Consumer Reports National Research Center polled more than 4,000 motorcycle owners in their first-ever motorcycle reliability survey and found nearly one in three BMW owners reported a “major problem” in the previous four years. Only about one in 10 Yamaha owners experienced issues during that time, followed closely by Kawasaki and Honda. American manufacturer Harley-Davidson came close to BMWs ranking with about one in four owners experiencing a problem.
Consumer Reports’ Eric Evarts is quoted by ABC News as saying, “Part of it is bikes that were loaded with gear, with bags, with accessories, had more problems with those kinds of things.”
Despite the higher number of problems, BMW and Harley owners were among the most satisfied with their bikes. When asked whether, considering everything, they would buy their bike again if they had to do it over, 75 percent of Harley owners said definitely yes, closely followed by 74 percent of BMW owners and 72 percent of Honda owners. By contrast, only 63 and 60 percent of Yamaha and Kawasaki owners, respectively, were as emphatic in this subjective measure.
“Reliability is one of many factors consumers might consider when purchasing a motorcycle. However, other factors like sculpted lines and rumbling engines also strike the right note among motorcyclists,” said Rik Paul, Auto Editor, Consumer Reports.
Among the bikes that needed repairs, survey respondents reporting having the most trouble with accessories, such as lights, instruments, switches, and radios (21 percent), brakes (20 percent), the electrical system (16 percent), and the fuel system (15 percent). Fortunately, most repairs were fairly inexpensive. Three quarters cost less than $200 out-of-pocket.
Consumer Reports did point out one welcome trend in BMW’s favor; the growing availability of antilock brakes (ABS). BMW Motorrad pioneered this safety feature with the first ABS equipped motorcycle in 1988 and was the first manufacturer to make it standard on all its motorcycles last year. Bikes equipped with ABS are 37 percent less likely to be involved in a fatal crash, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. This critical feature is something Consumer Reports believes to be worthwhile and potentially lifesaving.
The full report is available to subscribers now online and in the May issue of Consumer Reports, which hits newsstands on March 28.