Motorcycle Sales Rising Once More

Harley-Davidson Inc. reported its sales of new motorcycles climbed by 5.1 percent worldwide during the third quarter of 2011 from a year earlier, with a 5.4 percent increase in the United States leading the way.

The Governors Highway Safety Association warned last April that 2010 motorcycle deaths in the United States, despite declining by at least 2 percent from deaths in 2009, were beginning to rise again in the latter months of 2010 even as motorcycle helmet use "dropped alarmingly from 67 percent to 54 percent." GHSA also expressed concern that the 2 percent improvement was far below the 16 percent drop in motorcycle deaths in 2009.

Harley-Davidson Inc.'s third quarter 2011 earnings release on Oct. 18 may be another reason for concern: The Milwaukee-based company said its sales of new motorcycles climbed by 5.1 percent worldwide during the third quarter from a year earlier, with a 5.4 percent increase in the United States leading the way. Through nine months of 2011, worldwide sales are 4.9 percent above sales at the same point in 2010 and 4.7 percent above in the United States, with 127,930 motorcycles sold domestically versus 66,899 sold internationally.

"We are pleased with our sustained progress, and we continue to realize strong momentum in the transformation our business," said Keith Wandell, president and CEO of Harley-Davidson, said in the company’s news release. "Two years ago, we embarked on our strategy to focus solely on the Harley-Davidson brand, provide the flexibility required in today's market, and make Harley-Davidson lean, agile, and more effective than ever at delivering remarkable products and extraordinary customer experiences. Today, we continue to see the positive results of the course we have charted. The changes underway in manufacturing, product development, and retail capability will increasingly enable Harley-Davidson to be customer-led like never before."

Motorcycle USA, LLC reported in July 2011 that 258,762 motorcycles were sold in the United States during the first half of this year, up 1.7 percent from a year earlier.

There has been little change in U.S. helmet laws this year, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which reports laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear a helmet are in place in 20 states and Washington, D.C.; laws requiring only some motorcyclists to wear a helmet are in place in 27 states; and three states have no motorcycle helmet use law (Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire).

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