Q1 2014 Dealer Sentiment Index: New models bolster long-term outlook

Publish Date: 
Apr 21, 2014
By Mary Green Slepicka


Arctic Cat












Trends deteriorated in vehicle categories susceptible to cold weather (i.e. anything but a snowmobile), and with more than 35 states experiencing colder-than-normal winter weather according to NOAA figures, the industrywide impact was felt across two-thirds of the country. However researchers said trends likely improved toward the end of Q1 as weather started improving.

“The motorcycle trend improved sequentially, driven by new product momentum from Harley-Davidson,” said Baird researcher Craig Kennison. “Indian and BMW dealers also reported strength.”

UTV sales weakened, although Honda dealers continued to report success with Pioneer sales. And although PWC sales went quiet during the winter months, BRP dealers continued to report solid results for the new entry-level Sea-Doo Spark.

Harley dealers reported sustained strong interest in the new Rushmore Touring bikes. New products from Honda, like the aforementioned Pioneer, continued to drive demand; however, dealers expressed concerned over inventory availability. Polaris dealers were generally positive about the new Sportsman ACE, although commentary suggested that they would appreciate more engine power in that particular model, Kennison said.

Dealers will need to wrestle control over inventory in order to have a successful year. "Our numbers are good, and in control for the first time since 2007," noted a Kawasaki dealer. " The Kawasaki [ordering] system seems to work best of the three OEMs: Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha. The Honda AIR System is fantastic, but only offered to Level 5 dealers," a multiline noted.

Some scooter retailers are still struggling to balance stock. "We carried a lot of 2013 scooters from last year, as we spent 2013 selling off 2009, 2010, 2012 scooters that accumulated from past years. But this meant that almost all the 2013 scooters that came in are still here. This must be the clean-out year for all the pre-2014 stuff," a multiline noted.


Dealer Sentiment Index Q3 2013: New vehicle intros drive optimism

Dealer Sentiment Index Q2 2013: Foul weather, high inventory dampen the mood

Dealer Sentiment Index Q1 2013: Long winter blamed for lower sales

Dealer Sentiment Index Q4 2012: Shaky spending, eroding margins fuel concerns

Dealer Sentiment Index Q3 2012: Dealers optimistic, but sales too volatile

Dealer Sentiment Index Q2 2012: Dealer optimism? Depends on the brand


The Baird/Dealernews Powersports Dealer Survey provides a quarterly snapshot of overall dealer health in North America. It is a joint research venture between Dealernews and Robert W. Baird & Co. Dealers in the U.S. and Canada are surveyed to provide insight into traffic, retail, inventory, credit and sentiment, providing hard data and field commentary behind current business trends. “Our goal is to provide the powersports industry with honest views from the people that make it happen every day – the dealers,” Baird stated.