Sep 23, 2013

    Luxe bikes are the new status symbols

    THE population of motorcycles and scooters in Singapore may have been shrinking slightly in the past three years, but the industry continues to be vibrant - thanks in part to an emerging breed of customers.

    While people in the past bought motorcycles primarily to use as a cheaper mode of transport vis-a-vis cars, more bikers today are going for luxury models and ride as a hobby, motorcycle dealers told My Paper.

    There were 148,160 motorcycles and scooters in 2010, after a steady rise in previous years, according to figures from the Land Transport Authority.

    But in 2011, the number fell to 146,559, and further to 144,110 last year. As of last month, there were 143,821 motorcycles and scooters.

    Although the population is dipping, bike dealerships said that sales have remained consistent generally.

    However, many said that the customer demographic has been changing in the past three to four years with a new group of customers.

    These customers, mostly men in their 30s and older, are often professionals, such as bank executives and lawyers, who own cars, said Mr Wilson Phoon, president of the Singapore Motor Cycle Trade Association.

    He estimated that this group forms 10 per cent of the market. These high-end customers probably accounted for less than 1 per cent four years ago, he said.

    Mr Eugene Mah, general manager of dealership Mah, said motorcycles are now seen as more than a "cheap mode of transport", and are joining cars as "status symbols".

    The enthusiasts are drawn to a "motorcycling lifestyle" that includes road-trips to Malaysia and putting their machines on race tracks there.

    A marketing executive in a motorcycle dealership, who declined to be named, said that about three in 10 customers buy a motorcycle for "passion", and not just for day-to-day commuting.

    These customers usually go for models with sharper designs and bigger engine capacities, up to 400cc. The prices usually start from $20,000, he added.

    A lower-end motorcycle model can cost between $3,000 and $5,000.

    Popular luxury models cited by industry players include those from Italian brands Ducati, MV Agusta and Aprilla; Austrian brand KTM, as well as Britain's Triumph.

    Mr Phoon expects the motorcycle population to shrink further in the future.

    This is because 15 per cent of certificates of entitlement (COEs) from deregistered vehicles in four COE categories, including motorcycles, are being re-allocated into the open category, he said. These open-category COEs are used typically to purchase big cars.

    Mr Andy Ng, 36, who has been riding bikes for 14 years, said: "Bikers now take pride in choosing an expensive bike and taking good care of it."

    This is in contrast with the "stricken and battered" condition of the motorcycles of many bikers in the past, said Mr Ng, who is the webmaster of the online forum.