Chester’s Harley-Davidson in Mesa is nearly doubling in size, and it couldn’t be happening at a more fortuitous time, store managers say.
The dealership near Eighth Avenue and Country Club Drive is seeing accelerating sales as record-high gas prices are persuading more people to opt for more economical transportation.
“If you walked in here two months ago, every single rack was full,” said the store’s general manager, Ray Valle, pointing to rows of giant shelves in his warehouse, which were sparsely stacked with new motorcycles.
“Sales are just insane right now,” he said.
Valle isn’t the only dealer who’s revved up over rising sales in the Valley.
Dealers say they’re selling more bikes than ever as people ditch their cars and trucks.
A near 34 percent spike in learner’s permits issued by the state during May from the same period last year illustrates the phenomenon, said Arizona Motor Vehicle Division spokeswoman Cydney DeModica . The department approved 1,700 permits last month — 427 more than in May 2007.
“People are motivated by many factors, but one of them is certainly the fact that you get a lot of miles (per gallon) in comparison to the family sedan,” she said.
The average price for a gallon of unleaded gas was $4.13 in the East Valley and $4.19 in Scottsdale this week, according to AAA Arizona.
Mike Mount, a spokesman for the Motorcycle Industry Association in Irvine, Calif., said he expects consumer discontent with high gas prices to push national sales up 24 percent in the first quarter of 2008 compared with the same period last year.
“Everybody is looking to save as much as they can,” he said.
Pat McEnnerney, owner of The Urban Commuter in Tempe, said he’s now selling two or three scooters a day. The store opened near Apache Boulevard and McClintock Drive in January.
“I’ll tell you ... in the last month, this baby’s taking off like a rocket,” he said.
McEnnerney said his customers run the demographic gamut, from school teachers and single moms to 50- and 60-year-old retirees.
Ron Arieli, owner of Gilbert-based T.E.A.M. Arizona, said enrollment in his motorcycle training school is up about 200 students in June from the same period last year.
“I believe part of it is the high cost of gas,” he said.