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UK

12/06/2019

The increase in sales of motorcycles across the UK has come as a bit of a surprise given the overwhelming economic uncertainty in recent months, says Neil Richardson of Close Brothers Motor Finance.

MCIA figures reveal that last month, total motorcycle sales stayed flat, leaving year-to-date sales up 6.4%. Contrastingly, car manufacturing is at an all-time low, and stagnant registration persists with a fall of 3.1% in May year-to-date despite the new registration plates in March and a relatively low base in 2017.

“We’re seeing increasing interest from consumers in smaller bikes, adventure, and classic bikes as well as in higher-end quality bikes,” said Richardson. “The bulk of this interest lies in models that are around three to four years old. Contrastingly, sales of sportsbikes have been slightly weaker.”

Richardson says the generally good weather this year has helped. “The Beast from the East, which caused an impressive dent in sales last year, mercifully passed us by in 2019. And with February’s heatwave, it’s understandable that people’s minds turned to thoughts of an outdoorsy summer.

“Similarly, the increase of London’s clean air zones has had a positive impact on bike sales. The Ultra Low Emission Zone [ULEZ] came into force in central London in April, meaning that petrol cars which do not meet the Euro 4 standards (pre-2006) and diesels the Euro 6 standards (pre-2015) have to pay £12.50 for entering the area each day. While the standards also affect pre-2007 motorbikes, we have seen a rise particularly in scooters, which are now a cheaper and more efficient means of transport on London’s busy roads for commuters.”

Richardson said Brexit was also having an impact on sales of motorbikes. “The political turbulence has made consumer behaviour more difficult to predict, and there are cases of consumers delaying buying or switching to cheaper alternatives until there is more certainty about the economic climate. Our Britain under the Bonnet report revealed that Brexit has put off one-quarter of drivers from buying a new car. Perhaps they’d rather choose a bike instead.

“What we are hearing from dealers is a mixed bag: some are seeing flying sales, with no problems getting hold of particular stock. Others are experiencing the opposite, with demand for particular models being very low. Ultimately, though, the experience is down to the individual dealer. In uncertain times, opportunities continue to exist. The key for dealers is to maintain engagement with customer demand by doing their research and stocking the most relevant makes and models.”