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A strange thing happened after lockdown – sales of new and imported used motorcycles rocketed. Dealerships say the unexpected rush has left them very short on stock, with their summer orders not due until October or November.

The rush followed a big spike in online interest during the six weeks of lockdown which began in late March. This translated into a rush through the doors once businesses rolled up their shutters in May.

Wellington Motorcycles principal Garry Gill (pictured) says, “We’ve had the same levels of sales that we have in the summer.”

Overall, the country’s June motorbike new registrations were 40 percent higher than those of June 2019. North Island numbers were up 37 percent and South Island numbers were up by 48 percent. Increases were seen in all centres, except Dunedin, Nelson, Masterton and Whanganui, which were slightly down.

July’s figures were not quite as strong but still showed plenty of buyer interest. Nationally, new motorbike registrations were up by 20 percent on July 2019.

Garry Gill, whose business specialises in American motorbikes, says it’s important to remember that most people have not had their incomes significantly affected by the pandemic and were prevented from doing much buying during lockdown.

But with the sudden rush, he’s getting very low on stock. “We generally expect winter sales to be slow so there is not much new stock coming in, and our new models aren’t due until September or later.”

Mark Hodson of Wellington’s Scooterazzi has been selling not just scooters but also commuter bikes and large road bikes. He’s sold out of his electric mopeds and is now waiting on delivery of the 14 that customers have ordered.

“People are buying for different reasons. Some are using the money they would have spent on an overseas trip this year. We’ve also had a lot of people come in to buy smaller bikes so they can avoid having to take public transport.”

Sales high for winter

In Pukekohe, MR Motorcycles owner Craig Brown has seen a similar rush. “Parts and accessory sales went through the roof during lockdown. Since then, we’ve sold out of the 50-110cc dirt bikes – they’ve mostly been bought for kids. Sales of road bikes are also unusually high for winter.

“I think some people came out of lockdown with money in their pocket – they’ve had no fuel costs, no shops and they’re buying that bike they wanted. There are also people in their 20s and 30s who’ve come back from overseas and have taken up their old job and need a bike to get around.”

Craig says farm sales are also going very well. However, the business missed out on five weeks of income thanks to lockdown and while the past few months have been welcome, he’s still nervous about what the future may hold.

in the South Island, Christchurch’s Trevor Pierce Yamaha has also seen a spike in sales. Sales Manager Rachel Dennison-Pierce says the past few months have reminded her of the atmosphere post-earthquakes. “There’s this feeling of people re-evaluating their lives and what they want.”

She says they’ve sold a lot of smaller cc motorbikes, with two 50cc models now sold out across the country. The workshop was busy immediately after lockdown ended, but has quietened down since then. “With no one riding their bikes for six weeks, only those with overdue services were coming through.” Rachel says they’re taking a cautious approach to the future. “I think we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”

MTA Dealers Sector Manager Tony Everett says despite the post lockdown rush there have been fewer sales in the first half of this year, compared with 2019.

“The combined new and used import motorcycle market is down 6 percent for the first seven months of 2020. It’s hard to see dealers making up those numbers by the end of the year, but ‘fingers crossed’. Like the car market, the loss of several weeks trading has hit the bottom line and there may be further dips in trading when the wage subsidy ends in a few months.”

He says scooters and small/mid-sized motorcycles have become increasingly popular as an alternate to commuting by public transport in the past few years. “With the spread of Covid-19 more people are reportedly looking for ways to avoid using buses and trains. Also fuel and parking prices have gone up for cars which has helped make the cost of scooters and motorcycles more appealing. You can now buy a good commuter scooter for under $3,000.”

Tony noted that the graphs show the sustained growth in sales of mid-sized motorcycles (251-400cc).