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The final countdown

Having entered the final quarter of 2020, the vivid contrast in dealer sales performance between the second and third quarters of this year is behind us. BDN compares notes and ponders on what comes next.

Although business soon gathered speed on the back of unrequited demand in June, once showroom doors were allowed to fully reopen, we were still left with an unforgettably grim memory of Q2. Over the three months, registrations plunged by 37%, representing almost 12,000 fewer bikes sold.

But then as Q3 unfolded, the only remaining fear seemed to be a risk of running out of stock. By the end of September, magnificent quarterly demand had been sated by 26.3% growth overall – an additional 7852 machines registered versus the same period last year.

For up-to-125cc products oriented towards short-haul commuters, Q3 was exceptional, featuring a massive 40.7% increase to 17,221 small motorcycles, scooters and mopeds. In the nine months of 2020 to date, this sector has now shrugged off Covid-related tribulations completely and actually grown by 7.4%.

The 126cc-plus sector bounced back too, but to a lesser extent. Its total Q3 figures rose by 16.3% to 20,449. However, recovery was attenuating during September, down to only a 4.1% monthly improvement. And on a nine-monthly basis, this sector languished 17.2% in arrears on 47,053.
    
A forthright MCIA-initiated promotional campaign extolling solitary travel virtues and dedicated trade commitment get all the credit for advances we have made. Despite industry representatives assiduously door-stepping politicians, no help whatsoever has been forthcoming from the Cummings/Johnson government.

Department for Transport head honcho Grant Shapps is entirely fixated with bunging bicycle vendors, pushing potentially lethal e-scooters on to city streets and trying to bully the populace back into the disease-riddled confines of trains, trams and buses to stop their operators becoming an even greater burden on the public purse.

The fact that such mass transportation is still mainly carrying fresh air rather than passengers is an ongoing bonus for us, of course. Being the less-frightening alternative is a gloriously new experience. But other aspects of Covid’s second-wave resurgence certainly aren’t.

The government’s ill-conceived and disastrously mismanaged rolling lockdown programme, and arbitrary gathering limits, are a footfall hindrance for all public-facing businesses. And, as we go to press, they seem set to get more extreme. Never mind the possibility of Christmas being cancelled, obligatory shutters may be in place through November.

Finally, hard facts on Euro 4 derogation volume is difficult to find. Are we likely to see a repeat rush to preregister affected inventory residues, like the December 2016 Euro 3 fiasco, as the deadline approaches? Going forward into the New Year with a distress preregistrations sell-through to face definitely won’t help recovery momentum.

Top manufacturers
Q3 Top Six manufacturers
1. Honda    6585    +12.4%
2. Yamaha    3753    +26.2%
3. Lexmoto    3067    +52.4%
4. BMW        3048    +23.6%
5. Kawasaki    2486    +21.0%
6. Triumph    2271    +9.9%

Stand-out bragging rights undoubtedly went to Lexmoto and BMW Motorrad. The former’s budget-friendly commuting offer has become a major force in the burgeoning up-to-125cc market, right up Honda’s tailpipe. The latter was a massive profit generator for its dealers, considering those sales and the substantial increase mostly represent premium large-capacity motorcycles at the high-net-worth end of 126cc-plus action.

Yamaha’s progress wasn’t as healthy as it looked, coming from a particularly weak performance in the same quarter last year. As for Triumph, a comparatively small gain can be attributed to inventory famine, especially in the adventure sector. Furthermore, this Anglo-Siamese enterprise almost dropped out of the chart, only 20 bikes ahead of KTM – which flaunted a puissant 32.4% increase.

It has to be said that manufacturer-inspired discounting by one means or another remained a common denominator, both for generalised demand titivation in relation to slow movers and hopefully ensuring good riddance to un-derogated Euro 4 stock surplus.

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