Non-profit powersports trade association, the Motorcycle Industry Council, issued its annual sales report for 2012 this week. Contrary to prior MIC predictions of sales declines, the U.S. motorcycle industry as a whole grew 2.6% compared to the previous year. On its own, that may not seem significant, but it follows steep declines of 40.8% in 2009, an additional 15.8% drop in 2010 and an essentially flat 2011.
Even more surprising to some, scooters led the 2012 rally with the highest percentage gain of any category, 7.7%. While this seems downright robust compared to the 1.8% gains in “On-Hightway” motorcycles, scooters were hardest hit by the crash in 2009, so have more ground to recover.
It’s important to note that the MIC figures only include sales from their members: BMW, Can-Am, Ducati, Harley-Davidson, Honda, Kawasaki, KTM, the Piaggio Group (Piaggio, Vespa, Aprilia, Moto Guzzi), Victory, Suzuki, Triumph and Yamaha. This excludes many major scooter companies, so overall scooter sales may be rosier than the report indicates.
However, the numbers also show that scooters are the most volatile segment of the powered two-wheeler market. The boom and bust cycles continue, to a smaller degree than past years, but still linked to gas prices. In the first quarter of 2012, as gas approached a national average of $4/gal. and peaked for the year, scooter sales shot up to a 16.9% increase over the same period in 2011.
The bottom line: Any increase is good news for the scooter industry, but the light at the end of the tunnel is still distant and faint. Calling this a “comeback” would be premature; sales are still far below 2005-2007 pre-boom levels. Still, there are enough signs of improvement to fuel hopes that the upward trend continues through 2013 and beyond.
Photo of Vespa Motorsport courtesy Capt. Hops on Flickr