In the late 1970′s and early ‘80′s, motorcycle manufacturers noticed an alarming trend in the United States. Sales were falling dramatically, so they shortened their product development cycles and brought out many new models, each released with the same fanfare as previous successful launches.
Unfortunately, demand remained very soft and many companies soon ended up with enormous backlogs of motorcycles in their warehouses. When someone who began riding in 1984 tells you that they purchased their first motorcycle, a leftover 2-year-old Yamaha Vision 550 brand new for less than $600 (including tax!), don’t cock your eye and look at them funny. They aren’t kidding. Some new models were still available 5 years after their original launch date! (Honda CX Turbo…)
The glut of “leftovers” did more than just create great deals for buyers, it changed the motorcycle market as we know it. Harley-Davidson complained to Congress that the Japanese manufacturers were “dumping” motorcycles in the United States in an attempt to drive The Motor Company out of business, and the US Government agreed.
They slapped a tariff on imported motorcycles sold in the America that displaced more than 700cc. (Did you ever wonder why the VF750F, KZ750, GS750 and FZ750 all became the VF700F, KZ700, GS700 and FZ700? It was to get around the trade tariff.) Harley famously turned the company around, successfully petitioned the government to end the tariff early, and roared ahead into many years of exceptional growth.
Former Harley-Davidson CEO Jeff Bluestein famously stated that The Motor Company’s goal during its growth period was to build “one less motorcycle than we have a buyer for.” While this may have been based on simple Economics 101 supply and demand principles, this task proved far more difficult to put in practice. Dealerships in Texas, Florida, Arizona and California were begging for motorcycles while other dealers in New England, the Midwest and the Northern Plains were tripping over excess inventory.
Unlike its simplistic explanation, the slowdown began unevenly and made it very difficult for manufacturers to gauge the actual demand for new models. Fast forward a few short years and the United States slid into a worldwide recession, turning off not only much of consumers’ desire for new motorcycles, but the ability of those remaining buyers to obtain credit for the motorcycles they wanted.
Recognizing this dramatic change, motorcycle manufacturers limited their production in 2009 and scaled it back even more in 2010-one taking the dramatic step to not even release some 2010 street models! Having learned from their previous experiences, manufacturers are limiting availability of new models until they sell off stocks of previous machines that are still sitting in warehouses.
So where does this leave you when you consider purchasing a new motorcycle this year? Frankly, you are on the seat with your hands on the grips and your feet on the pegs. Economists would look at the excessive supply of product and the wary consumers and confidently state that we are currently in a classic buyers’ market!
Bill decided to support the economy by going shopping. A trip to Orange County Harley-Davidson in California proved fruitful as the guys left with a pair of heavily-discounted Buell motorcycles. (Buell, formerly owned by Harley-Davidson, was dissolved last year as Harley struggled to right itself.) While researching the spectacular deals they obtained for themselves, they found that almost every major motorcycle manufacturer is offering significant incentives to buyers.
Motorcycle buyers will find deeply discounted monthly payments, low-interest financing, free extended service plans, large rebates, terrific accessory and gear packages and even 1-on-1 riding instruction with world champion Doug Polen! Listen to the Motorcycle Manufacturer Discounts and Deals Podcast here.
It has been 25 years since we last saw this type of market, so don’t miss your chance to ride away on a spectacular new bike for a fraction of what you might have paid two or three years ago. If you wait too long, you’ll miss the savings and be left having people stare at you funny when you tell them that you could have bought a brand new top-of-the-line sportbike for less than $8,000 in back in 2010.
Here are links to some motorcycle manufacturers’ sites that will point you to some of the incentives and savings that are available:
BMW – http://www.bmwmotorcycles.com/us/en/index.html Click on the “Promotions” tab
Ducati – http://fasttrack.ducatiusa.com/
Harley-Davidson – http://www.harley-davidson.com/en_US/Content/Pages/2010c/reg/ride-easy-guarantee.html
Honda – http://powersports.honda.com/offers.aspx
Kawasaki – http://www.kawasaki.com/RideGreenSaveGreen/Default.aspx?cm_mmc=KMC-_-Landing-_-HomePageTakeover-_-RideGreenSaveGreen
KTM – http://www.ktm.com/Detail.223.20.html?&nodeID=104885&cHash=435ae36042
Suzuki – http://www.suzukicycles.com/Microsites/rideaway.aspx
Triumph – http://www.triumph.co.uk/usa/Promotions.aspx
Yamaha – http://www.yamaha-motor.com/sport/webpromo/sport.aspx
Yamaha’s Star has its own offer here – http://www.starmotorcycles.com/star/webpromo/star2.aspx
Also this week, Bill revisits a previous Tool of the Week award winner as she heads to court, and Todd B tries to keep from using his barf bag in the studio… Thanks for checking us out, and we’ll be back next week with a ‘Real-Time’ Road Test on the Motorcycle Radio Network.