A couple of recent articles indicate that motorcycling may be going the way of the buggy whip.
The Los Angeles Times has reported that a study by the Motorcycle Industry Council suggests that the “core audience” for motorcycling may soon “be too old to ride at all.” The subjects of the MIC study represent riders of all brands of motorcycles.
Meanwhile Forbes Magazine is describing Harley-Davidson’s sales as “tepid.”
The MIC study tracks the median age of California motorcycle owners from 33 years in 1990, to 38 in 1998, 41 in 2009 and 45 in 2012. About 40 percent of California motorcyclists are now 50 or older. In 1990 only ten percent of the state’s bikers were that old. In 2012, 14 percent of the state’s motorcyclists were retired.
Twenty-four years ago, 94 percent of California bikers were male. Now 88 percent of them are. Sixty-three percent are married. That figure was only 57 percent in 1990. More than half of all the state’s bikers went to college and 20 percent went to graduate school. The median income of the state’s motorcycle owners is $64,130 which is about double what it was in 1990. Twenty percent have an annual income of more than $100,000.
There are now more Californians with a motorcycle license than Californians who own motorcycles. The Times reports that more than half of those licensed to ride may not even own a bike.
Harley-Davidson has anticipated the enfeebling of its client base, not by getting into the golf cart business but rather by coining a ridiculous sound bite called the “Fatten The Tails Strategy.” John Olin, Harley’s Chief Financial Officer defines that as “our balanced approach to investing in products across the customer spectrum of core riders, outreach and international.”
What “fatten the tails” actually describes is the two theoretical ends of a statistical function called a “Bell curve.” As in “Hey teacher, do you grade on a curve?” In a classroom, a Bell curve dictates that most people will get Cs and about as many people will fail as get As. Harley sees it aging and inevitably dead core customers as the big average mass in the middle and wants to increase the customers at both ends – or tails – of the curve. Harley describes the two ends of the curve as the motor company’s “outreach” and “international” customers. International means India and China. Outreach means “young adults,” “women,” “Hispanics,” and “African-Americans.”
Forbes likes Harley’s “outreach “ customer potential largely because: “The Hispanic population in the U.S. is expected to grow by 12% between 2015-2020 to form nearly 20% of the country’s net population, which is estimated to grow by only 4% during this period.” Te encuentras con la gente más agradable en una Harley!
But so far the new strategy isn’t actually working. The price of a share of Harley stock has fallen 14 percent since April.
“While Harley-Davidson’s motorcycle shipments in the U.S. rose 8.9% through June,” Forbes says, “retail sales in the country increased by only 1.1%. There is a difference between the retail sales and the unit shipments – retail sales represent the number of motorcycles sold by the dealers of Harley-Davidson, while unit shipments are the number of motorcycles shipped by Harley-Davidson to its dealers. Only a modest growth in retail sales reflects low demand for heavyweight motorcycles in the U.S.”