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Business Management

The Cycle Census

Crunch these stats to optimize your shop’s performance


According to the Motorcycle Industry Council’s 2008 Motorcycle/ATV Owner Survey, there were more bikes in America’s garages in 2008 than ever before — 11.1 million. And of those 11.1 million bikes, 10.4 were in use in 2008, a 19% jump from the 8.8 million motorcycles on the road in 2003. That’s 1.6 million more units for dealers to service and sell P&A upgrades to than just five years before the survey was completed.

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With that increase in bikes on the road, the average age of motorcycles in use dipped as well. The mean age of all motorcycle types in 2008 was 10.8 years compared to 11.7 in 2003, and the mean age of ATVs fell slightly from 7.2 in 2003 to 7.1 in 2008.

As American’s affinity for powersports vehicles has grown, so has average vehicle engine size. 38% of all motorcycles are 1,100cc or larger compared to 33% in 2003, increasing the mean engine displacement from 784cc to 833cc over the five year period.

While ATV engine sizes have also increased, the rise has been more gradual. In 2008, 70% of ATVs had an engine size between 250cc and 549cc while in 1990 92% of ATVs had engines smaller than 350cc.


With all of these numbers in mind, it’s no surprise to learn that the cruiser segment is gaining popularity, as it now makes up 39% of the market, compared with 36% in 2003. Meanwhile, what the MIC labels "traditional" motorcycles have seen a continual decrease in sales since 1990’s 41% market share; today, they make up just 11% of the mix. Increasingly, riders are identifying with a specific niche, i.e., touring, sportbike, off-highway or scooter.

While in 2009 we’ve seen scooters take a deep hit compared with last year’s booming figures, according to the survey results, the percentage of scooters that make up the full motorcycle mix has risen to 9% in 2008, up from 4% in 2003.


This survey was conducted before 2009’s dismal new unit sales numbers came into play, however, it’s clear that the public’s love of motorcycling continues to grow, and winning new unit sales from your competition is more critical now than ever as fewer riders are opting to replace their older units.

According to the survey, test rides have become the most important factor in a rider’s decision to buy a specific motorcycle model. If you still aren’t offering test rides, it’s time to start. Overcome insurance issues and implement your test ride program pronto!

Visits to dealerships are the second most important purchasing factor, followed up by the influence of friends and family.

The Internet has also jumped as a influencing factor and research tool. In 2003 a slight 3% of motorcycle owners reported using their computers recreationally. In 2008, that numbers skyrocketed to 50%. When’s the last time you updated your website?


F&I also saw increases in 2008. Motorcycle financing for all or a portion of the unit price jumped five points to 33% in 2008, however 2009’s credit crunch has most likely caused this figure to contract since the survey completion.

Motorcycle insurance premiums are also on the rise with the average up to $419 in 2008 from $371. The good news is that the higher price of insurance hasn’t kept owners from insuring their vehicles. The percent of riders with some sort of insurance coverage has held steady at 81% since 2003.

I hope these figures proved enlightening. Want even more resources? While dealers can’t join the MIC, they can take advantage of a whole host of MIC resources. Visit to see how the MIC can help your business.

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