To celebrate the month when Covid almost completely shut down motorcycle retailing a year ago, wildly distorted MCIA registration statistics for April make discerning real market performance a challenge. BDN financial editor Roger Willis reports.
To sum this up in one sentence, total registrations grew by 570% to 10,874 machines. Meaningless without context. However, taking a broad stroke back into the pre-pandemic era of “normal” April 2019’s tally of 9820 registrations paints a brighter picture. The latest headline figure is actually 10.7% up on that.
Essentially, this reflects that dealers are now all open for business as usual and healthy demand is there in abundance, albeit with sales inhibited by well-publicised inventory shortages for many brands. The best grasp can be found by looking at year-to-date numbers.
After a rocky start to the year afflicted by renewed lockdowns, overall registrations in the first four months of 2021 have reached 29,844, a 17.3% increase. The market is still heavily skewed towards small bikes and scooters, thanks to a mixture of ride-to-work appeal for avoiding public transport and significant delivery fleet growth. Up-to-125cc machines have put on 65.1% YTD to 12,490. And scooters, the vast majority of which are in this lower league, rose by 38.9% to 8431.
Bigger machines have now staged a recovery too, but they are still way behind the tiddler expansion curve. Covid-related production and logistics malfunctions from Asia and the Far East are largely responsible, combined with a global electronic semiconductor famine. The 126cc-plus range has added only 6.2% YTD to 17,354. Worst performer was the 651-1000cc engine band, rising by just 2.1% to 5921.
YTD registrations for leading manufacturers highlight those with ongoing inventory issues. Honda remained on the back foot, 9.3% down to 4443. And while Yamaha can boast a 25.1% increase, nearly half of all the 3523 products it has plated so far this year are NMax125 scooters, a goodly proportion of them fleet sales. The brand is also desperately incentivising old stock of dust-gatherer models like the Niken, to fill vacancies in dealer showroom floor plan availability. Some of those inventory holes will be filled once a certain notoriously vast container ship detained in Egyptian custody is allowed to complete its voyage.
BMW Motorrad, on the other hand, has exploited a mercifully short supply chain and desirable range to grab 26.9% growth to 2707. And now 15.1% ahead to 2327, Triumph seems to have overcome some of the logistic obstacles associated to shipping its wares all the way from Thailand.
After that, among higher-volume players, it’s all bad news. Chinese champion Lexmoto dropped by 6.3% to 1544. KTM was 6.9% down on 1501. Kawasaki took the hardest hit, plunging by 23.8% to 1405.
At least Royal Enfield, Ducati and Harley-Davidson reappeared on the top-ten chart’s lower rungs with modest three-figure quantities in April, although BDN is unable to calculate their YTD positions. Suzuki is yet to escape habitual absentee status, widely known to be bereft of useful stock volume.