SCOOTER SALES CRASH

NT News - Motoring - - NEWS - By MARK HINCH­LIFFE

HE scooter mar­ket may have crashed last year, but it is not dead yet, ac­cord­ing to Honda.

‘‘I won­der what will hap­pen when the fuel price hits $2,’’ said gen­eral man­ager of Honda Aus­tralia Mo­tor­cy­cle and Power Equip­ment Tony Hin­ton.

‘‘I don’t think the scooter com­muter mar­ket is fin­ished yet.’’

His com­ments fol­low the release this week by the Fed­eral Cham­ber of Au­to­mo­tive In­dus­tries (FCAI) of of­fi­cial fig­ures show­ing scooter sales dropped 32.6 per cent last year, com­pared with the to­tal scooter, mo­tor­cy­cle and all­ter­rain-ve­hi­cle ( ATV) mar­ket which de­clined 13.6 per cent to 115,981.

Road bike sales fell 14.5 per cent and off-road sales were down 12.6 per cent.

But FCAI chief ex­ec­u­tive An­drew McKel­lar de­scribed the re­sult as ‘‘solid’’ given the eco­nomic cir­cum­stances.

T‘‘The mar­ket has come off a very high base over the pre­vi­ous year, so the in­dus­try has cer­tainly stood up well to the eco­nomic chal­lenges,’’ he said.

‘‘In fact, this is the fourth high­est an­nual sales re­sult on record and was achieved in tough eco­nomic cir­cum­stances.’’

One of the hard­est hit of the ma­jor im­porters was Honda with sales down 22.1 per cent.

Hin­ton said they had ra­tio­nalised their model line-up from 70 mod­els to 56 in 2009.

While Honda had the top-sell­ing mo­tor­cy­cle with the CT110 ‘‘postie bike’’, Hin­ton said they needed an en­try-level 250cc sports­bike to com­pete with the Kawasaki EX250J which was sec­ond and a util­ity bike to re­place their re­tired XR400 and take on the Suzuki DR-Z400E, the third best-sell­ing bike.

Hin­ton said the gov­ern­ment’s stim­u­lus pack­age had pro­vided some help for the ATV mar­ket in July and Novem­ber with ATVs up 1.9 per cent.

‘‘But the in­cen­tives have stopped and the ef­fect is fall­ing away plus in­ter­est rate rises will dampen bike de­mand,’’ he said.

‘‘The mar­ket will be pretty flat in 2010 and then we’ll start to see an in­crease from 2011 on­wards.’’

The best per­form­ing Ja­panese brand was Suzuki with sales down 7.2 per cent.

Suzuki Aus­tralia mo­tor­cy­cles gen­eral man­ager Perry Mori­son said they had the top-sell­ing model in the off road, en­duro, sport tour­ing and farm cat­e­gories.

‘‘We also had many mod­els per­form strongly in ev­ery cat­e­gory,’’ he said.

In 2010, Suzuki will in­tro­duce new mod­els such as the fully faired Ban­dit 1250.

Be­set by plung­ing prof­its, Har­ley-David­son was down 11.4 af­ter a tur­bu­lent year in which it an­nounced the ax­ing of its Buell line-up and plans to sell off Ital­ian man­u­fac­turer MV Agusta.

Brands with pos­i­tive re­sults in­cluded small im­porters such as Aprilia (20.9 per cent), Benelli (117.9), BRP (23.2) and Hus­aberg (172.2).

The Honda CT110

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