Best-Selling Bikes At A Multi-Line Dealership (And Worst-Sellers, Too!)

A Retail Confidential look at what's hot and what's not.

In this business it's easy to see when a manufacturer has a hit on its hands. Certain models ooze performance and good looks while getting a lot of attention in both the press and on the sales floor. We just know we'll move every unit we get our hands on. But for every "hot" bike, there are two more that are not so hot. This is what I see as I walk the showroom floor—and bear in mind that we're a Harley, Kawasaki, and Suzuki dealer, so I can't comment on other brands.

THE HOT BIKES:

Harley-Davidson Street Glide
It has remained one of The Motor Company's strongest sellers. With the recent Rushmore enhancements, popularity of the FLHX remains high. A great platform for both touring and customization, it would be hard to dispute the staying power of this model. We often sell every one we get in. This, in turn, has kept its trade-in and resale values in the upper range. A close second is the Road Glide Special.

harley-davidson street glide
With the recent Rushmore enhancements, popularity of the FLHX remains high.©Motorcyclist
kawasaki versys 650
With improvements in both function and styling, the 2015 Versys 650 has evolved into a popular bike that has been in high demand.©Motorcyclist

2015 Kawasaki Versys 650
When the Versys 650 rolled out in 2008 it was a miracle to sell one. A fine motorcycle for sure (2008 Motorcycle of the Year by Motorcyclist), it was often misunderstood and an unattractive addition to the sales floor. Owners appreciated it for being a versatile motorcycle with good handling and enough performance to keep you interested. With improvements in both function and styling, the 2015 Versys 650 has evolved into a popular and beautiful bike that has been in high demand. Wait. Did I say beautiful?

Kawasaki KLR650
Affordable, reliable, and ready for just about anything, the KLR650 has proven itself to be just as dependable a mover on the showroom floor. For a motorcycle that has resisted, even thwarted, any type of technological advancements over the years, it has remained popular with the dual-sport crowd. It has all the ingredients we need to keep bikes moving out the door: affordable price, simplicity, curb appeal, and functionality. Oh, and a loyal following doesn't hurt either. What more could you ask for when it comes to selling motorcycles?

THE NOT-SO-HOT BIKES:

Suzuki Hayabusa
There was a time when this bike ruled the showroom floor. Always in high demand with nary a leftover. The Hayabusa has in recent years become somewhat of a museum piece. Suzuki was able to maintain its stronghold in this category even as Kawasaki released the ZX-14R in 2006, creating a battle for consumers' dollars. We had many spirited debates about performance and brand loyalty with customers when comparing the two, but Suzuki kept winning the sales war. Since then, sales have tapered on the 'Busa and the ZX-14R in spite of both being very fine machines for the money.

Street 500, Street 750 sales
Priced slightly under the more familiar 883 Sportster, the Harley-Davidson Street 500 and 750 have had a hard time moving out from the shadow of tradition.©Motorcyclist

Harley-Davidson Street 500/750
As much as The Motor Company relies on tradition, any variation from the status quo meets buyer resistance. The Street 500 and 750 are designed more for a new generation of Harley-Davidson customers who still want the brand but with a more modern liquid-cooled machine. Priced slightly under the more familiar 883 Sportster, the Street has had a hard time moving out from the shadow of tradition and getting into one of the coveted positions in Harley's lineup.

Suzuki SFV650
I actually like this motorcycle, but it goes largely overlooked in the long line of bikes on the floor. It's a fun bike to ride, and the price is right, but there isn't a line of customers looking to buy it. Yes, it's a popularity contest, and the SFV650 won't win it.

Of course these observations are purely from a sales standpoint. It is really difficult these days to find a truly bad motorcycle, but there are many factors in determining whether a bike will sell well or not. Popularity, price, insurance costs, and even your geographical location can determine what kind of motorcycles will be hot or not. And remember that these slow-selling bikes might just be a great deal for you near the end of the sales year. Two sides to every coin.

Jeff Maddox is the sales manager for a multi-line dealership in the Midwest. Questions for him? Email us at mcmail@bonniercorp.com with "Retail Confidential" in the subject line.

best-selling motorcycles
There was a time when the Hayabusa ruled the showroom floor.©Motorcyclist
harley-davidson street glide
With the recent Rushmore enhancements, popularity of the FLHX remains high.©Motorcyclist
kawasaki versys 650
With improvements in both function and styling, the 2015 Versys 650 has evolved into a popular bike that has been in high demand.©Motorcyclist
Street 500, Street 750 sales
Priced slightly under the more familiar 883 Sportster, the Harley-Davidson Street 500 and 750 have had a hard time moving out from the shadow of tradition.©Motorcyclist
Kawasaki KLR 650 sales
Affordable, reliable, and ready for just about anything, the KLR650 has proven itself to be just as dependable a mover on the showroom floor.©Motorcyclist