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UK

11/05/2022

After a roller-coaster ride through the pandemic, MCIA registration statistics can finally present a credible year-on-year monthly comparison, free of Covid lockdown distortions. And, given April is traditionally a thin month anyway, after the new-plate boost in March and before peak-season demand kicks in, we shouldn’t be surprised by an absence of excitement.

Total registrations for the month rose modestly by 4.2% to 11,327. Within that, motorcycles were just 2.7% up at 7946, scooters put on 7.3% to 2681 and mopeds added 12.7% to 622. For what it’s worth, trikes fell by 13.3% to 78.

As for capacity classes, the up-to-125cc mobility sector was 4% higher at 4935, while 126cc-plus machines grew by 4.3% to 6392. The middleweight 126-650cc band, which also contains a mobility element, did best on a 10.1% rise to 2294. But 651-1000cc bikes suffered a slight 0.7% decline to 2266. Over-1000cc products rose by 4% to 1832.

Currently the most attractive qualification for these figures comes from outside our industry. According to British Retail Consortium (BRC) data compiled by accountancy and advisory services firm KPMG, consumer spending is now being constrained by the cost-of-living crisis. UK retail sales in April fell at an annualised rate of 0.3%, the first decline in 15 months and down from a 3.1% expansion in March.

However, BRC statistics aren’t adjusted for inflation, which is now running at its highest pace for 30 years. As BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson pointed out, the small drop in sales masked a much larger drop in volumes once inflation is taken into account and she said big-ticket items are being hit the hardest. So for how long will powered two-wheelers buck that trend?

Among motorcycle brands, some have been making hay while the sun still shines, some haven’t — and some have been judiciously inflation-proofing through price increases.

Honda topped the pile definitively, 26% up with a 2099-strong tally. It should be noted, though, that approaching a fifth of the brand’s entire monthly registrations were budget-priced PCX125 scooters — a common denominator shared by many. In contrast, first loser Yamaha was a long way behind, 4% down to 1301.

Triumph fell too, by 2.3% to 804, redeemed by 124 samples of the keenly-priced Tiger 660 Sport claiming highest-registered adventure bike status. Kawasaki seems to have overcome past supply-chain issues and stacked on 27.1% to 709. That included 128 Ninja 1000SX models — 18.1% of its total. These also earned highest-registered accolade in the over-1000cc band.

King of the budget bonanza Royal Enfield was elevated into the top-five thanks to a stupendous 85.5% advance, reaching 640 registrations in the month. The Meteor 350 model took highest-registered 126-650cc band and leading custom style prizes. A top modern classic gong went to the Interceptor 650 twin as well.

Lexmoto, another bargain-basement favourite, followed in sixth. Besides a 10.8% increase to 565 bikes shifted, China’s primary flag-carrier spanked BMW Motorrad into seventh spot. To be honest, BMW’s ignominious relegation — 31.8% down to just 473 bikes — was probably a supply hiatus after stripping its stock cupboard bare to deliver more than 2000 new-plate steeds to customers in March. KTM was on the back foot as well, in arrears by 19.1% on 469.

Harley-Davidson, feeling relaxed after freedom from Trump-era punitive tariffs and armed with new models, laid on a decent show in ninth, volume rising by 17.3% to 346 premium-priced machines. And Suzuki slunk back into the rankings for another of its rare visits with 281 registrations. The latest GSX-S1000T was responsible for just over half of them.

During the four months of 2022 to date, total registrations have notionally improved by 32.4% to 39,510. Of course, this fanciful gain takes us back into lockdown distortion territory, because numbers were artificially suppressed in the first quarter of 2021. Expect the YTD tally to erode henceforth.