USA – Ebike Imports – April 2024

2023 saw declining ebike sales volume in many countries, including the United States. This was accompanied by a drop in inferred import volume. To no one’s surprise, this was likely caused by the pandemic induced distortions to the market. The excitement to ride bikes outdoors during 2020 and 2021 accelerated consumer demand that would have happened more gradually in future years. This sudden growth led to distorted signals traveling back up the supply chain, which resulted in a large increase in ebike shipments.

When sales did not keep up with import growth, we saw a period of over supply and a buildup of stock in the United States. The natural response to this is to discount prices to move inventory. This basic economic tenant has two affects on buyers:

  1. Buyers shift from non-discounting brands to discounting brands, changing market share.
  2. Buyers who were “on the fence” about buying a bike at that time are convinced to purchase sooner than they otherwise would have. This decreases demand in a future year and increases it to the present year.

Unfortunately, discounting only further distorts demand by reducing future year buyers. Hopefully these consumers will enjoy their Ebikes so much that they will pull in more buyers from outside the market, accelerating overall market growth for an ongoing period.

Back to imports, the supply distortions can be seen in import records as well. Below we see the cumulative imports for each January through April going back 10 years. Early data is limited, but still informative. We can see normal import growth early on, followed by exaggerated growth in 2021-2023 (The over supply period). In 2024 we see April imports 8.6% below April 2023, and YTD imports down 6.6%. This marks the beginning of a period of under supply when viewed at the point of import. The positive side is that this should help relieve some inventory pressure through 2024.

2023 Electric Kick Scooter Imports

Annual growth 2019-2023 Electric Kick scooters

Imports saw a dramatic turn around in the second half of 2023. When we looked at imports of small electric scooters in August, 2023 was down ~21% compared to 2022 through the same period. This suggested a similar curve as faced by bicycles. However, imports in advance of the holiday shopping season pulled up total imports to the third consecutive year of ~13% growth.

Above we see how 2020 had abnormal growth compared to the proceeding years. Although 2023 YoY growth fell to 10%, it still stayed within the prior two years general trend.

Below we see the monthly sales by year, with 2023 highlighted. We see here how imports climbed strongly in August, September, and October, likely in anticipation of holiday demand. November continued this trend before falling off precipitously in December.

The upward trend of imports highlights the significant importance of holiday sales for the scooter industry, and how limited the affect of early season imports has on total year imports.

Finally, we see January imports in early 2024 have continued to grow, with a slight increase in the pace of growth. We’ll continue to monitor imports to see if 2024 presents another year of import growth.

Electric Scooter Imports

With our research into electric bicycles, we regularly come across brands who also produce other micro-mobility devices. Specifically, our interest is piqued by electric scooters, which are as close to an electric bike as these devices get. Furthermore, these consumers may overlap and data on scooters may represent an adjacent indicator to keep on our radar.

Similar to the electric vs. traditional import data we publish, the following data is pulled from shipping manifests and has been cleaned within reason to remove mopeds, which are sometimes referred to as scooters. This first chart shows the first 7 months of each year in blue, and the whole year in red. There are naturally two outliers:

  1. Early 2020 data was heavily impacted by the uncertainty driven by the COVID-19 Pandemic, hence it’s substantial reduction.
  2. For 2023, we currently only have data for the first 7 months. However, the trend indicates, we should expect a down year relative to 2022, which is similar to what we are seeing in electric bikes.

This next chart shows how imports varied throughout the year over the past four years. Here we can see some more detail on the 2020 drop to near zero imports and a spike in November. Similarly interesting is how the imports of these units fall in the holidays. It may be that retailers are expected to already be stocked with the product by this point in the year. 2023 appears lower than the past couple of years, but not dramatically so, reflecting that these products are likely still popular for long term use. If we can draw parallels to the ebike market, there may be excess supply in the US, pushing down new imports.