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MOTORCYCLE – Consumers Reveal Buying Patterns, Rate Helmets

November 28, 2005
Filed under Features

You likely carry several brands of accessories in your shop, and as a businessperson you wish you had a crystal ball that could tell you which brands of products consumers liked best. Stock those brands, and your success is virtually assured.
An adjunct to the J.D. Power and Associates 2004 Motorcycle Competitive Information Study (MCIS) was a separate helmet study, in which thousands of new-bike buyers were asked to rate their latest helmet purchase in a variety of categories. In this article, because there is no “gentleman’s agreement” to not reveal results (as there was with the motorcycle results), we are able to reveal actual rankings of particular helmet brands, though not of specific models.
The J.D. Power study singled out those riders who had purchased a helmet within the past 12 months, which totaled more than 6,000 responses. As for which helmets dominated, only two brands ranked in double percentage figures (along with “Other” at 23.0%), while the rest were quite scattered. When a specific brand is listed here but not rated, it means that there was not a sufficient minimum sampling received.
The most popular selling helmet brands among surveyed riders who purchased new 2004 model year motorcycles:
Brand Percentage purchased
HJC 28.3%
“Other” 23.0%
Shoei 10.7%
Arai 9.4%
Harley-Davidson 8.2%
Fulmer 5.0%
Nolan 3.2%
KBC 2.9%
Vega 2.8%
Icon 1.5%
Bell 1.2%
AGV 1.0%
Schuberth 0.9%
Suomy 0.8%
AFX 0.5%
Zeus 0.5%

The study recognizes five styles of helmets, one of which is the Off-Road/Motocross, which was purchased by only 1.2% of respondents. That makes sense, as this is a street-bike study. Of the rest, the Full-Face was purchased by 50.0% of new-bike buyers, the Half-Helmet/Shorty by 20.6%, and the Open-Face or Three-Quarter by 14.9%. Another 13.3% bought the “Convertible” or Modular-style flip-up helmet.
In 1999, the first year the study was conducted, the breakdown was similar as 48% had purchased a Full-Face helmet, the Half-Helmet/Shorty was 30% and the Open-Face or 3/4 was 21%. While there was as yet no appreciable market in Modular-style helmets, the remainder at that time were made up of off-road helmets. As you can see, the Modular has made significant inroads since then.
What was the price you paid for your new helmet?
$50 and Under 9.5%
$51-$100 27.9%
$101-$150 22.6%
$151-$200 11.8%
$201-$250 6.1%
$251-$300 5.4%
$301-$350 3.5%
$351-$400 5.2%
$401-$500 5.6%
Over $500 2.5%

Six years ago, in 1999, we covered the same data but in wider price categories. Then, 29% chose helmets under $100, compared to 37% in 2005; 43% chose helmets costing $101-$200, compared to 34% in 2005; 24% chose helmets priced $201-$400, compared to 20% in 2005; and a scant 4% purchased helmets $400 and over, compared to 8% in 2005.
Our figures indicate that in the intervening six years, the helmet market has gone high-end and low-end at the expense of the middle. The only areas of growth are those under $100, and $400 and Over.
Despite the fact that helmet fit is a very personal thing, 11.5% said they purchased their helmets over the Internet, and another 3.2% via mail order. Of the rest, 71.0% listed Dealership, 11.6% Accessory Only Shop and 2.6% listed Rally/Event/Swap Meet.
What were the top 3 factors that influenced you to purchase this particular helmet?
Comfort/Fit 64.6%
Style/Color 63.3%
Price 46.6%
Safety 29.7%
Saw it on Display 17.5%
Reputation for Quality/Durability 16.4%
Past Experience with Brand 9.7%
Salesperson’s Recommendation 9.4%
Ease of Changing Face Shield 4.1%
Friend’s Recommendation 3.9%
Saw it on Another Rider 2.6%
Racing Sponsorship 0.4%

For years, we in the industry have been recommending that riders get a new helmet every three to five years, and on average that’s what riders are doing. Besides the fact that standards and quality tend to evolve, there’s also the consideration that over time the EPS liner will begin to break down, and that the comfort liner (even when it’s removable and washable) will become soiled.
On average, how often do you purchace a new helmet?
One year or less 17.0%
Two years 31.1%
Three years 17.1%
Four years 7.3%
Five years 17.0%
Six years 1.0%
Seven or more years 9.5%

THE CONSUMER SATISFACTION SCORES
Riders were asked to rate their helmets individually in such categories as Quietness, Ventilation, Face Shield, Color/Graphic Design, Weight, Fit and Comfort and other factors on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is unacceptable, 5 is average, and 10 is outstanding. Then, these scores were totaled and averaged and each brand was assigned a score, though obviously individual models within each brand scored higher and lower.
Which helmet brands scored highest in customer satisfaction? Here’s the straight deal with the scores of eight brands in which a sufficient sample size was received: Arai, 811; Shoei, 795; Harley-Davidson, 750; Nolan, 741; Industry Average, 728; KBC, 715; Vega, 714; HJC, 699; Fulmer, 674
It’s interesting to note here that despite the fact that HJC’s satisfaction score is below the Industry Average, the brand is most popular with 28.3% of the market. Meanwhile, the two brands with the highest satisfaction scores are Arai and Shoei, which are high-dollar helmets. Obviously, people are buying inexpensive helmets in general, but are finding it’s the high-dollar helmets that satisfy most.
Asked how their helmet’s overall performance compare to their expectations, 75.6% of respondents said the helmet “Met expectations,” and another 18% said it was “Above expectations.” Only 6.5% said it was “Below expectations.”
Finally, though 93.6% of buyers said their helmet at least “met” their expectations, when asked how likely they would you be to purchase the same brand helmet, only 17% said they “Definitely will” repurchase the same brand, while 64.2% said they “”Probably will.” Though only 6.5% said the helmet was below their expectations, 16.2% “Probably will not” repurchase the same brand, while 2.6% “Definitely will not” repurchase the same brand of helmet. It appears that the less expensive helmet satisfies its buyer’s needs, however, a bike owner’s intention is to purchase a premium brand/style helmet in the future.
Headquartered in Westlake Village, California, J.D. Power and Associates is an ISO 9001-registered global marketing information services firm operating in key business sectors including market research, forecasting, consulting, training and customer satisfaction. The firm’s quality and satisfaction measurements are based on responses from millions of consumers annually. J.D. Power and Associates is a business unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies.
For more information about the 2004 J.D. Power and Associates MCIS, call Todd Markusic, Director – PowerSports Group, at 248/267-6800.

- Bill Stermer

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