Survey Says Harley-Davidson and BMW Motorcycles Less Reliable Than Japanese – But Owners Don’t Care

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A new survey conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center finds BMW and Harley-Davidson  owners are much more likely to report major problems with their motorcycles than owners of Honda, Kawasaki and Yamaha motorcycles.

The survey, which will appear on the April 2013 issue of Consumer Reports, says one in three BMW owners reported experiencing a major problem with their bikes in the last four years. Harley-Davidson owners were slightly better, with one in four reporting serious issues. By contrast, only one in 10 Yamaha owners reported serious issues with Honda and Kawasaki owners having similar numbers.

And yet despite the issues, BMW and Harley-Davidson owners are more likely to buy their motorcycles again, if given the chance to do it over. According to the report, 75% of Harley-Davidson owners say they would definitely buy still their motorcycles if given the chance to make the decision again. BMW owners were nearly as loyal with 74% saying they would repeat their purchases, all things considered.

Honda owners were not far behind, with 72% saying they would make the same decision. Yamaha and Kawasaki owners were less emphatic. Despite reporting better reliability, only 63% of Yamaha owners would buy their motorcycles again. Only 60% of Kawasaki owners would make the same choice.

What do these numbers tell us? That reliability is only one of the factors that goes into deciding on a motorcycle purchase.

“Reliability is one of many factors consumers might consider when purchasing a motorcycle,” saysRik Paul , Auto Editor, Consumer Reports. “However, other factors like sculpted lines and rumbling engines also strike the right note among motorcyclists.”

Another factor is the nature of the problems faced by motorcycle owners. The Consumer Reports survey found about three-quarters of the issues were inexpensive, costing owners less than $200 to repair. The most frequent issues involved non-mechanical problems, with 21% reporting issues with lights, instruments, switches and radios. More serious are problems with brakes which accounted for 20% of issues. Electrical systems accounted for 16% of issues while 15% were related to the fuel system.

The full report will appear in the upcoming issue of Consumer Reports which hits newsstands March 28.

[Source: Consumer Reports]

 

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  • Left Coast Tim

    Hmm…yet nothing about Italian bikes…specifically Ducatis. No news is good news, so I’m assuming “Ducks” lead in both reliability and customer loyalty. I know I’ve had just one complaint with my 749, and next time I buy, I’ll definitely “shop Italiano”!

  • Nigel Rodger

    Well……….. I do see an awful lot of H.D.s in the back of pickup trucks! Many (not all) that purchase H.D. are posers, and barely ride them. I mean
    , who wants a bike that is gutless , handles poorly,is over priced, and unreliable?
    At least the BMW bikes are good performers.

  • Luke Summer

    Add DUCATI to that list too !

    999 gave me many problems.

    Had looooong service visits, under warranty replacements.

  • bbtowns

    Interesting. My boss has a 1200GS that has multiple recalls and his final drive has failed while on the road stranding him, yet beliefs his bike to be dead balls reliable. You can’t buy that kind of loyalty. My Suzuki V-Strom went 155,000 miles, never even having to replacing the clutch, and while I did buy another Strom, it wasn’t that I didn’t consider other makes and models and have two Kawasakis,an Aprilia, Ducati as well and aren’t really brand loyal to any of them.

  • AWIS

    People gravitate to and like expensive things, maybe in this economy the ones with deeper pockets want to distinguish themselves from the regular joe? I have never seen so many high end cars and bikes like I’ve seen in the past 3 years.
    If you want your business to prosper, only cater to the richer clique.

  • 2Channon

    I’d like to see where Victory lands on this list. One major reason I bought my Vic is reliability.

  • Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    A failed R1150GS final drive also stranded me (about 1200mi from home) and that’s put me off cross-country riding for awhile, at least on a bike that’s out of warranty.

    However, that K1600 is reaaaalll purty.

  • Steve

    250000km on my first bmw without a problem, my current R1200RT is 7 years old 150000km not a problem either, my wife rides a R850R, it is 6 years old with 120000km and never had a problem either, I’ll keep buying BMW :)

  • Danny

    I think many issues also pertain to how the bike is treated. If you ride it like a race bike than no, it’s not going to be reliable. I own a Triumph with 73k miles and a HD with 11k miles. Both have treated me very well.

  • Reg. Lauzon.

    Nigel, you are an idiot. I have owned four HD’s in the last 12 years with only a broken shift lever on my 2002 Road King. I ride about 25,000 K’s a year and not in the back of a truck. I am a retired motorcycle dealer and mechanic. I sold Honda, Kawasaki and Nortons.

  • John

    I HAVE had TWO Harly’s was glad to be able to get rid of them. Had a great Virago for a few years, BUT the Marauder I have now a Marauder is the best bike I’ve had. and I have had AJS, Matchless Arial’s etc. most of the Japanese bike I always found reliable. Have had bikes since 1951 and must have been really lucky had a serious problem with any of them including riding abroad in 13 different counties.

  • Jeremy

    If you really read this article it contradicts itself. It says verbatim
    “What do these numbers tell us? That reliability is only one of the factors that goes into deciding on a motorcycle purchase.
    “Reliability is one of many factors consumers might consider when purchasing a motorcycle,” saysRik Paul , Auto Editor, Consumer Reports.”

    However, the article claims BMW and HD are less reliable. Yet, just above the statement claiming reliability is what sells bikes, BMW and Harley have the highest numbers. Not to mention, if you spent $30,000 on a product, I think you would be a lot more likely to complain about a $200 repair than if say, you spent $6,000 on a product. Just my two cents.

  • Shawn

    …and this is why you can’t beat a Honda. relatively low prices, good safety features (you can get ABS in the USA on ANY of their sport offerings), and everyone knows most Hondas die because they were forgotten in a garage. The ones that see everyday use just keep on kickin!

  • Doc

    An article on reliability that does NOT include Victory is incomplete.Been riding for more than 50 years and of all the different bikes I’ve had, Victory is more reliable, more powerful,better handling, for a lot less $ than anything close to comparable. If you haven’t ridden one, you don’t know.

  • Robert Francis

    Like most reports, this one leaves questions unanswered.
    Who were the responders? Were the results checked against dealer records? Anyway, I’ve owned many different brands and ridden tens of thousands of miles, never been left stranded.

    Rode a Chinese Lifan over 72000 miles and never stranded.
    Guess it’s got a lot to do with “normal” maintenance.

  • BMW K1300S

    Does anyone know if mileage is considered in this investigation? Here in Europe it is almost only the BMW riders which ride the whole year and so they ride much greater distances than any other bike owners.

  • Reg. Lauzon

    I have been involved with motorcycles for over 40 years as a mechanic, dealer and rider. HONDA is the most reliable motorcycle in the world but at my age, I love cruising on my Harley for different reasons.

  • w2e2b

    The article starts out talking about “Major Problems” and then at the end of the article it says the problems were “inexpensive and cost less that $200.00″. Some one needs to get their Apples and Oranges in order. You really didn’t have any other use for that $200.00 anyway. Did you?

  • Steve2Bikes

    Been riding for about 40 years. Had all types of bikes.I found Harleys to be a good solid bike spoiled by bad dealer backup. I have 2 bikes, A Yammie FJR for touring and a Triumph Thunderbird 1700 as my fun bike. I owned a Victory Hammer and found it to have an agricultural gearbox, poor performance, shocking handling and was glad to sell it except for the lousy resale value.I bought the Triumph after the Victory and found it to be probably the best cruiser I have owned bar none.

  • Luis Gomez

    What is most important to me is after sales service. That is why I prefer a Harley over any other brand

  • IronHorseman

    I’ve been riding for over 40 years, mostly riding Honda and Kawasaki. I ride in all kinds of weather as long as it’s above freezing. By the time my Goldwing had the miles my ’09 Harley Electra Glide has (50,000) there had been several serious problems. My Glide needed new front wheel bearings but other than that I’m very happy with the build quality, workmanship and reliability. The bike is great, but I have to admit, I feel more pride riding this beautiful machine. Things really are different on a Harley.

  • newsrider

    I got back to riding in 2006. I write newspapers for the U.S. Army and was sent to S. Korea for five years. I rode a 2005 HD Sportster 1200R everywhere I had to go to get a story for the paper. I traded it for a new 2006 HD Night Rod. I rode it everywhere too; never missed a day riding. Drag raced everything on the Korean Penninsula and WON. Never left stranded; put a lot of miles on it; and had a blast doing it. Now, back in the States, I have a new HD Switchback with a 103 cu.in. engine and a Stage 1 kit. Wata ride! Never had troubles of any kind.

  • GreenMtnHunter

    It used to be that Harley (and BMW?) riders were more likely to do their own wrenching, but to say they don’t care is is probably inaccurate…they are willing to live with the issues b/c that can fix them…. Not so true any more, and I echo the comments about luring the rich with ‘expensive” product.

  • Jeff

    I have 2007 Ninja 250 and an 08 Harley Fatboy. The ninja
    broke a clutch cable at 22,000 miles. I replaced it myself.
    and do all the maintenance on both bikes. The Harley has been excellent with no problems in 19,000 miles. The paint on the Fatboy is the best I’ve seen on any vehicle, 2 wheels or other wise. Both bikes are fun in their own ways.
    Japanese bikes have proven themselves since I was a kid in the 60′s. The newer Harleys are not like the AMF bikes of the 70′s. They are reliable, beautiful, and have plenty of useable street power. Consumer reports should stick to toasters and other appliances. I don’t think those guys have ever had any fun. Ride safe and have a blast!

  • KC

    I currently own an ’11 Triumph Bonneville, and have dealt with an intermittent starter glitch since new (but recently fixed because of a fellow owner’s discovery for modifying the ECM. Triumph won’t even discuss it).
    In ’05, my new Harley Super Glide was delivered with a pronounced high-frequency vibration between 62 and 70mph. After 5 dealer visits in 3 months, and no help from the factory rep, I sold it. A friend’s new ’05 Dyna had a fairly-large oil leak from the factory, which his dealer couldn’t/wouldn’t fix.
    None of my Honda and Suzuki bikes never came with, nor gave me, any problems. For me, it’s Japanese machines only, from now on.

  • Mike Schmidt

    I’m a mechanic have owned Harley’s Hondas & Suzukis Hondas most reliable with Harley right there and a hell of a lot more fun to ride. Harley’s are like owning an old bad ass street rod. The others are like what they are in the automotive world Hondas Suzukis & BMWs. There’s nothing else like riding a harley the others are either copies or have been copies. Harley’s are by far the most modified bikes that’s the largest factor in reliability.

  • Deacon

    I’ve owned two brands and four bikes. Three Yamahas and a BMW.

    While the BMW’s repair bill DID set me back a lot, I’m more inclined to spend the money cos overall it’s a solid bike. All three of my Yamahas got to the point of ‘spending more than the bike is worth’ at around the $1500 mark. I’ll probably sink more money into my K75RT than I did to buy it initially, and be HAPPY about it.

  • David Thomas

    I qualified as a motor mechanic in 1970 and have owned so many different brands of bikes in my life, I’ve owned Bridgestones, Jawas, Kawasakis, suzukis, Yamahas, Triumphs, BSA and Harleys plus others I can’t remember. The most reliable would have to be my 1997 FXD Harley, which I purchased new and still own. In saying that, the most fun to ride, is my Triumph Rocket 3

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