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Number of units sold, retail price paid vary by state

Hal Ethington, Columnist
April 2, 2012
Filed under Columns

A study of unit sales for 2011 gives insight into differences found among the various states for levels of U.S. sales activity.

While data on 49 states was gathered (data is not available for Rhode Island), only the top five states and the lowest ranking five states are shown in this presentation. Sales were classified by the type of unit sold and include ATV, off-road motorcycles, on-road motorcycles, on/off-road motorcycles, scooters, snowmobiles and UTVs. Information on more than 500,000 units was gathered, representing $4.5 billion in sales.

Chart A, Chart B. (Click image to view larger)

Chart A lists the average selling price for new and used units sold. This price does not include parts or accessories, F&I, or any other add-ons. The top five performing states are ranked one through five, and the lowest performing states are ranked 45 through 49.

For ATVs, we see that the highest average selling price was found in Alaska, where units sold for $7,496. That compares with South Carolina, where units sold for an average of more than $2,000 less, at $5,260. Alaska, Montana, Vermont, South Dakota and New Mexico are all in the highest range. Lower ATV pricing is found in predominantly southern states, including Missouri, Georgia, Delaware, Arkansas and South Carolina.

Alaska returns at the highest average price for scooters and also third place for on-road units. In fact, Alaska and Maryland appear in the top five a total of three times each in this upper section. Ten others appear twice.

Among the lowest average selling prices for all units in all states, we find that Arkansas and Nebraska appear four times each. Delaware and South Carolina are found three times, and Iowa and West Virginia are seen twice.

Product mix varies widely by state. While it is normal for snow machines to be rare in the southern states, there are other patterns that cannot be so easily explained. First, in Chart B, we see that for dealers in Illinois, seven out of 10 units sold are on-road bikes. Checking ATVs, we see that Illinois ranks next to last in percentage of ATVs sold (12 percent of units).

Another aspect of the market is found in the low percentage for all states for on/off-road bikes. Sales for these units range from a high of only 8 percent, to a low of 1 percent or less. In this study, this product category is the smallest, averaging even less than scooters.

Among other findings, we see that Hawaii sells much fewer ATVs than would be anticipated. Not only  are ATVs low, but also UTVs are seen at the bottom of the list, with only 1 percent of unit sales. With both agriculture and tourism prevalent in the state, it appears that perhaps this market segment has not been fully developed. However, we see that Hawaii is strong in on-road sales (70 percent) and also at the top of the chart with 13 percent of scooter sales.

Note the strong showings for UTVs in Kentucky, Mississippi, Utah, Louisiana and West Virginia — and a corresponding lack of sales for these units in Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and (as noted above) Hawaii. Again, dealers in these states may want to study this pattern and see if there is unmet demand.

The patterns that become obvious from these charts are interesting and in some cases explainable (high unit prices in Alaska). But it is the unexplainable that I find interesting. Why is Wyoming so low in dirt bikes? Why does Hawaii sell so few ATVs and UTVs? Why does a street bike sell in Delaware for half of what the same product class sells for in Wyoming?

Each of these questions can lead to answers that will help dealers understand their markets better and perhaps, bring vision of what a market is capable of doing.

Hal Ethington has been associated with the powersports industry for more than 40 years. Ethington is a senior analyst at ADP Lightspeed. Contact him at Hal.Ethington@adp.com. For the full report of this analysis, featuring all values for all states for 2010-11, contact David Johnson at ADP Lightspeed at 800/521-0309.

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