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Moped sales rise by 36%, but motorcycles stagnate

The market in 2000 has endured mixed success. Mopeds and scooters are year-to-October up 36% to 41,638 registrations, while motorcycle sales have become more static, rising slightly by 3% to 110,700 units.

Overall, the market - up 10% at 152,338 - is just 344 sales down on last year's 12-month result.

Peugeot Speedfight has lengthened its year-to-date lead at the top of a moped sales chart dominated by Piaggio. It took 4,067 registrations, well ahead of the Piaggio Zip (2,626), Piaggio NRG (2,515), Gilera Runner (1,677) and Piaggio ET2 (1,665).

The Peugeot Speedfight also tops the scooter table with the 100 model taking 3,449 units. The Gilera Runner 125 takes 2,900 and the Aprilia SR 125 2,003.

Rob Hobson, editor of the Cap Green Book of motorcycle values, believes many specialists in the bike trade would "be happy to forget" this year.

He blamed suppliers for "heavily misjudging the market" and "over-estimating the market share" they could gain from competitors.

"Just how long it is going to take to sort out the oversupply of new bikes is difficult to say," Mr Hobson said.

Importers had introduced sales packages to incentivise dealers to take up stock. This had partly succeeded, though some dealers were unwilling to order new 2001 models until they had sold existing stock.

"Indications are that the big importers hope to keep current list prices static while removing incentives," said Mr Hobson. "They also intend to cut back heavily on the number of bikes available. New models will, no doubt, carry a heavier price tag initially in an effort to offset some losses."

The scooter market, though, remains buoyant, sustained by growing demand from commuters.

Tom Waterer, Motor Cycle Industry Association (MCI) director of technical and legislative affairs, believes the sector will continue to swell.

"Commuters have shown a preference to scooters as a logical means of transport, particularly in the South-east due to growing congestion," he said.

"If anything, the railways experience will encourage more people to look at alternative forms of transport like scooters.

"Mopeds have also proved fashionable among younger people, typically 16-17-year-olds."

MCI expects scooter/moped sales to continue developing, fuelled by a high profile among pop groups and TV personalities. "They have aided and abetted sales with younger buyers."

Mr Waterer said now was a good time to make a motorcycle purchase because prices were low and dealers were offering attractive finance deals.

"The motorcycle industry took its price bits two years ago under string competition from parallel imports. Prices are at their lowest levels at present - I can see the market stabilising at this lower level."

Motor dealers that were contemplating a move into motorcycle retailing should consider scooter/moped sales rather than the more expensive top end motorcycles.

"Motorcycle enthusiasts will go to a specialist dealer. But the scooter/moped market is well worth looking at, although the traditional motorcycle retailers will have the cream of the crop," said Mr Waterer. "That opens the way for others suppliers to look to non-conventional outlets like car dealers."

However, he warned that dealers would need to understand the complexities of the licencing system. "A lack of specialist staff was behind the supermarket failures in the scooter sector. Licencing is a complex system and people rely on dealers for the right information."

Last year Tesco began selling 50cc scooters, priced around £1,200, under a scheme dubbed Project Hawk. The short-lived project was dropped after Tesco said it had reached its predetermined sales target. But, despite claiming the venture was successful, the supermarket group has not returned to the market.

Mr Waterer urged dealers to look at the structure of the market and realise that price was not necessarily the key issue.

"A low price does not necessarily mean high sales - the motorcycle market is quality sensitive more than price sensitive," he said.

There are additional profit opportunities for dealers to sell bike-related accessories, parts and aftersales services. Buyers should also be encouraged to purchase security products due to a surge in scooter theft. Many suppliers do not include security equipment with their products, though some, like Peugeot, have fitted immobilisers to a few models. Mr Waterer expects other suppliers to follow suit to keep insurance premiums low.

Cap Motor Research reports that some motorcycle specialists are turning to the used market to offset losses on new bike sales. Mr Hobson believes they should focus on older two-five-year-old models rather than late-plate models, whose values are of "greatest concern".

He also reports that several specialists have recently converted to scooter retailing. "They have accepted that they can, in most cases, make more profit from a small bike sale than some of the high value superbikes," he said. The UK is now the fourth biggest motorcycle market in the EU, and is continuing to expand as more suppliers enter the marketplace, propped up by growing interest from car dealers. Competition is intense, but, as several franchised dealers have already discovered, the rewards are there for determined businesses.

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