New Motorcycle Owners Experience Fewer Problems

J.D. Power survey reveals interesting findings regarding brands

Owners of new 2006 model-year motorcycles are reporting fewer problems with their bikes than they have in the past, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2006 Motorcycle Competitive Information Study released last week.

The study, now in its 9th year, measures ownership experience with new motorcycles and examines the five major components of the overall ownership experience: product; quality; cost of ownership; sales; and service.

BMW Motorcycles, a top performer in overall sales and service.

Owners report an average of 159 problems per 100 motorcycles in the 2006 study#8212;improving significantly from 199 in 2005. Engine-related problems account 41 percent of the total average problems reported, which is also an improvement since 2005.

“The motorcycle industry is improving in terms of quality,” said Tim Fox, research supervisor at J.D. Power and Associates. “But while the number of problems reported has declined, the expectations relating to quality have increased. Quality in the motorcycle industry, like in the automobile industry, is becoming the price of entry. There are other issues such as the sales and service experience, the ride and handling, and the styling and performance of the bike that are increasingly important in creating a competitive advantage.”

Harley-Davidson scored among the top manufacturers in overall sales and service satisfaction.

BMW, Harley-Davidson and Victory perform well relative to the dealership experience in terms of both sales and service. The brands with predominately single-line dealers greatly outperform those with multi-line dealers on sales and service satisfaction.

“It is much more difficult for multi-line dealers to have a consistent sales and service process for each brand they sell than it is for dealers who sell only one brand,” said Fox. “Therefore, it is in the best interest of the OEMs [original equipment manufactuers] to either increase the number of single-line dealers or find a way to emulate the processes at these single-line dealers that lead to higher levels of satisfaction. The bottom line is the consumer does not care about the issues a multi-line dealer faces #8211; the consumer simply expects the dealer to perform at a high level on sales and service regardless of the type or brand of dealership.”

Victory Motorcycles V.P. Mark Blackwell said this of his company#39;s stellar standings in the study: “The entire Victory team is proud to have these kinds of ratings. People who choose to ride our bikes love them. It#39;s something we#39;ve known for a long time, and we#39;re happy this information is finally public.”

From a product standpoint, Victory has performed well in meeting the needs of its customers in the cruiser and touring segments. Victory receives high ratings from their owners in the product factor, which includes styling, engine and transmission, controls, comfort and performance.

Among the 10 motorcycle brands included in the study, Honda and Suzuki perform particularly well in the quality factor.

“The quality performance of Honda is noteworthy, as its diverse product lines make it even more challenging to maintain high levels of quality across the board,” said Fox. “The good news is that from an industry perspective, the gap between manufacturers with respect to quality continues to narrow.”

Satisfaction with the overall cost of ownership has improved significantly since 2005, but it is still an area of great dissatisfaction. Given the importance of this factor to overall product satisfaction, brands that improve could gain a noticeable competitive advantage. Brands performing well on the cost of ownership factor include Buell, Kawasaki, Triumph and Victory.

The study also finds that having a positive sales experience is extremely important to the overall ownership experience. Consumers who are very satisfied with their sales experience are significantly more likely to both recommend and repurchase the same make.

The service experience for motorcycle owners is heavily influenced by the success rate of repair work performed. Owners who took their bike in for a repair rate their service experience much higher if the work was done right the first time, compared with owners whose problem was not remedied on the first attempt.

The 2006 Motorcycle Competitive Information Study includes responses from 6,916 owners who purchased new on-road motorcycles between September 2005 and May 2006. Owners were surveyed in September and October, 2006. This is the first time ever J.D. Power and Associates has publicly released brand-performance results from their annual Motorcycle Competitive Information Study. Over the past several years, the firm has conducted this research to help the industry#8217;s major motorcycle manufacturers improve. Now, portions of their recent 2006 study have been made public for all the world to see.

For more information on the performance of motorcycle brands, visit the J.D. Power Consumer Center at

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