Following growth during Q1, registrations falter in April
Following a year of depressed registrations in 2017, the first quarter of 2018 experienced growth, with year to date totals being 5.8% ahead of last year. However, registration data released by the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA) show total registrations of 9,095 in April, which is 13.1% behind 2017, bringing year to date totals to just 0.5% ahead of last year. Taking into account that registrations in April 2017 were significantly down on those in 2016, it is very disappointing.
Following a cold March, there were hopes that April would deliver some genuine spring-like weather and although it was certainly a warm month with a notable summer-like spell, it was rather wet, too, leading to riding conditions that were far from ideal. This was the opinion of many dealers and although some did experience an increase in sales during the settled spell, it was not enough to boost overall momentum. The better news is that May has been a generally dry and warm month, making for some fine riding conditions.
However, it would be naïve to blame the weather entirely for the suppressed market. Economic uncertainty continues to linger and hinder consumer confidence and sadly, this is likely to continue for the foreseeable. Thefts, particularly in cities and rising insurance premiums are also having a negative effect.
Despite the challenges, there is still time for a turnaround in fortunes, albeit, it will have to occur soon as time is rapidly passing by. It will be interesting to see how the market performed during May.
April 2017 vs April 2018 Summary
● Touring sector strongest growth in April at 54.8% vs 2017
● Trail/Enduro experienced an upturn of 27.4% vs 2017
● Scooters continue to grow with a 7.2% increase vs 2017
● Following a prolonged period of growth, Adventure Sports experienced a 19.4% decline vs 2017
● After an increase in March, Naked bikes reported a downturn of 14.1% vs 2017 in April
● Mopeds continue their decline in April 31.4% down vs 2017
Mixed Market Feedback Continues
Despite registration growth during Q1 this year, feedback from dealer visits and respondents to our online survey have been of a mixed nature. It will come as no surprise to note that it was a similar story in April with the vast majority reporting demand to be similar or weaker than last year, with only a minority holding the opinion it had improved. As mentioned previously, many dealers share the view that the weather combined with reduced consumer confidence continues to be the main bugbear. A handful of respondents felt the industry is suffering from market saturation, too. Some subscribers said their profit margins were down on last year resulting from increased discounting in an attempt to boost sales.
Customer finance penetration was reported to be broadly in line with last year overall. However, some respondents explained that penetration was down due to increased numbers self-funding and taking out their own bank loans.
What was hot in April?
● Retro styled Kawasaki Z900 RS sells itself
● The Yamaha MT-10 is a strong performer
● The Scout Bobber is a high selling machine for Indian Motorcycles
● The new Triumph Speed Triple RS is increasingly well received
● The Suzuki GSX-S125 appears to be gaining in popularity
Where does this leave the rest of 2018?
Registration totals for 2017 were 104,655 and this compared to 127,702 in 2016 and 114,160 in 2015. At the beginning of the year, there were realistic hopes that 2018 would beat 2017, albeit unlikely to achieve similar totals to those of 2016 with perhaps something more akin to 2015. Despite erratic feedback from the market, signs were promising from a registration perspective during the first quarter. However, some market distortion was likely to have been present during January resulting from pre-registering and this may have occurred in March to an extent, too. This year was always going to be a challenging one with ongoing economic uncertainty, but the fact that the season also suffered a delay due to a long winter has compounded the problem further with the effects really being felt in April. To say how the rest of this year will pan out is impossible at this stage, but the current view is that if the British weather comes up trumps and the UK experiences a decent summer, there remains a credible chance that sales in 2018 will beat 2017, although to achieve similar levels as 2015 would now be a tall order.