Are world motorbike sales in a slump?

Heavy Vietnamese traffic

While the motorcycle sector is the fastest growing in vehicle registrations in Australia, there are mixed motorbike sales results around the world which will have an impact on what sort of bikes we will be riding in the future.

The biggest growth is in Latin America which has increased by 7% annually over the past five years. It is followed by Asia at 2% per year over the same period to be the biggest motorcycle market in the world.

Asia/Pacific (which includes Australia) accounts for around 90% of global motorcycle production and almost 80% of global sales. The biggest growth markets are in India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand.

Latin America accounts for 17% of the world market, Europe is only 3% and North America is 1%.

While Asian motorcycle manufacturers are doing well, their biggest successes are in the small-capacity range, especially in South-East Asia and India.

2015 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Sales are bubbling along slowly in the US at 3.8%, marginally down in Australia by 2.5% (although that takes in scooters which are in massive decline), but the big concern is the big slump in Europe where most of the motorcycle brands originate.

New motorbikes sales in Europe are down 45% since 2005, the biggest drop being in Italy, where sales fell 62% between 2005 and 2014.

The UK has also seen a reduction in the total number of motorcycles sold over the past decade, dropping from 108,000 in 2005 to just under 92.000 last year.

While the UK market picked up last year, selling 14% more new motorbikes, the biggest change has been in the 51-125cc segment, which since 2009 has gained a 10% market share. The biggest loses have been in the 126-650cc and 651-1000cc segments, down 4% and 6% respectively. The >1000cc segment has in relative terms seen little movement.

So what does all this mean for us?

It means more and more motorcycle manufacturers will look to the Asian and Latin American markets for growth, which means a focus on smaller-capacity bikes.

It also means many of these manufacturers may seek to produce, or at least assemble, their bikes in Asia to reduce costs such as import duties.

Already we have seen traditional manufacturers such as Triumph, Harley-Davidson and BMW heading to Asia, and there is talk of other companies such as Indian, Victory and Ducati following the same path.

While the worldwide motorcycle industry isn’t in jeopardy yet, motorcycle manufacturers are going to have to re-invent themselves, produce smaller capacity bikes, but with significant power and economy gains.

This could also mean a trend toward supercharging, turbocharging, electric and even hybrid powertrains.

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