Will the Motorcycle Industry Survive?

motorcycle industry council
Motorcycle washed upon the shore because of the Tsunami of Japan.

Is the motorcycle industry in dire straits? Maybe, maybe not. Just depends on who you ask.


Robert Pandya, a former executive for Indian Motorcycles, created a group called “Give A Shift” to focus on the motorcycle industry’s future. The meeting took place in Long Beach, California with ideas shared freely in an open forum which included an anonymous survey. All subjects and issues were raised, and the results are telling.


  • Sales of Motorcycles has been declining for years as baby boomers ride off into the sunset.
  • Women, while the fastest growing segment of the motorcycle riding population, are largely being ignored.
    • As long as the industry remains male dominated and testosterone based, this problem will continue.
  • Millennials aren’t into heavy dressers and baggers.
    • True, they don’t even like chrome!
  • The effect of autonomous vehicles was also mentioned, however, maybe new motorcycles such as the self-balancing BMW and Honda Self-Assist motorcycles counteract these trends.
  • Advertising methods are outdated for today’s market.
    • My personal observation is that I don’t believe motorcycle dealers or manufacturers take advantage enough of social media, especially Instagram which is geared towards to or at least favored by millennials.

Next Steps-

Suggestions were as follows:

  • Promote motorcycle riding as an activity for which all could participate.
    • I agree. For now it seems every ad I have ever seen is one person dressed up in all black wearing leather, riding by himself. Advertisers make motorcycle riding look like an anti-social activity, still holding on to the past of promoting rebellion and an “us versus them” mentality.
  • Have riders become better ambassadors of their hobby and sport. “If just 20 percent of existing riders were able to bring a new rider into the mix every year, the shift would be dramatic not only in sales but in camaraderie.” “Motorcycling can no longer be our secret.”
    • I disagree with this only because that is not my job to do, that’s the motorcycle industry’s job.
  • Focus on different styles of motorcycles whether in size or price.
    • I definitely agree with this. Unfortunately, motorcycling is an expensive hobby. Just take your motorcycle in for an oil change to confirm that. And with new companies springing up competing for a position in the electric motorcycle market, this is something all motorcycle manufacturers need to focus on, especially since electric motorcycles are virtually maintenance free.
  • In today’s society, potential riders have other outlets for entertainment such as social media and streaming on demand movies and the like.
    • I have to agree with this. It’s just common sense why we have less free time these days.
  • Millennial consumers were “bubble-wrapped for safety in their youth” or raised by overprotective parents who discouraged risk-taking.
    • I agree with this statement as well, but instead of pointing the finger at a past generation and future generation, how about making motorcycle riding safer. There aren’t enough campaigns educating the public on the dangers of texting/driving which puts everyone in danger.
    • Advocate for lane splitting to not only increase the flow of traffic, but to make riding safer during rush hour traffic.
    • Offer advanced riding classes free of charge and ride at the level I ride at, not the typical rider that cannot even make a U-Turn without duck-walking back and forth for five minutes.
    • Focus on the positive environmental factors of riding a motorcycle versus an eight cylinder SUV. More than ever the environment is under assault and that is an issue of interest to the younger generation.


A lot of what I’ve read previously regarding the change in the motorcycle market is tied into millennials. It’s easy to point the finger at millennials, but every generation has been responsible for change. If you want the millennial market, it’s simple- cater to them.

Ever attend a motorcycle rally? Who were the musical acts? Bands from the eighties or cover bands singing songs from the eighties. You can’t expect millennials to attend these rallies if there is nothing there that interests them. I know enough millennials to know they don’t go to rallies. If you ask them, the answer is simple- “I don’t want to hang out with a bunch of old people.” I went to plenty of spring breaks during my time and I wasn’t outnumbered 50 to 1 by people in their forties, fifties, or sixties.

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