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Season’s early start showing on bottom line

Dave McMahon, Senior Editor
April 2, 2012
Filed under Columns

We can provide surveys and inquire from dealers about the various states of the industry — and you’ll see the Q1 survey results in our next issue — but it’s always informative to check in with folks who are on the ground floor to get a proper state of specific points of the industry.

Our Touring and Cruiser Focus section provided plenty of insight on the pre-owned market along with PG&A movers and shakers. Over in the Snowmobile section, you’ll learn that a swath of dealers from the Snowbelt acknowledge that they have plenty more sleds left over this year to due to the warms temperatures and lack of snow than they did at the same time last year. And you’ll see in the News section that scooter OEMs aren’t banking on a 2008-like surge of buyers due to rising gas prices. Instead, they’re planning on continued growth simply because of the transportation benefits of their vehicles, high gas prices or not. And in this edition, you can read about the debut of the new Kawasaki Teryx4, and its impact on side-by-side sales for Kawasaki. You’ll find more about that in the ATV section.

In other words, associate editor Liz Hochstedler and I are once again hopeful that you’ll be available find beneficial stories that both help you stay in the know and help you run your dealership better.

Kawasaki Motors Corp. vice president of sales Bill Jenkins (right) likes the early direction of the 2012 sales season.

Along those lines, I was scouring several facets of the touring and cruiser segment of the industry when I caught up with Bill Jenkins, vice president of sales for Kawasaki Motors Corp. U.S.A. I last ran into Bill at the Kawasaki Dealer Business Meeting in Orlando, and he was back in Florida again recently, this time for Bike Week. In a brief respite at his New Jersey office before embarking a trip to Japan, Jenkins provided me with some insight on the touring and cruiser segment from the Kawasaki viewpoint.

Kawasaki has high expectations for the riding season from the Concours touring bike and Vulcan Vaquero bagger. “They contributed to us finishing No. 1 in motorcycle market share among the Japanese OEMs in 2011,” Jenkins said.

The Vulcan Voyager 900 cruiser offers plenty as an entry-level line, not the least of which is its $8,299 price tag. The Vulcan 900 also has seen an uptick in female riders due its low seat height.

“Plus that’s a pretty good value,” Jenkins said. “That puts us right in a great price point for the consumer, whether it’s entry into the market or re-entering.”

The Vulcan 1700 Vaquero has been an especially successful touring model.

“It has a lot of the creature comforts that touring riders demand, like a carbon fiber drive belt, satellite radio, an intercom system and a great choice of colors,” Jenkins said. “If you don’t have those creature comforts, they’re going to look elsewhere.”
Jenkins believes consumer interest in the segment will continue to rise.

“We think the touring/cruiser will be a solid segment for us,” he said. “We’re hoping to grab a point or two of share in the cruiser segment, which we think overall will remain stable.”

The overall bike market certainly saw improved overall buzz in the first two months of the year. Combine the aforementioned early spring with some enticing financing offers to consumers, and there’s reason to believe that the first two months of the year provided a strong impetus to dealers. In fact, the motorcycle industry overall increased 20 percent in January year-over-year and February followed by being up 10 percent year-over-year. That followed a 4 percent year-over-year rise in December.

“We’re seeing a good trend in the entire motorcycle industry in the last three months, which is very encouraging,” Jenkins said.

In April 2011, the motorcycle market was down about 12 percent compared to the prior April. It trended upward in May, June and July before going negative again August, September and October.

“So you have to go back to May-July of 2011 to see the kind of trend we’re seeing now,” Jenkins said.

As Jenkins admits, however, none of the increases or upticks or optimism for 2012 comes without supportive business owners.

“The lone reason all of our products are successful is that we have a terrific dealer network,” Jenkins said. “They are committed to an excellent, enhanced customer experience, and we’re working very closely with them to keep that experience coming to the customer.”

More positive reports
According to a research report provided to Powersports Business by Wells Fargo Securities analyst Tim Conder, the heavyweight motorcycle market has seen U.S. retail sales growth of 9-11 percent in January and February. We’ll see if the positive trends continue next month, when we present the Powersports Business Q1 Dealer Survey.

Dave McMahon is Senior Editor of Powersports Business. Reach him at dmcmahon@powersportsbusiness.com or 763/383-4411.

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