Demo rides top list in customer satisfaction

demo ride Zoe Naylor

An American study of customer satisfaction has found that dealers are offering more demo rides. The Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index shows that US dealerships mention either immediate or future demo rides 52% of the time, compared with only 36% of the time three years ago. However, there is much variation from brand to brand.

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Victory has unique demo ride offer

Dealers selling Ducati, Can-Am, Harley-Davidson and BMW mentioned demo rides to more than 60% of their customers, while dealers selling Moto Guzzi, KTM, Yamaha, Suzuki and Honda mentioned demo rides to less than 30% of their customers. Consequently, American riders have returned Ducati dealerships to the top of the industry rankings for customer satisfaction. Maybe they should call them desmo rides! The last time the iconic Italian brand led the Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index was 2009.

Ducati dealers beat last year’s leader, Harley-Davidson, and Bombardier’s Can-Am which ranked third on its debut inclusion in the American motorcycle industry benchmarking survey. The index uses “mystery shopping” measurements to rate the treatment of motorcycle shoppers and showed industry-wide performance improved substantially from 2013 to 2014, with 12 of 17 motorcycle brands achieving higher scores.

While the study is based on the US customer experience, most manufacturers enforce global standards and procedures for their dealers, giving a fairly similar customer experience around the world.

In Australia it is heartening to see that many brands are offering more demo rides to customers. Most brands had demo bikes at the recent Brisbane Moto Expo, Harley also offered up its entire fleet – including their expensive Touring range – at the recent HOG Rally in Cairns, many are expected to have demo bikes at the coming Ulysses AGM in Alice Springs and BMW is again offering its GS fleet for very practical demo rides that even include off-road riding! Find out more on the BMW demos here.

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Harley even offers non-licensed people a demo ride

Harley also offers static demo rides for people who don’t yet have licences, so they can get the feel of riding a Harley.

But perhaps the most innovative demo ride program in Australia is from Victory who offer selected customers a weekend test ride, along with a free tank of fuel and an accommodation voucher. It sure beats the old ride-around-the-block demo!

The motorcycle industry grapples with this basic sales technique. Some dealers just see the cost of bike depreciation, fuel and salespeople’s time, rather than looking at long-term customer goodwill.

Riders see buying a bike as a lottery unless they can actually throw a leg over and feel the bike, evaluate the ergonomics for their body size, hear the noises, test the power and handling, and even feel the heat from the engine.

What have been your experiences with dealers offering demo rides? Please leave your comments below.


  1. I was interested in purchasing a new Kawasaki GTR 1400, and expressed interest in the stocked new limited edition ZX1400 with Akropovic full system in Pearl white, treated very offhandedly by the Sunshine Coast Qld dealer, ie treated in a manner that suggested I was not worth the effort and that the salesperson would rather be elsewhere. Lost sale with a bike purchased elsewhere. Basic courtesy and at least pretend to be interested, plus dealer not prepared to provide demo ride is just so far off the mark of acceptable dealer sales staff. Same dealer service and parts staff are superb professionals, go figure.

  2. I went to a few dealers before I settled on the bike I recently purchased (an R1200 RT). It’s amazing the varying degree of service you get. For example, one bike I was interested in was the Triumph Sprint. One dealer I went to said I couldn’t ride the bike he had as it wasn’t a demo model. What I could do, was ride the Tiger Sport as it had the same engine! I never went back. Another dealer told me that if I wanted to know how much panniers would be, I’d have to go to the service department. While another dealer said I should look at adventure tourers, despite me telling them I wasn’t that interested in that style of bike.
    So it was back to the only dealer who offered the best overall service. The salesperson answered all my questions and helped me through the decision making process and then threw me the keys to the bikes I wanted to try…..for as long as I wanted. Needless to say I ended up buying the bike from them.

  3. 5 years ago I drove into Victory Melbourne, they locked my Monaro up and handed me the keys for the weekend to Vegas, until then I had been riding sports bikes. I brought it back on the Monday and ordered the bike there and then, what better way to know just how good a bike is than to spend some serious time on it. I am now on my second Victory, a Cross Roads.

    1. Good on you, Rick. What a coincidence; I’m picking up the Cross Roads Classic today for a lap of the darling Downs for a travel article in Road Rider. There will also be a video on my channel. I have ridden the Cross Roads before and I think it’s the most comfortable bike Il;ve ever ridden. Just suits my 6′ height and bony backside perfectly. Can’t wait.

    2. My experience also Rick
      Took a free weekend ride with wife on a Victory Cross Country Tour – only because I’d seen one at Sturgis a month before and it was offered. I had no intention of buying a new bike but after handing it back on the Monday, got caught in a downpour on my 650 cruiser and hated the lack of protection. The next week, I traded for >$20k and am foregoing the big EU holiday we had planned this year. Victory’s mantra try one you’ll buy one proved true for me.

      In another example, last week I had been trying to get a demo of a CFmoto tourer to see if the riding position/feel would suit my wife as am upgrade from a scooter. No demos were available anywhere. I found a 6mth old second hand (private) one on bikesales, was able to test ride it as was my wife. Deal done. Would have bought the new one if a demo had been available. The dealer had been very helpful (had a ride of a different model) but he could not source the one I was after in the timeframe to get the sale. Timing is important for impulse sales and many of us just won’t buy unless we have a short try.

  4. I think it’s mind boggling how any salesman can take you around the block and then expect you to buy a bike. I like springwood Suzuki just for fact that they just toss you the keys, and say “see you in an hour”. Brisbane Victory were great too, even when I get a service, drop the bike off and choose a demo bike to get around on till they finish.

  5. Don’t worry Julia it’s nothing to do with being a learner , I’ve been riding 25+ years . The dealership I bought my last four ( expensive) bikes at recently changed hands . I went there recently expecting to be at least treated well , but was basically given the I’m the salesman and you’re privileged to be talking to me routine … I laughed and walked out , previous sales guy that was there is only 30 mins up the hway dealing the same brand … Hard to believe these guys have jobs …..

  6. When I was going to buy my bike I was still on my L’s so never expected to be offered demo rides. I did expect civility and help. I went into a local Central Coast dealer and was all but ignored. I asked a question, got an offhanded answer and the guy walked away.
    I set up a spredsheet, did some research and put facts from websites into excel. I read reviews and factored this in and started deleting bikes from the list. It came down to 2. After reading a very good review in Cruiser & Trike the list became one. Yamaha XVS650.
    I just happened to be in the Blacktown area and went into the dealer there. The sales guy was great. Even though I said I was just looking at the moment he gave me his time and answered my questions. When I called and asked him about a 2nd hand one I saw on their website he said they had sold it and they go out the door quickly. He then explained that with the high resale of this bike, transfer and insurance It wasn’t much more to buy a new one if he did a deal for me. I ordered one.
    When I took it to the local dealer for its 1st service the dealer principle wandered out looked at the plate surround and asked why I bought it there and did they even get a look in. When I said that the attitude of him and his sales guy turned me off he just walked away.
    Whenever I have been to the local Herley dealer and looked at bikes regularly one of the guys says take it for a ride.

    1. Julia, you are so right about the attitude of the sales staff. The company can be all talk about customer service, but if the guy at the coal face couldn’t care less it’s a real turn-off. dealers need to train all their staff to ensure that everyone who walks into a dealership is treated with the same amount of respect, whether they are looking at a learner bike or a behemoth tourer.

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