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Questions about bike sales, dealerships and demand

17503 Views 69 Replies 37 Participants Last post by  Reprobate
My own $0.02: my nearest Honda dealer still has brand a brand spankin' new 1999 VTR 1000 Superhawk sitting in his showroom with a big sticker showing it for more than $2,000 off "list."

This was one of the hottest sportbikes around just a few years ago and it's still a great bike. From what I've seen, unless one wants the latest and greatest superbike that all the mags are raving about, supply isn't much of an issue. Harley-Davidson Softails are another matter.

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Re: Where did you hear about this?

You seem to be the only person on the web who has actually seen one! Hmmmmmm...... Liar!

Having lived in Germany for 3.5 years when I was just a pup, and having learned to drive over there (NOT a German license, rather a U.S. Army Europe license), I can verify everything you just said... It took me years to realize that the reason I was so incredibly ANGRY behind the wheel here in California was that I had learned to drive where people were polite behind the wheel, and I was in the midst of a vertible sea of cretins on the California freeways. Once I realized that, the rage disappeared.

I have to agree that the real reason that more bikes aren't sold is the "image" of motorcycling. People regard it as dangerous, they regard MOTORCYCLISTS as dangerous. My grandmother calls my bike a "Murder-cycle". I read somewhere that motorcyclists are 14 times more likely to get into an accident as cars, but I'm not sure I believe that... this weekend I saw the 1st fatality on a motorcycle that I've seen all year, but I've seen more than a few car fatalities. I realize that there are far more cars on the road than bikes, and that the great majority of "motorcyclists" don't ride in bad weather (I do, my bike's my only transportation), but it seems that I'd have seen more bike accidents if they were truly that much more dangerous.
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Re: Finally intelligent poster

First off thanks for some great posts. I no longer visit MO much becuase they are too often concerned about pitting motorcyclists against each other rather than uniting. Please no more helmet or pipe threads!

Now, I agree with all of the great points. I would also like to add my frustration with the lack of parking ingenuity allowed motoryclists. Go to London and you see motorcycles parked in all kinds of nooks and crannies next to buildings and on side walks (but out of the way of pedestrians). In the US we write tickets. I guess society benefits more from crowed and polluted streets generated by buldging SUVs. When it comes to convenient parking for motorcycles, I think overall there is a menatality such as why should they get to park there. Same logic for lane splitting is why should the motorcyclist get there before me.

Chicago cops are also very inconsistent on motorcyle/scootere parking. They usually never ticket a scooter on the sidewalk or between meters, but they will often ticket a motorcyle. They are both motorized vehicles why ticket one and not the other, size? It it is size why do we allow people to push 2 and 3 wide strollers down the sidewalks or park mountain bikes on sidewalks?

I think the ride to work day on July 18th also needs to be park your bike where you can find efficient and convenient parking. Understair cases etc... Don't misconstrue my message, I am not advocating parking my leaky shovelhead in the middle of the sidewalk where people expect to walk!
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My feeling is that the bikes are becoming safer but as with anything, it is up to the rider to make a safe trip. I am always amazed at how stable my little sv650 is. I have to really mess up to skid or upset the chassis (thankfully, that has happenend). However, my riding skills do not extend to other drivers and it is relatively less skilled 'cage' drivers that make riding more dangerous than it really is. I have heard my fair share of people who race in professional or amateur leagues say they don't ride on the street. Why? Other drivers, not the bike.

My sincerest hope is that more people will take a ride on a motorcycle or be given a ride on one, they simply don't understand the beast, how fun it is and how dangerous THEY make it.
USA and Europe

Thank you for the excellent comparison and summary of the differences between the two regions, Vlad. After travelling throughout the world, I have come to the realization that we as Americans are the most apathetic group of people in the world. Our attitudes towards transportation (60 mph on boring interstates, etc.) are merely reflections of our underlying apathy towards our surroundings. American's world perspectives aren't going to change any time soon, so our attitudes towards transportation aren't going to change either. Single occupant trucks and SUVs will continue to dominate our freeways and city streets, the drivers blissfully unaware of their surroundings. This is how most Americans prefer to live- insulated from any perceived realities of danger and the manufacturers realize this and sell their products this way. Observe commercials for SUVs and you will notice this. In many ways I feel safer on my motorcycle, as I can avoid these comatose drivers and I arrive to my destinations feeling alive instead of brain dead and lethargic. I wish more people would adopt motorcycles as their primary means of transportation, but I realize that it will not happen in the near future pending some radical shake-up in national events. However, I can change the way I live and hope that others will follow my lead. I am trying to sell my overweight, poor handling American "sports car" so I can go to using my Suzuki SV-650 as my main means of transportation. With the money from selling it I could have a couple really fun bikes instead of one moderately fun and expensive to run car! I'll be working on converting my friends to the "Dark Side"…
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Re: Dealers can help themselves

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned their experiences shopping at motorcycle dealers. I've bought two bikes new and three used over the years. I've also shopped and visited many dealers all over the country and I used to be a factory rep for a car manufacturer, so I know a few things about car dealers. It really seems that most motorcycle dealers I've visited are stuck in another decade.

1) With the exception of BMW and Buell (and on occassion Triumph), I've never found a dealer willing to allow test rides. I certainly understand the liability and danger involved here, but some have found a way around it so it can be done.

2) Their level of knowledge about anything except the exciting new superbike-of-the-week leaves a lot to be desired. I honestly had a "salesman" try to talk me out of a "standard" model in favor of the newest GSXYZKZVFT in which I told him I had no interest.

3) Their salesmanship is often limited to snotty attitudes and an order-taking mentality. God help H-D dealers if demand continues to fall. Most of these guys have forgotten how to sell anything except 'tude and a spot on a waiting list. Try to get a simple brochure or even a straight price out of any dealer (including those who sell Japanese models) and it's no wonder they have two-year-old bikes sitting on the floor collecting dust and flooring expense. One dealer I recall had a two-year-old Honda Magna 750 on the floor. When I asked him how much they wanted for it he looked me in the eye and told me $8700. F*** you too.

4) Despite a need to get new and younger riders into showrooms, most of these places seem pretty intimidating to neophytes.

All the marketing dollars in the world are worthless if they drive potential customers to some of the dealers I've met over the years. I'd love to hear some other dealer horror stories, I know they are out there.
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Oops, this is wordy

I think the image of motorcycling is the biggest barrier to wider motorcycle use. People who don't ride see it as dangerous (my mother considers it almost suicidal), noisy, and obnoxious. People in the motorcycling world (riders, manufacturers, dealers, and media outlets) make the situation worse by focusing only on the recreational aspects (speed, posing, and waking up the neighbours with loud pipes). The way to make motorcycling acceptable to a larger proportion of the community is to improve the image and increse the safety of the roads. I think motorcyclists should do their part to improve the image by riding rationally, especially in urban or suburban areas - i.e., no revving the race-piped Gixxer to 11,000 rpm in the middle of the night while whipping up Main Street at 80 mph. Let's face it, I only see about a dozen motorcycles on an average day, but I probably hear another half dozen every night (I live downtown) - either over-revved sportbikes or open-piped Harleys. I love hearing a bike scream at the top of the rev range as much as anyone (especially if I'm on it), but there's a time and a place and the middle of the night on my street ain't it. I think aftermarket retailers and riders should use their heads and keep exhaust noise to a reasonable level before governments outlaw all customisation and you have to use the stock pipe, whether you like it or not. Motorcyclists should probably try to accentuate the responsible and practical aspects of motorcycles when in heavy traffic. Ride-To-Work Day is a good start. Burnouts and rowing through the gears are awesome, but doing them at 3 a.m. on Monday morning is not going to get you in good with the neighbours.

More importantly, I think Canada and the U.S. need to rethink their road enforcement strategies. For example, intersections are the location of the majority of multi-vehicle collisions, while wide-open highways are the location of very few collisions. Why is it that so much is spent on enforcing speed limits on relatively safe multi-lane highways, while all sorts of intersection transgressions go unpunished? I'm talking about the crap that drivers do all the time like unsignalled turns and lane changes, left turns without the right-of-way, comatose drivers who ignore signs and traffic lights, occupying multiple lanes at once, etc., etc. I probably see about five or six examples of this kind of ignorance every day, and I am forced to make some sort of evasive maneuver at least once a week. I think enforcement should consist of less radar guns and more enforcement in the areas where most accidents occur. Violating another vehicle's right-of-way should result in a more severe punishment than doing 85 in a 65 zone when there is no one in sight.

Finally, I think more driver/rider training and possibly periodic re-testing are needed. People around my age (mid-twenties) and younger probably took some sort of driver/rider certification course (of course, we are pretty reckless as an age group and probably cancel out any knowledge with bravado); people my parents' age generally don't have any driver education, and frankly, I don't think most of them even know the rules of the road, much less how to drive. Make everyone take a three-day course, as a minimum, with refreshers and re-tests every five or ten years. That might also get rid of some of the people who should no longer be on the road due to declining

eyesight/judgment/motor control.

When someone asks me why I ride a motorcycle (I don't own a car) when it's so dangerous, I say that it's an issue of personal responsibility - a motorcycle is dangerous mainly to me, while a car is dangerous to everyone else on the road, and an SUV is much worse. (Driving an SUV doubles the chance that you will kill another person in a collision, compared to a car - is that a responsible thing to do?) On top of that, my current bike (a '78 CB750 F2) cost less than the yearly insurance on a ten-year-old car, gets the same fuel efficiency as a Toyota Prius, and will out-accelerate a Dodge Viper. Frankly, I don't understand why anyone drives a car to work during the summer - motorcycles are just better.

Ramble, ramble, ramble. Didn't mean to run on so long. Nice to see so much intelligent discussion on this topic.

-Paul aka Hondachop aka chopperpaul
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i am by no means and industry insider but i will say that that never in any visit to a local dealership have i ever been greeted by salespeople familiar the simplest basics of salesmanship.

when I finally decided on a bike i practically had to insist on buying it.

the dealerships that i've been in could all benefit from proper sales techniques. seems to me that if a fellow is in a motorcycle dealership tht fact alone demonstrates his interest in the product. the dealership ought to benefit from taking a position that says 'you want one of these. how are we going to get one parked in your garage?' as opposed to the 'help

yuh buddy?' approach that seems to pervade.

Now I'm not asking for the heavyhanded approach here, but more sales mean more bikes on the street and greater awareness of our sport.
My brother, who is a doctor, says that at the hospital they refer to bikes as "donor-cycles". He's horrified that I'm thinking about getting back into it again (after a 10-year hiatus).

Re: Where did you hear about this?

Sir. It is the truth. Chromed watercooled motor, buell or ducati type frame, disc wheels, big handle bars, grey paint job with Harley Davidson on the tank and a TT type seat. I have seen more than one. They are production! The dealer meeting is next week. This is the bike Porsche and Harley spent millions on. It is a short dense bike. Very un Harley looking but it is definatly a Harley!
Re: Finally intelligent poster

I live in Amsterdam, which by design has tiny sidewalks where not even a Vespa can park. And I ride a Yamaha Diversion 900 touring motorcycle. So where do I park, you might ask? On the sidewalk, since using the parking spot of a car is prohibited. The rules are simple, find a spot where your parked motorcycle doesn't hinder anyone. I personally make sure I leave enough room for a wheelchair to pass.

Parking your motorcycle is not 'taught', but rather left to the common sense of the motorcyclist. Still, I haven't seen a badly parked motorcycle for years [OK, that's a lie, I nudged over a BMW some ****head had parked on its sidestand on a slope].

As I've gathered from other posts not much attention is given to the 'side-effects' of riding a motorcycle in the US, compared to Europe. Which is one reason I'm hesitant to cross the pond and explore America by bike.

Well... I refuse to live my life ruled by fear. That's not really living now, is it?

Or, as Mel Gibson said in "Braveheart": "Every man dies. Not every man truly lives."
Tell your brother that the latest studies show that more people die from doctor's mistakes than just about any other cause. Ask him if this means he'll stop practicing.

Re: Dealers can help themselves

I concur that dealers treat the younger segment horribly. I have been told by repeated dealers that if I'm not ready to buy that day, I shouldn't even be in their showroom. And this wasn't even after pestering them for test-rides (which I have finally realized most dealers just don't give)--this is merely after wandering around, looking at motorcycles and sitting on them.

I've even been in an HD dealership where they don't have any new models on the floor to look at (predictable) and they wouldn't even let people sit on the used models!

If dealers don't entice people--if they don't try and build obsessions in the back of people's mind--the younger age group will never get around to buying motorcycles.

Starving Student

TV sells everything.

Bikes are not practical enough to truly replace cars as part of mainstream society, so the area where demand can grow is primarily in recreation.

People's imagination about what they can do to have fun is influenced by what they see on TV because it is an effective source of ideas beyond what the person already sees and does on a daily basis.

Motorcycles are portrayed stereotypically on TV, and therefore capture few people's imaginations.

I'm not saying TV is the only source. The limited number of people who go motorcycling probably get the idea elsewhere -- and they tend to become enthusiasts. This creates a market that meets the desires of the few enthusiasts and not most people.

This is why we have much of the motorcycling niche paying grand attention to the GSXR1000 and whatnot, while a non-motorcyclist would be overwhelmed with such a concept.

Put real motorcyclists on TV and watch bikes sell. Then watch the demand for televised motorcycle racing go through the roof.
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Re: Finally intelligent poster

America is great but can be an absolute joke sometimes. I was in Amsterdam recently and loved it. All of Europe seems to possess a hell of a lot more common sense than us stupid americans... minus the legalized drug use :)
A couple of years ago I was looking to replace my

92 Nighthawk 750 with something faster, more nimble, lighter, and at least as comfortable. I subscribe to Motorcyclist, Cycle World, Rider, American Motorcyclist and Motorcycle Consumer news, so I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted. With the exception of one dealer, they all acted like they were doing me a favor by relieving me of my hard earned cash. I'm a 40ish rider who pays cash for my bikes, and at one dealer I had a 22 year-old-spike-haired-body-pierced punk lecturing me on the joys of over priced used and abused sport-bikes. Even though I want a light bike I had Kawasaki dealers push me toward the Concours. Honda dealers either pushed the VFR, VTR, or even cruisers. The worst part of the whole deal was that nobody allows test rides. I ended up buying a used YZF600r privately and put heli-bars on it. It was 2000.00 less through private sale than what dealers wanted. It has great handling, motor, and is light, but not as comfortable as I had hoped. I can't sit on my nuts for extended rides. Some guys can do it, but I don't know how. I sold it, after 4000 miles, and will keep riding my Honda.

The bottom line for me is that I refuse to drop

6 or 8 or 10 thousand dollars until I can ride a bike for at least 50 miles or so. If that means I'm stuck with my Honda, so be it. I'll take the $9000.00 currently in my bike fund and buy a boat and maybe a snowmobile. If any New Hampshire dealers read this, maybe something will change. Dealers need to get their act together.

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Great thread!

Just wanted to say I've read some great, insightful comments on this board. Thanks MO!

Pete P.
Re: Where did you hear about this?

Yes they are due to release new models and engines from HD and Buell at the July 13th dealer meeting. There are none on the road as they are keeping the release under very tight wraps. If the bike is as you describe, I might be interested in one.
Re: Words from an Industry Insider

Is Pat the same Pat McGroin that bought out the famous Greek motorcycle dealership chain owned by Harry Paratestes?

I hope so. Tell Pat I said "Hi."
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