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UK Bike Sales Struggle

UK motorcycle sales struggled in the first half of 2023, declining overall by 2.6% to 62,277 – high inflation, squeezed incomes and the increasing cost of consumer credit were blamed. Although bikes in the 501-1000cc class saw sales soar by 17.3%, every other sector suffered a fall. The big 1000cc-plus machines were down by 1.2%, the 125-500s by 7.2% while sub-125s plummeted by 13.9%, though they were still the biggest capacity sector at 22,163. Scooters (those above 50cc) were down too, by 13.2%.

According to trade magazine British Dealer News, continued high inflation is at the core of all this gloom, with rapidly increasing interest rates showing little sign of dampening down the economy. The higher rates have in turn put a squeeze on incomes, especially for those with a mortgage to cover. Crucially for the new motorcycle market, higher interest rates also mean more expensive consumer credit, with rates of 8.9% to 12.9% being asked for HP and PCP deals.

Amongst the manufacturers, Honda (11,838 sales) and Yamaha (6707) held steady and kept their top two slots, while BMW and Triumph were almost level pegging at 5626 and 5550 respectively, both enjoying increases over last year. KTM (3324) was up over 27%, albeit from a low post-Covid base, while Royal Enfield and Lexmoto saw significant falls in sales.
June, thanks to good weather, did see a modest recovery, with sales up by 9% overall. But thanks to a wet July and the country’s continuing economic woes, the outlook for the rest of 2023 doesn’t look too cheerful.

Jim Freeman, Chair of the BMF, said, “The cost of finance has to be a big part of this, I’d be interested to see what proportion of new bike sales in that 501-1000cc bracket are financed and by how much. Smaller machines, which are more likely to be bought for utilitarian reasons, like scooters, have been particularly affected. Would that be because commuters are getting another year from their existing machines, rather than trading in, because of domestic pressure on finances? None of its particularly surprising.”

Written by Peter Henshaw

Top image courtesy of Triumph