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The manufactureres’ market snap-shot

March 29, 2004
Filed under Features

Between 1997 and 2002, the motorcycle industry experienced several years of double-digit sales increases with an average of about 17% growth per year. During that same period, sport bike sales alone some times outpaced industry growth percentage wise.
“Sportbike sales continue to grow at a percentage rate that is right on par with the industry growth rate,” Kawasaki’s Jan Plessner told Powersports Business, “and today’s U.S. Sportbike market is forecasted by industry insiders to continue to grow significantly until at least 2010.”
Plessner said one of the ideas backing this forecast comes from the growing number of 16 to 34-year-olds.
“The Y Generation today is 10 to 27 years old and make up 25.80% of the U.S. population; whereas Baby Boomers account for 28.20%,” Plessner said. “Even though Gen Y is slightly smaller than the Baby Boomers, the Y Generation is expected to surpass the Boomers in total consumption.”
According to industry estimates, sales of 0-500cc sport bikes during 2003 declined by approximately 5% from roughly 6,900 units to just over 6,500 units. In the over 750cc sport bike category, an estimated 51,750 bikes were sold during the year, down roughly 4.5%from the 54,200 units sold throughout 2002. On the other hand, sales of sport bikes in the 501cc to 750cc category rocketed an estimated 22% from nearly 53,000 units to nearly 64,800.
So what do the numbers tell us about sport bike consumers?
“That the middle-weight class continues to be the largest segment in the sport bike market and will likely continue to be for several years,” Plessner said. “However, the 1000cc sport bike segment is growing rapidly, too. New 1000cc sport bikes like the all-new ZX-10R have become lighter, more compact and physically less intimidating than open class sport bikes in the past.”
Honda’s Jon Seidel seemed to agree with Plessner’s assessment of the middle-weight category, describing 600cc bikes, often viewed as “entry-level” machines, as the most popular sport bike sellers. He said the CBR600RR and CBR600F4I account for roughly 40% of Honda’s total sport bike sales.
“Cruisers are still the top selling product, however sport bikes make up a large percentage of Yamaha’s U.S. sales, and the 600cc supersport category is certainly the top selling category for us,” said Yamaha’s Brad Banister. “In fact, over the last 12 months, the R6 has enjoyed enormous success as the best selling 600cc sport bike in the industry. It was sold out last year, with sales increasing 40% over the previous year’s model.
While Suzuki’s 2003 AMA Superbike Championship winning GSX-R1000 led the liter bike category in sales during 2003, Banister said Yamaha’s R1 was the second best-selling 1,000cc sport bike last year, and said sales steadily pulled away from the third place CBR954RR all season.
Responsible for much of Suzuki’s sales success in the segment, the GSX-R1000 rightfully serves as the anchor machine for the manufacturer’s sport bike lineup.
Glenn Hansen, Suzuki motorcycle and ATV advertising manager, said the company, led by its GSX-R series, held U.S. sport bike market share during 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003.
The GSX-R series consists of a 600, 750 and 1000. Years ago, 750-class sport bikes were a hot commodity, then race rules changed and manufacturers switched up to fit competitive categories. Today, the bulk of the sport bike consumer market has a wealth of 600s and 1000s to choose from. The 750 class, however, remains only with a single model, and Hansen said Suzuki has no plans of ending its production run.
“Most manufacturers do appear to be concentrating on the 600 and 1000, and people tend to think we plan to stop producing the GSX-R750, but it’s what started the category for us,” Hansen said, “and it’s such a good product with such a good history and heritage that it makes perfect sense for us to keep producing it.” psb

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