“I can conveniently get through traffic and when I get to my destination, significantly earlier than motorists driving cars, I go to my designated parking spot as most malls in Qatar have designated parking spots for motorcycles. When I am feeling down or bored, a cruise on my bike can get me the adrenaline rush I need to feel good and refreshed. Can you think of a reason why not?”
Amin Muhammad Amin says this when asked why he is riding a motorcycle. Because of the weather, perhaps (suggests the journalist)? He quips back: “Well, the season here is short, but in winter it is mostly dry, which means you can use the bike every day from September to April. Other countries might not be as hot as Doha in summer, but in winter they have frequent rain and snow.”
The significant spread of motorbikes in the country today leads one to believe that the market is growing and the popularity of the Qatar MotoGP, which concluded its 12th edition recently, is testament to this. Harley-Davidson Doha Dealer Principal, Robert Andrew Kelly says, in an interview with bq magazine, that they are doing very well in Qatar.
Speaking of the business growth, he says: “On average we have a year-on-year of 30 percent growth in sales. With the QR 200 billion investment for the World Cup and many new projects coming on line in the next few years, we are looking at a substantial growth in the market.” Kelly goes on to say that compared to other GCC countries, Harley Davidson Doha is ranked “number one.”
In Qatar’s case, fierce competition is equivalent to the market’s rising demand. But Big Bear Choppers’ (BBC) showroom manager, Assi Tahan, thinks otherwise: “The BBC is the one and only custom-made bike in the GCC with no competitors, however other brands will have some share of the market.”
Big Bear Choppers was launched in the GCC in March 2015. Kelly breaks the market down and says they have 85 percent of the market share in the 750cc and higher heavyweight market. “I would say we have a lot of riders who have migrated but return soon after to be a part of the Harley family and lifestyle,” adds Kelly.
Service and customer satisfaction
Amin drives a brand different than the two brands mentioned in this article and according to his own experience service and spare parts availability could be better. The service centre representing the Japanese brand is not doing a very good job satisfying customers he says. Amin adds that it is not easy to get an appointment, and when he does, he might get delayed further due to unavailability of spare parts.
He ordered a back seat, back rest, passenger foot pegs, sissy bar from the BikeBandit website and paid USD 500 including shipping. But when he asked for estimated time and cost of installation, he got no answer. Eventually, he installed them himself.
Asked about the availability of spare parts, Kelly says: “We carry a considerable amount of parts, accessories and merchandise, and have access to all the parts available from the European distribution centre based in Belgium. We have one service centre and are looking to increase this in the future as the population in Qatar increases.”
For the time it takes to repair accident damage, Kelly says it all depends on the damaged parts. He adds: “We adopt the Motor Company policy that pained parts should always be replaced and never repaired. It requires a specialist to repair a fuel tank and it is not recommended as we have to maintain the quality of paint and lacquer finishes to the company standard.”
Giving his own account, Tahan says: “We’re dealing with a couple of America’s famous brands that build and sell such spare parts for custom-made bikes. Major spare parts are available at competitive prices.”
He adds that they are planning to open in multiple locations in addition to the Big Bear Chopper trailer, which is ready to pick up any custom-bike from anywhere in Doha to their garage for a checkup. “For a regular oil change it take roughly half an hour, BBC has something called a job card that identify the maintenance required and how long it takes.”
Tahan says that it might take time to repair accident damage for custom-made bikes, but “as soon as the bike arrives to our shop we contact BBC in the States and start ordering the needed spare parts.”
Kelly believes that their move from Al Wakrah to Doha has helped establish the brand more and says that around 35 percent of their customers are Qatari. Harley Davidson offers in-house finance through NBKFS (Nasser Bin Khalid xxx).
Kelly says: “The main reason for purchasing a Harley-Davidson Motorcycle is for one’s leisure, and the majority of customers prefer to look at finance options as it’s normally a substantial investment. On average we have 35 percent in-house finance penetration, with bank loans taking around 30 percent.
BBC do offer in-house finance and describe their policy as “very flexible” with any method of payment. For BBC, 60 percent of their customers are locals.
Buying gear like helmets, gloves, jackets, and boots online can be a lot cheaper but it is not very convenient as you need to try them on first say riders. When you compare the local price to the international price you realise that the local price is 70 percent more expensive than the price listed by the manufacturer. If a helmet is sold online for USD 100, it is sold in Qatar for USD 170. Not all dealers have stock, and those who do, have limited options.
The hike in price also exists in motorcycle prices. There is around a 50 percent price hike in the local market than the price listed by the manufacturer. Some motorcycles go from USD 8,000 to USD 12,000.
When it comes to insurance, only one company, SEIP, offers comprehensive insurance at 3 percent of the total motorcycle price. The insurance covers stock parts, driver, and passenger, no accessories or aftermarket parts are covered. The majority of insurance companies don’t cover motorcycles, and those who do, offer third party insurance only as they consider motorcycles high risk. Clearly a market with untapped potential.