JD Powers: Aging Motorcyclist

Motorcycling Study

J.D. Powers & Associates recently released their annual report on the motorcycle owner experience. The findings-always an interesting read to track industry trends-are based on consumer experiences and expectations with regard to product satisfaction and dealer support. Most intriguing, however, is what it reveals about current demographics in motorcycling.

The most pertinent statistic in the report entitled, "Managing Owner Expectations and Providing Personal Service Positively Impacts Overall Motorcycle Owner Experience," is the simple fact that the motorcycling population is aging.

The study found that the average age of a motorcycle rider increased from 40-in 2001-to 49 in 2010. This implies it’s been the same crowd driving the two-wheel market year to year-and that they’re getting older. The obvious concern is that this demographic could soon be exiting the market.

Compounding this situation is the reality that first-time buyers of motorcycles have declined for the second straight year, suggesting there isn’t as vibrant a customer base coming into motorcycling as that which has sustained the industry’s growth over the last two decades. The report highlights the critical task at hand for manufacturers; the importance of attracting new customers.

In a previous article I published here on Ultimate MotorCycling-concerning the big four Japanese manufacturers having gradually cut production in Japan over the past decade-I suggested the reduced numbers potentially reflected declining interest in motorcycles as opposed to the tanking economy.

In the same article I mentioned that I had read an article about steadily declining sales among a number of companies that produce products for outdoor sports and activities.

I pointed a finger at the very real impact of video games having taken an entire generation indoors and plopped them down in front of game consoles. The element I didn’t mention, and which stands as an equal contributor to this "couching of America," is the influence of social media in the modern age.

People are spending unheard of amounts of time glued to their computers, engaged in electronic social media. FaceBook, MySpace, e-mail, web browsing, and text-messaging are consuming a colossal amount of our day.

People just don’t seem to have the time or inclination to get outdoors as much as they used to. Great stuff if you’re making video games or new apps. Terrible if you’re manufacturing motorcycles.

I have no real suggestions as to what our industry can do to cure this plague of inactivity. Increasingly, computers and the social networking they have spawned, are devouring more of our waking hours.

I can’t complain, my entire livelihood is based around writing on computers and then posting on the web, so I’m a perfect example of being a slave to the technology. However, I still get out as much as I can, whether it’s a ride, a hike, or some sort of activity outdoors.

There must be some middle ground we can reclaim here between the physical and electronic realms. Selfishly, I’d like to think that most anyone-given the chance to get on a motorcycle-would embrace the visceral, gratifying experience and decide, on their own, to find a more rewarding balance between the invigorating aspects of physical activity and that of the electronic universe.

And I’m not talking about creating a motorcycle video game that will do it for them.