Still, other dealers have told me that business is "OK" but not to the levels that they had hoped for earlier in the year.
- Dealers who specialize in used bike sales are almost uniformly positive — everyone I talked to said they were having a "great" year.
- Most dealers are trying to work down their inventory in anticipation of continued slow sales (and the winter sales doldrums).
- Canadian dealers are struggling with cross-border sales. I spoke with one dealer who told me that his invoice price was the MSRP cost in the United States. The dealers say that the Canadian distributors are reportedly being very slow to help out by lowering prices.
From reading old issues of Cycle World, I've learned that the more things change, the more things stay the same. Does any of the following sound familiar? "Too many foreign bike manufacturers are deluging the U.S. with ill-equipped, underpowered, overadvertised, glorified mopeds." " ... youngsters buzzing down the street in shorts, T-shirts, bare feet, with no goggles or any sort of protective headgear." " ... a bill in the legislature to outlaw all motorcycles and scooters from all Ohio public roads ... "
These are excerpts from letters to the editor published in the February 1967 edition of Cycle World. They don't sound too different from what the Dealernews editors pick up on a month-to-month basis now. I don't think anyone in 1967 thought we'd still be dealing with the same issues 50 years later.
And from talking with Jan Plessner, I've learned that the women's market might be larger than we think. Every time I hear a quote about the women's market, it's "10 percent." Jan Plessner at Kawasaki says that the problem with the "10 percent" estimate is that it's an old estimate from the MIC. The association is working on a new market study but won't have the results ready until 2009, she says.
However, if you go to track days and other gatherings, you'll see many more women participating. Plessner says that Kawasaki's own research reveals that 15 to 40 percent of Kawasaki vehicle sales are to women, depending on the model of bike.
Are you doing anything to capture the women's market? If the industry is selling a million bikes a year, 10 percent accounts for 100,000 motorcycles. Are you doing anything to capture female customers, or encourage more women to become new riders?