- Buying a motorcycle has been more challenging ever since the onset of the pandemic, but motorcycle manufacturers aren’t complaining.
- Ducati, BMW Motorrad, Piaggio, and Honda are all reporting continually increasing sales into 2023, with some hitting record-breaking unit sales and revenue numbers.
- Domestic manufacturers like Harley-Davidson aren’t seeing the same sales enthusiasm, though analysis of total revenues shows the Milwaukee brand remains in shape for 2023.
With summer in full swing and no end in sight to the rays of sunshine, it’s the perfect time to hit the open road on two wheels. Or to filter through snarled traffic on your motorized stead of choice, depending on where you live. Either way, it’s no coincidence that we’re all seeing more motorcyclists on the road these days.
Following an increasing trend in motorcycle sales and ridership started by the COVID-19 pandemic, motorcycle manufacturers are continuing to see record sales numbers in 2023. This increase in sales and ridership goes far beyond the United States as well, with many European and Southeast Asian countries seeing strong increases in ridership.
Some brands have yet to report official sales results for the first half of 2023, but Ducati was eager to share the news with its customers and shareholders alike. Posting a 5% growth compared to this time last year, Ducati had its best first half of the year ever, selling 34,976 motorcycles globally. Italy is naturally one of the brand’s best customers with 6639 motorcycles delivered this year, though the US and Germany aren’t far behind either with 4505 and 4217 units delivered, respectively. That’s an 11% growth in sales year-over-year in the US.
Of the myriad bikes offered by Ducati, sales data shows the adventure-ready Multistrada V4 as the most popular worldwide, while the standard-style Monster and Scrambler 800 family remain desirable but lag thousands of units behind in sales. With a starting MSRP of $27,195 for the base model Ducati Multistrada V4 S, the company is succeeding in pushing some of its most expensive models, meaning the Prosecco is flowing freely for the executives in Bologna.
But it’s not just Ducati that is seeing robust motorcycle sales. BMW Motorrad has posted two consecutive quarters with record-breaking sales figures. The motorcycle division delivered 64,936 motorcycles between April and June of this year, accounting for 112,871 so far this year. Notably, BMW Motorrad celebrated its best year ever in 2022, with a whopping 202,895 motorcycles and scooters sold globally.
Following Ducati’s footsteps, national pride seems to drive motorcycle sales in Europe, as BMW reports Germany as its strongest market with 24,129 delivered in 2022. But the well-demonstrated notoriety of nameplates like the BMW R 1250 GS helps the brand reach further around the globe, with China, India, and Brazil accounting for significant portions of its 2022 sales.
Other European manufacturers like Piaggio Group, which represents the likes of Moto Guzzi, Vespa, and Aprilia, also recorded its strongest first quarter results to date, indicating this trend is not just company specific but relatively widespread. North American manufacturers like Indian Motorcycles, which is owned by Polaris, reported strong first-quarter numbers both domestically and globally, accounting for an overall year-over-year sales spike of around 37%.
But the same is not true for all domestic manufacturers, with Harley-Davidson posting a 12% global sales loss and a 17% domestic drop in the first quarter of 2023. The Milwaukee-based brand managed to post a sales increase in the Asian market of 3% year-over-year. Harley’s LiveWire branch reported a 35% drop in shipments, although the American brand didn’t report unit sales for its electrified side. Even so, Harley’s overall $1.3 billion revenue for Q1 2023 was just slightly above its $1.06 billion intake in 2022.
Japanese manufacturers are also seeing similar results, with Honda reporting a 10% rise in global motorcycle sales compared to the first quarter of 2022 and a 22% rise in North American motorcycle sales year-over-year.
Honda’s North American motorcycle sales represent about 2.5% of its total global two-wheeled deliveries so far this year, while Asian markets account for around 86%. Suzuki has yet to post motorcycle sales results for 2023, but the brand reported a 31.4% increase in net sales year-over-year at the end of 2022. Meanwhile, Yamaha is recording year-over-year motorcycle sales increases for just about every market.
Rising sales means more motorcycles on the road, which is almost always a positive trend for fellow riders. If you’re set to shop for a motorcycle soon, be wary that dealership lots may be more empty than usual, as brands like Yamaha and Suzuki warned of inventory issues for certain markets and persistent high raw-material prices in 2023. Even so, with new and improved gear, better rider education, and built-in safety features, there has never been a better time to get into motorcycling.
What can motorcycle manufacturers/divisions teach automakers about rebounding sales? Please share your thoughts below.
A New York transplant hailing from the Pacific Northwest, Emmet White has a passion for anything that goes: cars, bicycles, planes, and motorcycles. After learning to ride at 17, Emmet worked in the motorcycle industry before joining Autoweek in 2022. The woes of alternate side parking have kept his fleet moderate, with a 2014 Volkswagen Jetta GLI and a 2003 Honda Nighthawk 750 street parked in his South Brooklyn community.