Life on bikes

Is the bike theft epidemic starting to affect new bike sales?

Figures released by the Motorcycle Industry Association show a 14% year-on-year decline in new bike sales.

It’s the fifth month in a row that new bike sales have declined. With around one-third of bikers never buying another bike following a theft, it’s possible that some of the decline in sales is down to the rise in motorcycle theft.

London alone has seen a 44% rise in theft (motorcycle-related crime, in which a motorbike or scooter is used in a crime has gone up nearly 1000% in the last recorded period).

Nationally the rise in theft has been closer to 9%, still a significant figure.

Are sales affected?

Overall new bike sales are down 14.1% compared to the same time last year. But certain categories of bike have seen a spike in thefts and a decline in sales.

While bikes between 651cc and 1000cc have seen a modest rise of 0.3% and 1000cc plus 1.3%, scooters between 51cc and 125cc have plummeted 32.2%.

In London especially, that same engine size is a common target for opportunist bike thieves who know they can more easily strip and sell on parts than on a sportsbike that may have an expensive tracker fitted or individual parts marked with identification technologies like microdots or SmartWater.

According to Tracker, who use VHF tracking technology to recover stolen bikes, four of the top five stolen then recovered bikes are in the 51-125cc category.

Maybe we were wrong

We have said elsewhere that bike theft can actually be good for the industry. For the motorcycle insurance industry, we still believe that the opportunity to increase everyone’s premiums far outweighs the payouts made on individual claims (and as we know, insurers do everything they can to reduce the impact on their bottom line in each claim).

We said then, “Even allowing for the fact that up to one-third of owners abandon biking after a theft, the remaining two-thirds take the insurance payout and get another bike. Is it too crude to suggest this is good business for the manufacturer? They have just sold two bikes to the same person much sooner than the natural replacement cycle.”

Given the worrying decline in sales, that shows no sign of abating this year, perhaps we were wrong and theft is starting to affect whether a biker will buy new again.

Used bike sales figures are harder to come by, but given how often bikers lose out in insurance claims it would be no surprise if there had been an increase in sales of bikes up to three years old simply because owners have been financially forced away from a new bike purchase. After a theft, to be able to afford any type of insurance premium at all is a struggle.

In that same article, we urged the motorcycle brands to take bike security way more seriously. Maybe the decline in sales is the wake-up call they need.

Get yourself sorted:

If you were ever going to get a great deal on a new bike, now is maybe time to take advantage of the poor sales guy’s desperate need to hit his sales figures. Get down the showroom.

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The Author

Ian Malone

Ian Malone

Ian is the Editor and a co-founder of Biker & Bike.

He is obsessed about bikes to the point that he often starts conversations with new people by saying, "Please don't get me onto the subject of bikes. We'll be here all day."

Inevitably, the next question asked is nearly always, "What bike have you got, then?"

He owns four bikes right now:

'78 Kawasaki Z650
'97 Triumph Daytona 955i
'02 Suzuki SV650s
'09 Yamaha R1

At any one time, only two of these bikes are ever working, as you can read about on our blog.