The motorcycle industry is showing some signs of recovery in certain parts of the world. Europe is seeing pockets of recovery with increased sales reported by several brands. That’s good news for the industry and perhaps a sign of a small but measurable recovery.
Unfortunately, the news is not so great in other parts of the rest of the world. Several large markets such as India, North America and parts of Asia are still seeing flagging sales.
Japan’s disastrous sales
But in Japan, record low sales are approaching disastrous proportions. 2019 saw another year of decline. Although 2019’s overall sales only fell 1.7%, it’s the year over year decline that is nothing short of catastrophic. Japanese motorcycle sales are now only 10% of what it was during its heyday.
2018 brought the country’s lowest sales level in 50 years, and 2019 continues the decline. Only 382,913 motorcycles were sold in Japan last year according to motorcyclesdata.com This new sales number drops Japan to 15th place in the Global 2019 ranking. That’s impressively low for the country that hosts the Japanese “Big 4” that exports motorcycles around the world.
Honda saw the biggest total drop in sales, down 1.5% to 174,679 and a 45.6% market share. Next is Yamaha, down 3.6% to 79,920 units, followed by Suzuki with 61,592 sales down 3% and finally, Kawasaki whose sales were 21,035, down 1.1%.
Smallest bikes the issue
Interestingly, the Japanese motorcycle segment that has seen the biggest drop in sales is the “moped” market, which contains bikes between 51cc and 125cc market. Previously, the moped market serviced commuting, attending school and commercial delivery. So unfortunately for Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, that market has dried up.
So at least domestically, Japanese manufacturers have a major problem. Bicycle sharing has become more and more popular and have also put a dent in domestic motorcycle sales. It will be interesting to see how the Japanese manufacturers will attempt to stop the tide of diminishing sales of small powered two-wheelers.