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Nostalgia rides up sale of 'retro' bikes

HARLEY-DAVIDSON ROADSTER: Interest in classic or retro motorcycles has been rising over the past few years.


    May 30, 2016

    Nostalgia rides up sale of 'retro' bikes

    LIFESTYLE motorcycles, which have classic or retro styling, are getting bigger, as nostalgia rules and certificate of entitlement (COE) premiums stay near to a record high.

    Interest in makes such as Vespa, Triumph, Indian, Norton, Royal Enfield and Harley-Davidson has been rising over the past few years, according to some distributors.

    For example, Triumph's modern classics range used to account for 20 per cent of the British brand's total sales two years ago but now averages 70 per cent, said Eugene Mah, the managing director of Mah Pte Ltd.

    Vespa, the iconic Italian scooter, used to account for half of Piaggio products a year ago. It now makes up 80 per cent of Piaggio sales, said Mr Mah, whose company is the distributor for Vespa and Triumph here.

    "With COE at an all-time high, the number of customers who used to own a lifestyle bike and a transport bike is reduced and most of the time, this group will opt for just one bike," said Mr Mah.

    "Chances are, they pick the lifestyle option."

    The Category D COE premium for motorcycles hit an all-time high of $6,889 in January. It is currently $6,303, or thrice what it was less than three years ago.

    Anthony Tan, owner of Ideal Motoring, said many old-style bike lovers go for cafe racers, or those with styling inspired by 60s and 70s models.

    These are usually characterised by a naked frame with a single seat, long slim tank and low handlebars.

    Mr Tan said the trend is no different from those who buy "retro" cars, like the Mini or Volkswagen Beetle.

    It is understood that dealer Komoco Motorcycles has seen a 10-15 per cent rise in sales since 2013, and one reason is the high COE premium, which nudges buyers towards premium models, such as Harley-Davidson.

    The American manufacturer's bikes start at about $23,000 for the Street 750 (on the road) and rises to $72,000 for the Street Glide CVO.

    A younger crowd appears to gravitate towards the brand. Mr Mackenzie said that 55 per cent of website visitors in Asia Pacific are under 35 years old.

    But Mr Tan sees more mature buyers of retro bikes - they are mostly above 40 with a budget of $20,000 to $25,000.

    Meanwhile, touring and sports models usually cost more than $30,000, including COE, with some going up to as high as $50,000.