Motorcycle industry hopes to regain sales traction post-lockdown

22 April 2020 - 15:30 By Gugu Masuku
Some motorcycle distributors are optimistic about recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic is contained.
Some motorcycle distributors are optimistic about recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic is contained.
Image: Supplied

With many motorcycle dealerships struggling to do business during the Covid-19 lockdown, some distributors are optimistic about recovery once the pandemic is finally contained.

Triumph is one brand attempting to stimulate leads during the period of inactivity, offering special deals to entice customers, promising to deliver purchases once the nationwide intervention ends.

“Situations like this force one to take a long, hard look at almost every element of your business in order to find ways to maximise revenue while reducing cost,” said CEO Bruce Allen.

While launch plans had been derailed, the company remains upbeat at the prospect of following through on new introductions.

“We have the new Tiger 900 coming soon. This middleweight adventure bike was originally planned for a May launch, and now it looks like the end of June or beginning of July,” said Allen, adding that he was adamant the brand would emerge wiser and leaner on the other side.

While Honda had been reluctant to comment on the current situation, company spokesperson Letitia Herold said there would be new products to look forward to in the second half of 2020.

Stuart Baker, motorcycle sales manager at Suzuki Southern Africa, said the brand had observed a steady increase in its figures from 2019. “At the time of lockdown, we were 20% up on sales over last year,” he said.

Baker confirmed that no sales were recorded since the measures took effect on March 27. 

“We are looking into what assistance we can offer to our 45 dealers and help them get up and running as soon as possible, but we still are deciding on the best business practices after the lockdown.”

Alexander Parker, business communications manager at BMW SA, including its motorcycle division, said: “Our first concern is for the health and welfare of our associates, as well as the continued success of our operations after the crisis.

“We continue in active engagement with our labour partners and other relevant stakeholders as the situation unfolds.”

Data from the Association of Motorcycle Importers and Distributors (Amid) showed that motorcycle sales in SA went up by 4.7% in 2019, with a total figure of 20,963 units reported, compared to 20,016 in 2018.

A 10% decrease was seen in the leisure market - attributed to a reduction in disposable income even before the effects of the pandemic had taken hold across the market.

However, Amid's national director Arnold Olivier said sales of motorcycles for commercial applications saw an increase of 17.5%.

“A noticeable trend is an ever-increasing shift to the lower-priced, Chinese-produced units,“ he said.

Under lockdown, certain dealerships have been granted permits to service motorcycles for essential services, although Olivier added that “this is likely to be a drop in the ocean in terms of profitability”.