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FEEBLE FEBRUARY FADE-OUT

MCIA registrations data always labels February as weakest month of the year in normal circumstances. But normality is a distant prospect in what now feels like an interminable Covid lockdown. BDN financial editor Roger Willis reports.

Crunching basic numbers spectacularly weaker than usual, the total monthly volume of machines registered was 37.7% down to 2868. Motorcycles slumped by 46.3% to 1693 and scooters were 25.5% lower on 822.

Some brighter notes were evident, albeit in minor leagues. Mopeds fell by a mere 0.9% — just three machines fewer — to 320. Within that, some 251 scooter-configured products were 7.7% up. Other styles dropped by 23.3% to 69.

Small e-PTWS led both of these two moped categories. The former was headed by 40 examples of the evocatively monikered Yadea C-Like YD 1200 D-11, also more mercifully known as a Lexmoto E-Lex. Sur-Ron’s Light Bee dirtster took the latter accolade.

The E-Lex was also most-registered steed in the 0-50cc sector which, confusingly, includes a host of additional machines with power bands actually calculated in kilowatts rather than just petrolhead mopeds featuring cubic centimetres. And this sector as a whole grew by 15.3% to 414. The 1-4kW fully electric slot with more cross-over content shone, stacking on 284% to 192. Trikes blossomed too, rising by 17.9% to a compact tally of 33.

What other straws can we grasp? Total scooters including moped versions were 19.7% down at 1087, a better result than January’s 22.8% shortfall. And the key up-to-125cc self-isolating commuter tally only lost 23.3% on 1668. That’s as good as it gets. 126cc-plus machines halved in volume, 50.7% down to 1200.

But, to be frank, nothing has really changed since January. The same headwinds are in place. There are substantial inventory shortages across a broad spectrum of manufacturers, depriving customers of choice and encouraging purchase decision delays until this situation is resolved.

The training hiatus, particularly at CBT entry level, is a bigger obstacle given the length of this lockdown period versus last November. And an ongoing sell-through of underogated and therefore preregistered Euro 4 products is still adversely distorting the statistics anyway.

There may be a degree of click-and-collect fatigue setting in for both dealers and their customers, exaggerated by everything from stock acquisition difficulties to rubbish weather conditions. But it’s doubtful the trade is losing its core appetite for lucrative business.

Inventory starvation is probably the major issue, and could roll forward to impact the traditional new-plate boost, kicking off the season properly in March, especially because dealers will be handling it from behind the unrelenting inconvenience of shuttered showroom doors. At least we have a putative re-opening date in sight on 12 April.

February performance by leading brands pretty much illustrated which of them was suffering most, stock-wise. Honda was on top as ever. But its 59.1% decline worsened from 57.1% down in January. Yamaha went the other way, rising month-on-month from fourth to recover second place, improving sharply from 61.6% in arrears to a 37.7% loss. Its NMax 125 also overwhelmed regular Honda domination of the scooter chart.

Budget Chinese brand Lexmoto dropped from second to third, exchanging a 37% retreat in January for 44.5% down in February. Its best-selling LXR125SY also disappeared from view.

As for the European triumvirate, Triumph improved from January’s 60.8% reversal to sinking by 46.7%. Some 25 examples of the new value-for-money Trident 660 middleweight took 651-1000cc engine band honours. But they were probably dealer demonstrators. KTM’s postion worsened from 35.4% to 58.1% losses. And BMW slid from 41.9% lower in fifth spot to a 45.1% retreat in sixth.

Kawasaki held seventh ranking, slipping from a 33.2% reduction to 54% down. The top-ten tiers below were filled by small quantities of Royal Enfield, Keeway and SYM machines distributed by MotoGB, plus a handful of Piaggio products. Suzuki was entirely absent for a second month on the trot, as was Harley-Davidson.

For the year to date, overall registrations fell by 37.7% to 6702. Motorcycles lost 45.4% on 4116. Scooters were 24.4% lower at 1837 and mopeds dropped  by 6.9% to 671.     

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