Motorcycles might be at all-time affordable prices, but parts continue to be expensive, not just for premium brands, but even for some budget models.
So why are parts so expensive in Australia?
We asked various industry sources and found the issue is quite complex and varied.
One of the biggest influences on parts prices is the fact that Australia is a small market with high transport and staff costs as well as a falling dollar value.
Larger markets can hold more stock, lock in at better exchange rates, and operate on slimmer margins per part.
There are several sources for parts in Australia – authorised dealers, retail outlets, and domestic and overseas online sites.
While the cheapest may be online, there can also be problems with counterfeit parts, such as this latest warning on fake spark plugs.
Authorised dealers can often have the most expensive parts, but are guaranteed to have authentic parts that won’t void your warranty or cause a mechanical issue.
However, we have heard of riders ordering a part direct from the factory and getting it delivered cheaper than they can get the genuine part in Australia. Sometimes quicker, as well!
Owners can also get the same parts or generic parts of the same quality at a cheaper price from domestic retail outlets.
Retired industry veteran Stuart Strickland, 70, OAM, says one of the biggest problems is that some distributors push their dealers to only stock their parts.
“The exchange rate plays a part in pricing, but some manufacturers persist with regional pricing, not global pricing, which is ridiculous as we are in the global community,” he says.
“Many dealers are not making much of a profit from the sale of motorcycles, so they make their profits off parts and servicing.”
Not every distributor has expensive parts.
But if they are stockpiled in a national and/or state hub warehouse so they are readily available, they can be quite expensive.
It costs a lot of money to store parts and for dealers to buy them and keep them on their shelves.
However, many distributors and dealers have now stopped storing parts.
Instead, they order them in as needed because air freight is quick and relatively cheap these days.
That hasn’t stopped some of them still charging top dollar, though!
Stuart says that in some cases dealers can access cheaper parts through a South-East Asian subsidiary of the parent company.
Not only are parts expensive, but they can sometimes take a long time to arrive, even from companies that claim their parts are stored in domestic warehouses.
Stuart says the problem is that not every part is kept in an Australian warehouse, only those parts that are in high demand.
“Crash repairs are a real problem as the parts needed are often not held in storage,” he says.
Another industry source says central ordering and international supply of parts works well because of cheap and efficient air freight.
“Many bigger brands like Caterpillar operate like this and it works well, but in an incomplete and amateur industry like motorcycles, it has some inherent issues,” our source says.
“The manufacturers don’t take it seriously enough and assume the customer will put up with delays as they already own one of their products.”
He says delays can also be caused by a lack of attention to detail in some countries, as well as national holidays, different accounting systems, etc.
For example, don’t order anything from an Italian company during August when the entire country shuts down for holidays!
Parts price solution
West Australian Honda Shop boss Eddie Peters says he is surprised more dealers don’t use the Partmart online parts-sharing community.
“Dealers can sell their part for whatever price they want,” Edddie says.
“Sometimes when you search for a part you find the same part in different counties for several different prices. You deal direct with the seller.”
It only costs a dealer $US3 a week to upload an unlimited number of parts and accessories on the website or $US2 a week for up to 5000 parts.
You don’t have to be a registered dealer to search and buy on Partmart.
Private buyers can also set up an account, upload 50 parts and use Partmart directly to buy and sell.
The Honda Shop has been using the website for a few years to buy parts from other dealers around the world and for their customers.
“We have also been able to sell heaps of our old, slow-moving and obsolete parts to other dealers,” Eddie says.
“I am surprised at how few dealers use the site as we all have heaps of hard-earned cash tied up in parts that no one knows we have.
“If we all had our parts listed on Partmart we would be able to help each other clear our stock and turn it into cash.”
Despite many dealers being tied up by contracts to buy their parts from the authorised distributor, Eddie says he doesn’t believe manufacturers would stop dealers using Partmart.
“I know Honda have told some dealers to check Partmart as they have told me that when they contacted us to buy a part,” he says.