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Bikes a-plenty at JIMS 2011

2011-09-02 09:41

BIG NOT BETTER: Smaller bikes are proving popular as more South Africans considering commuting on two-wheels instead of four.

The full weight of the Association of Motorcycle Importers and Distributors, representing the mainstream motorcycle industry in South Africa, has been thrown behind Africa’s biggest motoring extravaganza.

Visitors to the Johannesburg International Motor Show from October 6-16 will see some of the finest two-wheeled machinery on the planet, all in one place.

AMID’s acting national director Arnold Olivier is pleased bikes will be at South Africa's biggest retail auto show - again.

"We’ve supported first Auto Africa and then its successor, the Johannesburg Motor Show, for many years  because we see the occasion as a great opportunity to reach people who aren’t usually involved in motorcycling."

Represented at the show will be Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, BMW, Triumph, Aprilia, KTM, Husaberg, Harley-Davidson, Big Boy, Zongshen, PGO, Sym and Aeon. 


As JIMS draws nearer, bike industry analysts are taking stock of the motorised two-wheeler market.

It’s very difficult to get an exact handle on the size of the current motorcycle market in SA because many smaller importers and distributors, don't belong to Amid or provide sales data to the organisation.

The industry enjoyed a boom way back in 1981 when Amid members' sales topped 80 000 for the year, largely because an American dollar cost only R0.81 at the time. The worst year was 1994 when the dollar cost R3.55 and Amid reported sales of only 7402 – about a third of the total expected in 2011. 

For many years Amid accepted only official importers of recognised mainstream brands as members, which increased uncertainty about sales data as the number of smaller unaffiliated importers climbed. That recently changed when Amid amended its constitution to include smaller importers.

"The new system developed over the last 10 years is very similar to the European standard but we’ve tried to focus on safety-critical standards rather than everything and anything," Olivier said. "This places quite a burden on importers and increases costs a little but will raise the barrier for entry into the South African market and ensure that products sold here are safe."


Another important piece of legislation about to be introduced is a compulsory microdot system with which every new vehicle sold in South Africa will be tagged with thousands of microdots bearing the vehicle’s identifying code. "The authorities are not willing to budge on this - it’ll be in place maybe by the end of 2011 - and will add R100 to R200 to the cost of every vehicle," says Olivier.                

Big Boy, which sells mainly small commuter motorcycles and scooters, recently joined Amid. With monthly sales of about 700 units – that’s more than Honda, Suzuki or Kawasaki in terms of volume - its sales figures are sure to have an enormous effect on the association’s statistics.

Motorcycling grew steadily in the first few years of the 21st century until the financial crunch hit in 2008, when some sectors were affected more than others. "The small-capacity motorcycle and scooter markets are healthy but as you go upwards in engine capacity sales go backwards," Olivier said.

"Honda and Kawasaki have 250cc road bikes that are doing rather well because they make good commuters that can keep ahead of the traffic on freeways, and are relatively affordable. The traditional 500cc and larger class has declined badly. That’s probably because many in the 25 to 35-year-old age group who typically bought 600cc supersport machines haven’t yet really established themselves in their careers, and have been hit hard by the economy."

DONE AND DUSTED: Bikes are still doing OK, but the best days of the quad market seem to be over…


Olivier's analysis doesn't bode well for big, single-purpose performance bikes.

"The big-bike market – 800cc and above – has slumped as far as superbikes and tourers are concerned," Olivier said. "The dual-purpose adventure bike sector is the only one that’s growing healthily. I think our motorcycling population is probably aging. As riders get older they realise that those bikes offer not only a lot of pleasure, but also much more comfort than the pure sport machines."

And what about the quads that easily outsold two-wheelers in the early years of this century? Sales have dropped through the floor, partly due to the financial situation, but also because many local authorities have clamped down on people riding wherever they want.

The convenience of leaving home on a couple of quads for a blast on any nearby piece of open land has evaporated.

Latest from 2011 JIMS.

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