Just over a year ago, WHO declared the COVID-19 a global pandemic. While public health is the chief concern, the health pandemic has become an economic crisis of epic proportions and continues to have an immense impact on nearly all economies and sectors including the motorcycle industry.
Governments in most nations ordered society to stay at home and businesses to halt their operations. The crisis significantly affected our lives: how we interact, how we work, access to food and goods, education, how we move and travel and many other essential aspects of life.
The health pandemic has a huge impact in the transport and mobility sector significantly restricting and limiting the movement of people and goods and changing mobility patterns. Since the pandemic, all movement of people involves the practicing social distancing, complying with wearing personal protective equipment and procedures and equipment to limit spread of the virus.
On the Pandemic and its consequences, IMMA President, Mr Rakesh Sharma said during the IMMA General Assembly 21 April 2021: “Motorcycles and scooters demonstrated their resilience as a safe, convenient and affordable mobility and delivery tool during this health pandemic. IMMA members, national and regional associations continue to be engaged in a constructive dialogue with their respective authorities and partners in in the regions in order to support businesses and mobilists to move and contribute to a swift recovery of the economy".
After more than one year, the pandemic continues to persist in all regions of the world and mutations of the virus cause attention and concern. Societies continue to be confronted with diverse ‘waves’ while the vaccination campaigns have already begun.
Impact to Motorcycle Manufacturing and Distribution
As the COVID-19 virus spread progressively across the globe early 2020, a sharp decline of global motorcycle production and delivery was observed due to a full or partly closing of manufacturing and distribution facilities.
Disruptions in logistics distribution in almost all countries continued also in the second half of the year with, in some cases, additional lockdowns.
As the motorcycle industry involves numerous small and medium enterprises that manufacture components, the production continued to be significantly affected, also after the peak (March-April 2020) lockdown period.
Manufacturers quickly installed in company hygiene and sanitation protocols to support enable reactivation and support the demand. Practice of these protocols continues in most production and distribution facilities and goes forward in 2021. During the shutdown periods, in some regions, employees were obliged to take partially paid leave and in some cases contract workers were laid off. Disruption in motorcycle distribution continued in the second half of 2020, while in some countries, some recovery could be observed.
In Low- and Medium-Income Countries, it proved particularly challenging to recover from the pandemic by year end in 2020 back to pre-COVID levels: Indonesia (-44%), The Philippines (-29%), India (-23%), Thailand and Argentina (-17%), Brazil (-16%).
In the countries where the Coronavirus was better contained, such as Republic of China (Taiwan), recovery of the market could be more important.
Some high-income countries, where PTW-owners mostly also have a personal car in the household at their disposal such as Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, could recover by the end of 2020.
Considering the overall global trend in production and distribution in 2020, markets continue to recover slowly while in most cases the demand for powered two wheelers remains well below pre-COVID levels.
In all regions, motorcycle manufacturers have been contributing to or undertaking local voluntary relief support actions with local government, humanitarian organizations and society. Examples of such initiatives are donations of personal protective equipment, ventilator components and other health equipment, distribution of water and food in community kitchens and other support actions.
As the countries continue to battle with COVID-19, medical workers and other essential personnel rely often on motorcycles to ferry them to and from their workplace.
To keep business going, all regions saw a significant increase in delivery services, especially of food. In most LMIC, we could associate an increased professional use of motorcycles for these services, recognising the intrinsic benefits of Powered Two Wheelers: flexible, economical, requiring little parking space.
Some Governments (e.g., the Philippines) publicly recognized these intrinsic advantages of motorcycle citing motorcycle taxi operations as the safer mode of transportation. Other countries declared motorcycle dealership employees as essential (e.g., USA).
Lastly, some regional and national governments offered relief to the motorcycle industry to the sell-out stock of vehicles not sold due the temporary halt in the markets, (EU) or offered some lead time to meet updates in vehicle lighting requirements (Japan).
Government support actions proved critical in the recovery of the industry during the first waves of the pandemic. Timely intervention and focused initiatives aimed at reducing pressure can help the industries resilience. Examples of good practices from the regions are
- relief support actions to sell out vehicle stock
- recognizing motorcycle servicing, distribution and food delivery as essential sector
- promote accessible, affordable and efficient motorcycle rider training
The pandemic is expected to have a profound and continued impact on the transportation sector in the decade 2021-2030.
Society and with it the transport and mobility sector is adapting on the fly to the developments while the same time aligning policies with the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda. This includes shifting mobility to active modes of transport such as walking and cycling under the ‘new normal in mobility’ together with a shift to public transport.
The pandemic demonstrated that many individual travelers and delivery service businesses owners favor using powered two wheelers. However, the benefits and sustainable role of powered two wheelers are still not recognized by the urban policy makers. Motorcycle mobility deserves positive attention, policy support and research. The most beneficial solutions require careful consideration of the local situation and context.