Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach became the first to build a motorcycle in 1885. They called it a riding car, a “reitwagen,” and this first motorcycle could reach a top speed of 11 kph on its 0.5 horsepower engine. By the turn of the century, production bikes with two-cylinder engines could reach top speeds of 45 kilometers per hour.
Compare that to a modern Harley Davidson, which offers a four-valve engine and 100 horsepower, and you can see how far the motorcycle industry has come in such a short time.
Harley Davidson is the primary brand you’ll find in the motorcycle industry, especially in the United States. In 2015, the company achieved a 29% market share on all new motorcycle sales. Honda came in second with a 14% share, followed by Yamaha at 13%. One of the few companies see an increase in sales, Polaris, experienced 20+% growth for its Indian brand of motorcycle, though the company holds a 4.4% market share.
Eight motorcycle manufacturers currently control 81% of the U.S. industry.
Interesting Motorcycle Industry Statistics
#1. In 2014, total motorcycle registrations in the United States reached 8.4 million, which was nearly double the number that was registered in 2000. (USA Today)
#2. In 1998, just 8% of people who owned motorcycles were women. In 2014, women owned 14% of the motorcycles that were purchased. (USA Today)
#3. 1.9 million motorcycles are expected to be sold across North America in 2018. Harley Davidson is the global leader in the industry, with $5.6 billion in total revenues earned each year. (Statista)
#4. California has the most registrations for motorcycles in the United States, averaging 842,000 per year. Florida contributes another 580,000 registrations for the U.S. motorcycle industry each year. (Statista)
#5. The motorcycle manufacturing industry in the United States generates $4.4 billion in revenues each year. (Statista)
#6. There are 351,000 on-highway motorcycle sales which occur in the United States each year. (Statista)
#7. Over $1.8 billion in U.S. motorcycle exports are sent to the rest of the world annually. More than 1 million registrations for motorcycles occurs in Europe each year. (Statista)
#8. In 2007, consumers purchased 1 million motorcycles in the United States. In 2017, consumers bought about 472,000 motorcycles. (Statista)
#9. The national average for motorcycle sales in the United States is 3.2 bikes for every 100 people. Although California has the most registrations, its per capita ratio is just 2.9 bikes for every 100 people. Wyoming leads the country in per capita, at 7 motorcycles per 100 people. (The Motley Fool)
#10. Harley Davidson has a 60% share of the female market within the motorcycle industry thanks to the introduction of its Street 500 and Street 750 models. (The Motley Fool)
#11. The average age of a motorcycle rider in the United States is 47. In 1990, the average age of a rider was 32. Harley Davidson continues to keep a 55% market share within the 35+ male rider demographic. (The Motley Fool)
#12. Married riders make up 61% of the motorcycle industry, which is up from 57% of owners in 1990. (The Motley Fool)
#13. 1 out of every 4 motorcycle owners lives in a household which earns $50,000, but less than $75,000 per year. The median household income for a motorcycle owner in the United States is $62,200. (The Motley Fool)
#14. 72% of people who decide to purchase a motorcycle have either gone to college or graduated. That’s about the same percentage (71%) of owners who are employed, while 15% of the U.S. market describes themselves as being “retired.” (The Motley Fool)
#15. 74% of the motorcycles that were sold in the U.S. were on-highway bikes, with all motorcycles in the country representing 3% of total vehicle registrations. (The Motley Fool)
#16. As of 2015, the motorcycle industry employed over 81,000 people, contributing over $24 billion in economic value. (The Motley Fool)
#17. Between 2011-2016, sales of motorcycles with an engine smaller than 600cc rose by 11.8%. During the same 5-year period, the larger, more powerful bikes saw a gain of just 7.4%. (Bloomberg)
#18. During the first year it was on the market, Ducati sold 15,000 Scrambler motorcycles, which turned out to be 28% of its total business for the year. (Bloomberg)
#19. Harley Davidson is trying a different tactic. They’re promoting the fact that they have 9 bikes currently priced for less than $12,000. Their marketing chief notes that the cost of their motorcycles is about the same price as a coffee. (Bloomberg)
#20. In 2017, there were 913,000 motorcycles registered, representing a decline of 9.5% from the year before. Italy was the largest market in Europe, with 204,000 units sold. France had 162,000 units, while Germany contributed 140,000 units. (ACEM)
#21. The moped market in Europe fell just 574 units shy of 400,000 being sold in 2017, an increase of 26% from the year before. France was the largest market for mopeds, with 107,000 sold. The Netherlands had 86,800 units sold, while Germany contributed 33,000 units. (ACEM)
#22. About 4,100 electric motorcycles were sold in Europe in 2017, a 20% increase from the year before. There were also 27,000 electric mopeds sold on the continent. (ACEM)
#23. In 2013, the 7 top motorcycle manufacturers sold more than 33 million bikes around the world, with the U.S. market contributing less than 2% of the total sales volume. (The Motley Fool)
#24. Honda sold 15.4 million motorcycles in 2013 when scooters and mopeds are included with the figures. Over 13 million of those bike sales, however, were in Asia. Europe, North America, and Japan combined for just 646,000 units. (The Motley Fool)
#25. Even though Honda was the best-selling brand in 2013, motorcycle operations for the company were just 13% of its total sales. (The Motley Fool)
#26. 78% of motorcyclists said that they were fully insured, while more than half said that they don’t ride their bike for at least a portion of the year. 42% of owners say that they either drop or alter their coverage during the off-season. (Foremost Marketing Research)
#27. 72% of motorcycle owners in the United States say that they only own one bike. 46% of current owners say that they plan to purchase a new motorcycle within the next 24 months. (Foremost Marketing Research)
#28. 92% of motorcycle owners use at least one form of social media. 81% of owners would be classified as a heavy social media user in terms of information consumption. (Foremost Marketing Research)
#29. 63% of motorcycle owners say that they own at least one other recreational product in addition to their bike. (Foremost Marketing Research)
#30. 1 in 3 motorcycle owners have added at least $100 in customization to their primary bike. Sport bikes (35%) and Cruisers (29%) make up the majority of bike ownership in the U.S. right now. (Foremost Marketing Research)
#31. 28% of motorcycle owners in the U.S. own an ATV as well, making it the most popular additional item owned. That is followed by a classic car or truck (20%), a powerboat (19%), an antique car or truck (15%), and a golf cart (14%). (Foremost Marketing Research)
#32. For those who own a scooter in the United States, 40% of owners say that they own a Honda. Yamaha was the second-most popular brand (17%), followed by Suzuki (12%). (Foremost Marketing Research)
#33. 1 in 5 motorcycle owners say that they own two bikes. 4% report owning three motorcycles, while 2% say that they own four. (Foremost Marketing Research)
#34. 46% of current motorcycle owners said that they purchased their bike used, with 35% working with a private party instead of going to a dealership. (Foremost Marketing Research)
Motorcycle Industry Trends and Analysis
A quick search of motorcycle industry trends online will show you a general fear of the future. As Autoweek puts it: the motorcycle industry is losing customers; what must it do?
One way the industry could begin to bring customers back into the fold is to offer more entry-level motorcycles which are affordable to the average customer. BMW is attempting this option with a 313cc street bike that retails for less than $5,000. Suzuki has offered scooters in a similar price range, while Royal Enfield is introducing 500cc single cylinder bikes for less than $7,000.
You might hear that Millennials aren’t into bikes and that is why the core demographics for the motorcycle industry is aging out. That statement is inaccurate. Most Millennials grew up on dirt bikes. Purchasing a heavy bike for the highway doesn’t interest them. They want something light, fast, and works with their student loan payments.
Although the industry is still trying to recover from the economic downturn before 2010, with sales at half the rate they were in 2007, there is still hope on the horizon. Smaller, affordable bikes are coming for the next generation. The real question is this: with everyone recognizing that they need more people at an entry-level stage, which brand will come out on top?