Johannesburg - Motorcycle sales have plummeted in the past two years and sales prospects for this year appear grim.
Lachlan Harris, national director of the Association of Motorcycle Importers and Distributors confirmed on Wednesday that total new motorcycle registrations fell by about 15 percent to 23 304 units in 2015 from 27 358 in 2014.
Harris said this followed an approximately 20 percent year-on-year decline in new motorcycle registrations in 2014.
He said the prospects for the market in 2016 were difficult to predict, but believed the market would be “lucky to hold even” at 2015 levels.
“The market is certainly battling,” he said, “despite motorcycles offering a solution to problems such as the rising cost of living and congestion.”
Harris attributed the declining sales to the fact that the market was heavily dependent on motorcycles sold for recreational purposes.
“To pay between R180 000 and R200 000 for a toy and with the rand doing what it is doing, it’s not doing the market any favours.
“South Africa has just not made the transition to the commuter market, which it was in the 1980s. It is a leisure market. The scooter market in particular is battling to get traction in this market.”
Harris said sales of scooters under 500cc dropped by 17 percent in 2015 and he suspected the decline in sales by entry-level scooter distributors which were not Amid members was even greater because Amid represented the better known scooter brands.
Motorcycle sales, he said, had also been negatively impacted by the implementation of homologation rules in 2013, resulting in some of the bikes produced by the four major Japanese importers – Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha and Suzuki – not complying with the new rules.
Harris said these manufacturers had a number of mid-segment bikes that were designed for the Asian market that they could no longer legally import into the South African market, usually due to emissions criteria.
Harris said the depreciation of the rand was a concern, particularly as no bikes were manufactured locally and they all had to be imported.
He said Honda, which had the most comprehensive range in the local market, had the highest market share at 17.5 percent of the registration market in 2015 followed by BMW at 12 percent.
Harris said scooter distributor Big Boy, which went into liquidation in 2014, leading to the brand being taken over by SA Motorcycles, had the third-highest market share, also at 12 percent, with just a few less registrations than BMW.
BMW Motorrad, the motorcycle division of the BMW Group that has entered the below-500cc motorcycle market as part of an aggressive strategy to increase worldwide sales by 50 percent to 200 000 units by 2020, reported achieving record sales in South Africa and also growing its market share.
In South Africa, BMW Motorrad achieved record sales, increasing sales to customers by 12 percent from 2850 in 2014 to 3250 in 2015.
Alexander Baraka, general manager of BMW Motorrad South Africa, said these sales secured it the position of market leader for motorcycles over 500cc with a total market share of 35 percent compared with 30 percent in 2014, despite an eight percent fall in this market.
BMW Motorrad achieved a new global record sales high in 2015 - for the fifth consecutive year - selling 136 963 motorcycles and maxi scooters, an almost 11 percent improvement on the 123 495 units sold in 2014.
Stephan Schaller, president of BMW Motorrad, said the 2015 sales figures showed that its motorcycle strategy was taking effect.