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Italian motorcycle industry looking for growth

October 20, 2003
Filed under Features

MILAN, Italy — Registrations in the Italian motorcycle/scooter industry have grown substantially over the last six years, but the industry is having difficulty meeting demand in the U.S. and is facing stiff competition at home from Chinese manufacturers who are dumping product in the country, said an industry leader during an interview with Powersports Business at the EICMA Expo here last month.
Claudio de Viti, the man in charge of the motorcycle/scooter segment of Italy’s National Bicycle and Motorcycle Association, said that moped sales have increased from 700,000 in 1997 to an estimated 1,750,000 this year. At the same time, sales of licensed vehicles, which include motorcycles and scooters, have grown from 90,000 to 400,000. Approximately 70% of these sales are scooter sales.
Scooter customers and motorcycle customers are substantially different, research by Italian OEMs has discovered. “Scooter owners are not interested in specs and engines,” de Viti said. “They look for good design, and they want to know about accessories. Often, they don’t even know what kind of engine (a scooter) has. But in motorcycles (customers) are very interested in technology.”
While the concentration of these machines is in the 500cc and below segment, the fastest growth as been in the 500cc size, which increased 65% in the last year, according to de Viti.
However, the motorcycle industry the last year has been fairly stable, he said, with many people waiting and watching the industry. The 600cc sport bike market is drawing the most attention, he said.
The custom cruiser segment has been declining, with the exception of Harley-Davidson, which hasn’t offered any new models in Italy this year. Harley will sell about 3,000 units in Italy this year, de Viti said.
While de Viti called exports to the U.S. recent years “stable,” he noted that companies such as Ducati, Aprilia and Moto Guzzi have had difficulty in guaranteeing delivery of product here.
On the accessories side, Italy is the leader in the European helmet market, he said, led by AGV and Nolan. Italian helmets, for example, are priced below the top-quality Japanese products, but well above the Chinese models. Quality is also a problem with Chinese products, he said.
A major problem for the Itallians is that Chinese manufacturers are dumping accessories and motorcycles in the Italian market — selling below cost. “Some cycles imported into Italy from China (are priced) less than the cost of raw materials here,” he said. The units generally are clones of machines made by other, better known non-Chinese companies, he said.
There is little market for ATVs here because of a lack of riding areas.

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