Buying A Motorcycle? The Rough Roads Of Dealership Websites

Bikers wanting to lay down their hard-earned money for a new motorcycle would think dealerships would trip over themselves to help. A new survey finds it really depends on the motorcycle brand.

Firmly filing a new study under the heading, ‘It’s not you, it's them’, this peek behind the scenes of the motorcycle industry shows just how well dealerships respond to interested buyers. Between Clutch and Chrome's previous reporting on dealerships, 'Buying a motorcycle?' and the latest survey, riders may want to set their expectations accordingly when buying a new motorcycle.

Going online to use a technique of ‘mystery shopping’, the 2016 Pied Piper PSI Internet Lead Effectiveness Motorcycle Industry Study emailed individual websites of 1,757 motorcycle dealerships, asking about a particular model and tracked the responses.

Conducted between August 2015 and July 2016, the email inquiry went through the official ‘contact us’ page of the motorcycle dealership’s website and included a contact name, email address and local telephone number. Pied Piper, the group behind the survey, then evaluated how the dealerships responded over the next 24 hours using nineteen different measurements. The measurements ranged from how quickly the dealership responded, automated or otherwise to an opportunity to discuss the model included with the original email.

Overall, BMW and Honda dealerships ranked highest in the 2016 Pied Piper PSI Internet Lead Effectiveness Motorcycle Industry Study, with the survey noting the motorcycle industry average performance has improved compared to previous years.

For example, in 2008, Pied Piper found on average motorcycle dealerships only responded in any way within 24 hours only 30% of the time.  This increased to 72% of the time in 2013, and 89% of the time in 2016. The secret ingredient appears to better website design which includes ‘auto responses’.

However, citing a popular saying ‘the devil’s in the details’, despite acknowledging customer inquiries 89% of the time in 2016, motorcycle dealerships only offered up a real person to answer customer questions 41% of the time.

“Imagine ignoring 60% of the customers who walk into a dealership,” said Fran O’Hagan, President and CEO of Pied Piper Management Company LLC, adding perspective the results. 

Considering more than 8 out of 10 motorcycle shoppers research their purchase online before ever visiting a dealership in person, the study is particularly stunning. Whether from convenience, time-restraints or simply riders who are used to doing everything online, interaction through a website is likely to be a new customer’s first contact with a dealership.

Digging into the different measurements, no particular brand rode away with a perfect record of responding to potential buyers who start the journey using a dealership’s website. There were substantial differences in performance by brand.

First Contact - Dealerships who responded in any way within 24 hours, often an automated response;

  • Most likely: Harley-Davidson, Polaris, Suzuki, Husqvarna (90%+ of the time)
  • Least likely: Moto Guzzi, Zero, Aprilia, BMW (<80% of the time)

Provided a personal response within 24 hours;

  • Most likely: BMW, Zero (50%+)
  • Least likely: Moto Guzzi, Yamaha, KTM (<35%)

Moving onto the measurements that would impress any would-be buyer, dealerships which provided a personal response within 30 minutes were Harley-Davidson, Honda, Indian and Kawasaki. But this accolade wasn’t earned through huge numbers, with dealerships riding into this top category by quickly calling back fifteen percent of the time or more.

Least likely to call back within thirty minutes were KTM, Zero, Can-Am and Yamaha.

Ironically, dealerships most likely to answer a customer’s specific question within 24 hours were BMW and Zero proving it’s not necessarily when buyers get a call back, but what’s said during the conversation.

To further this thought, the study found dealerships least likely to answer a customer’s specific question within 24 hours were Harley-Davidson, Polaris, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Can-Am and Triumph, leaving the question of what exactly is being said or written in the personal response that comes within thirty minutes as discussed above.

Case in point, Harley-Davidson and Indian are the two branded dealership’s which attempted to contact the buyer by phone within 24 hours. Least likely, KTM, Yamaha, Husqvarna, Can-Am and Aprilia.

Its not just their motorcycles that are well-oiled, Honda tied for first in the new study

With a growing number of buyers becoming more comfortable conducting business online, it’s fair to wonder about the 2016 Pied Piper PSI Internet Lead Effectiveness Motorcycle Industry Study findings. According to the company behind the study, it could be as simple as paying attention.

“First of all, unlike customers who walk through the door, online customers are invisible to management unless management is vigilant and pays close attention to what is really happening,” O’Hagan explained. “Secondly, it’s not easy to be perfect every hour of every day to keep online customer inquiries from falling through the cracks.”

An upside to the varying results is the excuse for would-be buyers to visit dealership showrooms and check out all the shiny new motorcycle.

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Clutch and Chrome covers every aspect of the motorcycle lifestyle. Daily news, in-depth articles, reviews and anything that would interest a rider.


We not only produce our own motorcycle related videos but scour the internet to bring our readers the latest, greatest two-wheeled hits online.

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