Data and insights on a truly tumultuous year for global motorcycle sales.

Steve Beattie
Associate Consultant

It has been a truly tumultuous year for global motorcycle sales.

International sales collapsed by 27.9% between January and August 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. That’s in the region of 9 million units down year on year! However, there were still 21.9 million units sold around the world and positively some evidence of a bounce back with sales rising globally by 9% in August, the first increase since February.

Where will we end 2020? – that really depends on how governments around the world continue to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s certainly not good news for India, the world’s largest motorcycle market, with sales down 37.4% against 2019. Compare this to China, where the outbreak originated, with sales only slipping 4.1% year on year.

European sales are also now beginning to recover with the decline limited to 4.7% after the first eight months of the year. How the winter months will affect the recovery is yet to be seen but there may be a surge in registrations as manufacturers and retailers take action on stock that doesn’t meet the new emissions legislation due to be implemented in January 2021.

What’s happening in the UK?

In the UK, we have also experienced a significant decline in sales along with more recent signs of a positive bounce back. Registrations* up to Q2 2020 were 44,206 compared to 59,465 during the same period in 2019, a 47% decline. Looking at Q3, we see registrations of 37,670 in 2020 compared to 29,818 in 2019, a 26% rise. This Q3 sales performance being the best in the UK market for circa six years. The overall year to date for the UK at the end of Q3 shows 81,876 registrations in 2020 compared to 89,283 in 2019, an overall 8% decline on year to date sales. If we look at initial registration data for October, we see a continued positive trend with the year on year reduction down to around 6%.

Looking a little closer within the detailed registration data we can see that as at September 2020, scooters (+5%) and mopeds (+2%) have seen a year on year increase whereas all other motorcycle styles have experienced reduced volumes compared to the same period in 2019. Are new riders coming on stream and using powered two wheels as the solution to socially distanced commuting? Adventure Sport (-22%), Touring (-19%) and Naked (-18%) bikes have all taken the most significant hit in sales volumes.

Looking at individual brand performance, within the major volume brands we see only Lexmoto (up 1,426 units, +21.7%) achieving greater volume as at September year to date compared with 2019. Both Honda (3,357 units down, -23.4%) and BMW Motorrad (1,495 units down, -23.1%) have seen volume reductions of over 20%. Other manufacturers have performed slightly better with Yamaha and KTM experiencing less than a 10% fall in sales while Kawasaki and Triumph have seen circa 15% declines.

As we enter the winter months, where historically registrations have slowed, it is clear that the second round of lockdowns and tiered restrictions across England along with actions taken in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, will continue to have a significant effect on total UK motorcycle sales market. To what level? We will know that in January 2021.

All that manufacturers and retailers can do is ensure they maximise every opportunity, be creative in how they market offers and consider how customer service can be optimally delivered in a socially distanced manner. Then push hard for the year end.

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*UK Registration data compiled from MCIA data and our thanks to them for allowing us to use the data.