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09/09/2021

The traditionally thin August market delivered a second consecutive month of registrations decline, inevitably skewed by last summer’s tremendous demand resurgence after the initial Covid lockdown. Potentially negative vibes were bubbling under, though. BDN financial editor Roger Willis reports.

According to MCIA statistics, total monthly registrations fell by 5.3% to 8607. Within that, scooters were 3.8% up to 2184, motorcycles were 7.2% down at 5803, mopeds lost 15.4% on 553 and trikes retreated by 15.2% to 67. But, bearing in mind the headline tally of 8607 was satisfactorily 24.3% above Covid-free August 2019, knee-jerk fear factor was minimised.

To avoid confusion engendered by the pandemic’s erratic impact, concentrating on year-to-date numbers continues to be the most helpful route. In the eight months of 2021 so far, registrations have staged a 17.5% recovery to 79,149, compared to a 11.7% loss to 67,363 at the same YTD point in 2020. However, we’ve only achieved 3.7% growth from 76,305 in YTD 2019.

Capacity classes colour the picture with more detail and start to challenge over-confidence. Before casting aspersions, though, it has to be said the up-to-125cc sector (or perhaps we should rename it “up-to-11kW” in Newspeak) is an unalloyed success.

On a YTD 2021 basis, it has now grown by 20.5% to 34,614 machines, after adding 4.3% to 28,716 in YTD 2020. Most pertinently, the sector is currently 25.7% ahead of the YTD 2019 total of 27,532. YTD input from electric scooters and small motorcycles has accounted for 3320 machines, increasing by 247.3% — although evidence that these are actively boosting overall registrations rather than replacing petrol-powered alternatives is still anecdotal. Super Soco’s 4kW 50cc-equivalent CPX moped scooter ruled that roost in the past month.  

Last year, the industry and media mostly attributed this phenomenon to cheap self-isolating urban mobility appeal. Some of that may still be true. But status as a prime provider of delivery worktools for the gig economy can take much of the credit now. Yamaha’s NMax 125 remained sector steed of choice in August, leading absolute highest-registered, scooter and 51-125cc categories. It must also be able to claim YTD 2021 supremacy, given Yamaha has now shifted about 4000 of them.

Sadly, we’re stuck with a tale of woe in 126cc-plus engine bands. Sure, YTD 2021 registrations of bigger and more profitable bikes were 15.2% up to 44,535, following YTD 2020’s 20.8% loss to 38,647. But that latest figure was a painful 8.7% lower than the 48,773 plated in the first eight months of 2019.

Ongoing feedback from disgruntled dealers highlighted plenty of demand with no means to satisfy it. Drastic supply-chain disruption has been the main culprit, a worsening problem with no resolution in sight. Sufficient quantities of some sought-after 2021 models apparently won’t reach showrooms until 2022. Spotting the victims in August’s brand rankings wasn’t difficult.

Honda and Yamaha finished positive, respectively 2.7% and 9.3% up. But dealers for both have been complaining to all and sundry in the trade of too much dependence on small fry and gaping holes in their stock plans. Illustrating such obstacles, 28.1% of the latter’s entire monthly registrations constituted samples of the aforementioned NMax 125 scooter. Honda led the Naked style category with its CBF125M.

Value-for-money Chinese specialist Lexmoto plunged by 30.5%, despite its LXR125 claiming the Road Sport accolade. KTM was 28.4% down. Kawasaki took a monumental 39.6% dive. BMW Motorrad was 8.7% in arrears. Piaggio lost 29.9%.

The only clear winners were Triumph, rising by 25.4% and no doubt bolstered by the desirability of its budget 660 Trident, and Royal Enfield, earning highest-registered honourable mentions for Himalayan, Interceptor 650 and Meteor 350 models in appropriate categories.