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J.D. Power finds 47% of new bike buyers have complaints

May 12, 2003
Filed under Features

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in our series of four articles on the J.D. Power and Associates Motorcycle Competitive Information Study (MCIS), the latest of which was conducted in 2002. Surveys were mailed to 43,491 people who had purchased a new street or dual-sport motorcycle between September of 2001 and May of 2002.
Names were selected at random by J.D. Power and Associates from lists furnished by each of the manufacturers and R.L. Polk and Company. These results were compiled from the 10,339 usable responses (a 24% response rate). For complete details on the methodology of this study, see the first report in the March 10, 2003 issue of Powersports Business.
Bill Stermer served as a consultant to J.D. Power and helped establish the original MCIS in 1998, but has not been involved since.

Unfortunately, a substantial number of new motorcycle buyers said they had problems with their machine, according to the latest survey of new bike purchasers by J. D. Power and Associates. While 52.6% reported no problems with their bikes, nearly half (47.4%) did have problems.
Of the total number of riders, 27.6% reported a single problem with their bikes, 11.7% reported two problems, and 5.2% reported three. About 2% reported four problems, and 0.8% obviously disappointed riders reported five or more.
As for the nature of these, 37.18% experienced engine problems, 26% reported electrical problems, another 26% had transmission or drivetrain problems, 21% listed fit/finish, and 15.4% experienced problems with gauges or controls. Another 26.3% listed their problems in the catch-all “Other” category.
Obviously, the manufacturers have a good deal of work to do in this arena. The study listed how individual manufacturers rated, but this information is not publicly available.
Participants were asked to rate their new motorcycle build quality overall in terms of the number and type of problems experienced, using a 1 to 10 scale where 1 is Unacceptable and 10 is Outstanding,
Despite the discussion by participants of problems with their new bike, 43.7% rated their bike’s build as a “10” (Outstanding), 22.7% gave it a “9”, and 14.3% rated it an “8.” The other 19.3% saw it as something less.
When asked how the number of problems they experienced with the new motorcycle (even if it is 0) compare to their expectations, participants could pick one of three responses.
A fairly large number, 47.2%, concluded that their bikes had experienced fewer problems than they had expected, and 39.6% said they had “About what I expected.” Those reporting “More problems than expected” totaled 13.3%.
Parts and Accessories
On a more positive note, fully 71.1% of new-bike buyers reported buying OEM parts and/or accessories for their bikes at the time of purchase and/or after initial bike purchase.
Though other avenues are making inroads, the great majority of new-bike buyers still primarily purchase parts from their dealers.
With more than half of those who purchased some accessory purchasing exhaust pipes, that’s generally bad news for those who see noise as a major issue in the industry.
What’s most remarkable here is that, while the majority of responses fall between $100 to $1,000, more than 20% spend over $1,000 on accessories.
The Ownership Experience
Cost. Participants rated the cost of owning their new motorcycle, by using a 1 to 10 scale where 1 is Unacceptable, and 10 is Outstanding,
Grades “8” through “10” garnered 9.9, 13.7 and 18.4% of the responses, for a total of 42.0%. Responses “1” through “4” took just under 10%.
Overall. Using a 1 to 10 scale , participants were asked to rate their OVERALL OWNERSHIP EXPERIENCE so far: (i.e., sales/service at dealer, bike’s performance and quality, etc.)
Here, ratings were overwhelmingly positive. The 10-9-8 responses were 28.3% of participangs, 20.8% of participants and 20.8% of participants, for a total of 69.9%.
Recommendation. Given the opportunity, how likely would you be to: Recommend purchasing a motorcycle from the same dealer? Purchase a motorcycle from the same manufacturer? Purchase a motorcycle from the same dealer?
Here are the percentages of new bike buyers who would recommend purchasing from their same dealer.
Here, the majority of our selling dealers have done a good enough job to earn a recommendation. Here are the numbers as to how many will purchase a motorcycle from the same manufacturer:

Purchase from same oem?
Definitely Will 60.8%
Probably Will 34.1%
Probably Will Not 4.1%
Definitely Will Not 1.0%
As for how many will purchase from the same dealer, which is the bottom line in all this, here are the stats:

purchase from dealer?
Definitely Will 46.4%
Probably Will 36.6%
Probably Will Not 10.7%
Definitely Will Not 6.3%

While the “Definitely” category may seem low, my theory is that the “Probably” category reflects a lot of buyers who were generally happy with their treatment by the dealer, but may hold back in the future because of issues with price, location or model availability. Overall, dealers, you’re doing a good job!
Surveyed riders reported attending these types of events in the last two years.

events attended
Motorcycle Show 56.8%
Motorcycle Rally 56.4%
Motorcycle Owners Club Event 32.0%
Riding School 29.8%
Motorcycle Race 24.9%
Other Motorcycle Event 24.5%
Auto Race 24.5%

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