Motorcycle market disconnect and government abuses

The Postcards from the hedge column in the March 2017 issue of Backroads lamented the death of Victory and slowing 2016 Harley-Davidson sales. Who’s surprised?

Frankly, the moto industry as a whole shows a total disconnect from today’s economic reality. For the last 20 years, salaries stagnated while inflation crept up, the majority of jobs are subject to the whims of corporate expectations of sustained growth – which no longer happens in the vast majority of sectors. The big bike brands keep offering overpriced and expensive models that are out of reach of most low to middle income earners (yeah, us!).

In Quebec, 2016 was a bad year. Many long running dealers closed shop. It’s getter harder and harder to find service centers and there is little growth from the remaining dealers (although some pick up brands from the ones that went belly up).

The Société de l’Assurance Automobile du Québec (SAAQ) is also doing its best to tighten the screws on motorcyclists (both existing and those that would join the ranks). Plates on small cylinders have gotten more expensive this year and if you’re looking at a sport bike? Forget it. You’ll have to sell an organ to afford the plate.

In other countries, the motorcycle is considered a legitimate means of transportation, on par with cars or bicycles. Here? It’s still considered – wrongly – as a recreational activity for the well-off.

The next generation and an increase in the number of motorcyclists? There’s a high cost to the compulsory motorcycle safety course, the plates are expensive and as far as urban offerings of decent bikes at the lower range (below $5000), my feeling is more hard years ahead for the big brands.

January 2020 update. There was a brutal increase in plate costs at the SAAQ for sportbikes over the last two years. Adding insult to the injury, many bikes that were formally under the sport touring category were reclassified as “hight risk” and some of my friends saw their plate costs almost triple last year. The following link shows the ridiculous rate increases for the 2019-2020 cycle:

Funny how cyclists don’t pay anything to ride the roads. How about plate costs for them as well? And why not have a universal plate pricing model (including cyclists) that bills by weight?

But that’s another story.