Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out of Wuhan and started reaching the rest of the world, financial experts have been speculating that this global crisis could very well trigger a recession. The motorcycle industry has already been taking a hit ever since the coronavirus reached Italy and the rest of Europe. Several major motorcycle companies have already taken a hit forcing their manufacturing facilities and showrooms to shut down in the interest of social distancing, health, and safety of their employees, and preventing the virus from further spreading. Generally, global motorcycle sales stumbled in 2019, but now that the COVID-19 pandemic has broken out, the industry could suffer a further decline for the different motorcycle markets.
Despite all of this, we still refuse to say that this is unprecedented. Harley-Davidson, one of the oldest motorcycle brands in the USA has lived through the great depression as well as the 2008 global financial crisis and has since adapted to continue to grow to the brand we all know today. The same thing can be said to the known Indian brand Royal Enfield who has been relentless about their innovations over the last few years.
India, in particular, is one of the world’s largest motorcycle markets, and domestic manufacturers have been seeing really steep downturns in March. The biggest brands in India all reported declining sales figures with MotoCorp down by -43%, Royal Enfield down by -44%, Bajaj down by -55%, and TVS Motor Company down by -62% for the month of March.
While Suzuki sold 42% less units in India for March, nonetheless they still reported a 5.7% increase in sales for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. Suzuki’s managing director, Koichiro Hirao was pleased to close the financial year on a positive note amid the precautionary measures taken in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At present, our first and foremost priority is to ensure the health and safety of the employees and all stakeholders. As the industry fights the COVID-19 pandemic by implementing shutdowns and taking precautionary measures, we believe that industry will overcome this difficult time and bounce back with positive growth in the coming months.
Europe, on the other hand, has a different story. Italy’s motorcycle market sales numbers have plummeted by 66%. Scooters and moped sales fell by 62% while motorcycle sales went down by a staggering 69% reduction on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the country still experienced growth for the first two months of 2020, right before the nationwide lockdowns happened. Because of this, overall sales for the first quarter of 2020 only dropped 24% compared to last year which is still impressive given the circumstances. Surprisingly, the BMW R1250 GS sold the most units around this region despite the meager returns. It just goes to show that it seems to be the most appropriate motorcycle for a nation paralyzed by a pandemic.
What will happen to the motorcycle industry after the COVID-19 pandemic is yet to be seen, and we can only remain hopeful that despite the shutdown of factories and showrooms, with sales and services halted, the industry would still live through this and bounce back once the storm passes. No-contact purchases should be able to curb some of its effects to help the industry survive.