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Motorcycle tire sales are down: A bad sign for power sports industry?

VehiclesMichelin GroupBridgestone Corp.
Tire sales are seen as harbingers of sales in other areas -- apparel, parts and more
Lower motorcycle tire sales may be the last vestige of weakness in a market hard hit by the 2008 recession

For the second year in a row, first quarter motorcycle tire sales are down.

Wholesale sales of replacement tires from the major tire manufacturers for 2014's Q1 fell 12.7% from the same period in 2013 -- when sales were down 15.8% from the first quarter in 2012, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council, which compiled the numbers.

That's bad news for Avon, Bridgestone, Continental, Dunlop, Pirelli, Michelin and other tire makers.

But it's also a harbinger of bad news for suppliers of other motorcycle parts, after-market parts and apparel retailers.

"Tire sales are a good gauge of the overall industry, because it shows how many people are riding their bikes," said Mike Manning, Dunlop marketing general manager. "For a few years we were still selling tires for bikes sold before the recession, but new bikes sale dropped so dramatically after the recession that we're going to be selling fewer tires every year over the next few years."

The lower tire sales are a hangover, agreed the MIC's Pat Murphy, of the huge drop in motorcycle sales that began in 2008. That year saw a huge drop-off in new motorcycle sales. Though new motorcycle sales have picked up since, the post-2008 fall in sales means there are simply fewer motorcycles on the road today.

"Tire sales follow the trends and will catch up with the trends," Murphy said. "This represents the tail end of what happened in our industry a few years ago."

The good news in the report: The average number of miles ridden, the MIC said, went up for 2012, the last year tabulated. The average annual miles ridden per motorcycle user for that year was 3,028 -- up 4.3% from the 2,903 average for 2009.

"There are slightly fewer bikes out there," Murphy said. "But the miles being put on them is increasing."

 

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