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Demo rides improve motorcycle sales

Hog rally demo rides beginner
Kaylie Sinapius tries out a harley Jump Start under Mitch Jackson's coaching

The availability of demo rides not only improves customer satisfaction of dealerships but also increases motorcycle sales, according to a US motorcycle industry study.

The ninth annual Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index (PSI) US Motorcycle Industry Benchmarking Study found that test rides are offered 63% of the time to mystery shoppers compared with 34% five years ago, while sales staff encouraged customers to sit on a bike 81% of the time versus 70% five years ago.

A good dealer experience also translates to improved sales, according to Pied Piper who found dealerships ranking in the top quarter sell 22% more motorcycles than dealerships in the bottom quarter.

The study marked the ninth consecutive year that Ducati and Harley-Davidson dealerships were ranked either first, second or third, with Ducati backing up for its second win in a row.

The study measures dealership treatment of 1779 hire anonymous mystery shoppers who visited US dealerships between July 2014 and April 2015.

While there is no equivalent study in Australia, the results are perhaps indicative of strict global manufacturer training standards of dealer staff and attitudes to offering demo rides.

The lack of demo rides is one of the biggest complaints about dealerships we receive at But many of these are for popular new models where demand outstrips supply and every bike that comes into the dealership is already sold.BMW Motorrad GS Off-Road Training

Perhaps the most aggressive brands that offer test rides in Australia are Harley-Davidson, BMW and Victory. Harley not only offers test rides to licensed riders, but also offers a static ride to unlicensed riders with their Jump Start program. BMW hosts annual GS demo ride days around the country while Victory throws in free fuel and accommodation on their weekend demo ride offers!

Most brands are also expected to offer demo rides at the 2015 Moto Expo in Sydney in November as they did last year in Melbourne and Brisbane. A significant omission was Honda and interestingly the company ranks 15th in the US study.

All of the five top-ranked brands in the US Pied Piper study – Ducati, Harley-Davidson, Victory, Triumph and BMW – improved their performances over 2014.

In total, 13 of the 17 brands improved their performance, resulting in the highest industry average PSI score of the nine years Pied Piper has been benchmarking the US motorcycle industry.

Brands with declining scores are Can-Am, Indian and Star which is the Yamaha cruiser brand.

Pied Piper president Fran O’Hagan says there is much about the motorcycle business that dealers can’t control. “In contrast, dealerships can control the sales process used by their sales team, and the results are clearly worth the effort.”

demo rides
Victory has unique demo ride offer

And offering a demo ride seems to be the best tool they have at their disposal. So dealerships should sit up and pay attention. It may cost more to have demo bikes available, but the results speak for themselves.

The motorcycle industry grapples with this basic sales technique. Some dealers just see the cost of bike depreciation, fuel and staff time to take riders on escorted demo rides, rather than looking at long-term customer goodwill.

Riders see buying a bike as a lottery unless they can actually throw a leg over and feel the bike, evaluate the ergonomics for their body size, hear the noises, test the power and handling, and even feel the heat from the engine.

Have you been denied a demo ride?

demo ride
Every man and woman and their dog wants a demo ride on a Ducati

US dealer satisfaction index

(2015 Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index US Motorcycle Industry Benchmarking Study)

Brand               Rank to 2014    PSI score

  1. Ducati              (+2)                 116
  2. Harley              (+1)                 112
  3. Victory              (+4)                110
  4. Triumph          (+4)                 109
  5. BMW                (+8)                 108
  6. INDUSTRY AV (+3)                 107
  7. Can-Am            (-1)                 106
  8. Suzuki              (+2)                 103
  9. MV Agsta         (+5)                 103
  10. Kawasaki         (+4)                 102
  11. Moto Guzzi      (+7)                 102
  12. Star*                (-1)                   101
  13. Indian              (-1)                   101
  14. Aprilia              (+10)                101
  15. Honda              (+4)                   97
  16. Yamaha            (+4)                   96
  17. Husqvarna       (-1)                    95
  18. KTM                  (+8)                    95

* Star is the name for the Yamaha cruiser range in the US

  1. I’ve got some personal current experience to share in this aspect.

    Firstly, I was unable to secure ANY testride at the resent Ulysses AGM for Saturday avo, the earliest I could get there, despite the fact that the event doesn’t finish until Sunday night. The reason I was given is that it cost too much (here is the false economy again) to stay over the weekend due to penalty rates etc. and they had packed up by Saturday morning and left.

    The other experience I can share is that I am still waiting for a test ride of the Indian Roadmaster. The bike was released at Sturgis (August) last year and I have had my name down with the dealer since Nov 2014. THAT’s 6 MONTH and counting.
    Coincidentally, after all this wait I have received a phone call yesterday confirming that my ride will come up in 3 weeks !

    Finally the best experience and idea in regards to test rides that I have seen around Brisbane is the annual “RIDE by the Lake” event hosted by Teammoto. What a great idea and a great day to see and test ride many models on the same day usually around Wivenhoe Dam. Why aren’t more dealer doing it that way ??

  2. I wasn’t able to test ride a Kawasaki ZX14R at any of the Vic dealers I contacted back in 2011 when I bought my first one. I did ride a mate’s before I bought one. I have to say that wondered if being in my 50’s was the issue, as some acquaintances said I was too old for such a bike. Anyway, having subsequently bought another one from the same dealer I was must have established some rapport with the manager as I only had to look at a Z1000 and had the keys thrust into my hands for an extended test ride. It was Kawasaki Australia’s test fleet rather than the dealer’s own bike. I think that a test ride buys a lot of brand loyalty, even if you don’t buy the specific model. However, last time I asked if there was a GTR1400 in the test fleet the answer was “No”. I certainly couldn’t spend my hard earned dollars on a new bike I’ve never ridden, but, I might buy a secondhand one if the seller trusts me enough to let me test ride it.

    1. Hi Jules,
      You’re never too old for any bike. I’m currently travelling with a guy who just turned 60 and he’s riding a ZX14R.

  3. I’ve worked in the industry and I can share with everyone that manufacturers are happy for dealers to have demo’s a plenty, but they are far too expensive to carry as dealers have to buy them and resell one day usually after a minimum holding time. Add to that first or second service costs, registration costs and generally people don’t take care of a bike that’s not there’s so repair costs too. So come time to sell it the public want to treat the purchase like a second-hand bike, which really it is, and pay nearly nothing, so the dealer makes nothing or takes a loss. Sometimes a big loss as the bike could be very old, as in previous year model or out of rego or just simply no-one wants it. So dealers are then reluctant to put demo’s on, not because they believe customer’s shouldn’t have the option, but because it’s not always good for business per unit. Yes you’ll sell more, yes customer’s will walk away if no demo available, but the attitude of the buyer is I want to pay less than any price advertised so dealers simply withdraw from the option all together and when there is no demo expense on the books then that’s one less bill to cover. Someone who wants a bike will eventually find a way to try say a used one pretending to be interested, or buy without test riding.

    The public must be aware that paying less and less for bikes, and manufacturers putting prices up and up, the profit is less so bike dealers aren’t doing as well as they might think. Service and parts maybe OK, but new bikes sales it’s a big no for models no-one is jumping a the bit to buy. Yet the public demand more choices and want to ride everything ever before they decide and research every article they can find…I’m going off track. Demo’s are expensive to have on, and the opportunity unless something gets better will get less and less. Yes demo’s help sell, but they cannot be justified against the lack of sales that are happening nowadays.

    I believe manufacturers need to support the dealers a lot more than they are, not just a discounted bike. More like offer the dealer demo’s without the dealer owning them, then take them back to sell at auction or a tender process, which happens now for press bikes and the like, as you Mark will know. The dealer risk is eliminated, the customer will have more options to try first, and there will be some great bargains for those willing to take the risk buying an ex factory demo motorcycle which in most instances is a good saving.

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