A Suffering Motorcycle Industry Takes Another Hit With COVID-19
Deep in the global COVID pandemic, and amidst a nearly ten-year decline in overall sales, the motorcycle industry has continued to take a beating here in 2020. If automotive sales have declined, motorcycle sales have ridden off a cliff. Global sales have plummeted worldwide, in every category, in every country, for every manufacturer. In the first quarter of 2020 for instance, sales for Honda and Suzuki fell 43 percent, Royal Enfield dropped 44 percent, and the company Bajaj, a massive Indian manufacturer of Vespa-style scooters and motorcycles for the Asian market, saw sales plummet 55 percent compared to the same quarter in 2019. Bear in mind, however, that full lockdowns in many manufacturers’ countries didn’t kick in until late March, so these numbers could reflect the beginnings of even deeper dives in the second quarter.
Across Europe, all manufacturers shut down production, resulting in a total European sales slide of 35.8 percent by the end of March, after decent gains in January and February. The bottom fell out with the COVID-19 virus, with Italy being hardest hit, seeing sales numbers plummet by 66 percent. According to Dustin Wheelen of Ride Apart, Italy’s “scooter and moped purchases fell by 62 percent while motorcycle sales collapsed with a 69 percent reduction.” Triumph, BMW, KTM, Piaggio and MV Augusta struggled through 2019, but the coronavirus has absolutely crushed sales for these brands in the first quarter of 2020. As stated, deeper dives are predicted in the second quarter, even as countries begin to reopen their economies on a graduated scale.
Here stateside, Harley-Davidson has taken drastic measures to stay afloat during these desperate times in the motorsports industry. Already struggling with declining sales for the better part of a decade, the legendary Milwaukee brand has not yet released their 2020 first quarter sales figures, but the company is bracing for another tough year of losses, especially in light of the virus’ impact. Fitch, a credit rating agency, predicts H-D will reveal sales losses already around 25 percent for the first quarter, according to a Reuters report this past week.
The motor company announced their acting chief executive officer and board of directors will forgo their salaries and cash compensations for an undetermined period of time, salaries of executive leadership will be cut by 30%, and most salaried employees will see a 10-20 percent reduction in their paychecks. The company will also not distribute merit increases for the year, and for now, there is a company-wide freeze in hiring. “The effects of COVID-19 on the economies around the world have been swift and unprecedented,” stated Jochen Zeitz, acting president and CEO of Harley-Davidson, in a press release. “It is essential for us to respond quickly, adapt and position the company to manage near-term challenges while preparing to re-energize the business for the recovery and beyond.”
The new year witnessed good news in many segments of motorcycling over the same time periods in 2019, so we are all hoping a V-shaped rebound will occur as the virus passes, the infection/fatality curve flattens, and economies reopen. Let’s be sure to support the industry that makes our pastime/passion/way of life accessible to us.
*Photos by: Harley-Davidson and Royal Enfield