slumping Japanese motorcycle sales

Discussion in 'General Discussion / News / Information' started by KZ25, Dec 7, 2011.

  1. KZ25

    KZ25 Ol'Timer

    I've just read elsewhere that in the US Harley Davidson has the biggest market share and outsells even Honda. Suzuki didn't ship any new bikes for a whole year.
    And in Great Britain Triumphs are the best-selling bikes.
    What's happening with the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers?
    How come the Big Four who have been market leaders for decades are sucking hind tit?
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  3. monsterman

    monsterman Ol'Timer

    the japs make well enginnered bikes but most have no soul they are two wheeled toyotas , triumphs, Ducati and BMw sales are booming , HD sales are holding up but not booming
  4. KZ25

    KZ25 Ol'Timer

    But the Japs have been building these "two-wheeled Toyotas" and were successful for about four decades.

    How come they get now outsold by Harley in the US or by Triumph in Britain? They don't build bikes smaller than 675 or 883cc, rather 900 and 1200cc.

    Is it the economy? Is it Fukushima? Is it a trend?

    I've noticed for some time that new bike makers give it a try, like Voxan in France, Horex in Germany; KTM and Aprilia started building big street bikes about ten years ago; companies like Benelli revive their brand.

    Are people tired of UJMs? Do riders buy more "bikes with soul" suddenly? Is it because HD and Triumph have caught up in the quality department?

    Or is it all of the above?
  5. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Ol'Timer

    Yeah... I'm a bit skeptical of the figures too... With the US economy in the crapper the sales of big ticket luxury items like fancy motorcycles are bound to take a hit. Yet by all accounts the "economy" models such as the new Honda CB'r' and the venerable old Kawasaki Ninjette still sell very well.

    Another part of the problem is that the big Japanese manufacturers (with a few exceptions) haven't come out with any groundbreaking new models in recent years which makes their selection seem a bit dated and boring whereas companies like Triumph, KTM and Ducati continue to release brand new models and keep their brands fresh and exciting.
  6. KZ25

    KZ25 Ol'Timer

    Yes, I agree, who’s spending big money on Harleys these days? But in the US this seems to be the case. When Harley Davidson released their 2nd quarter 2010 results, their profits were $139.3 million, even higher than expected.
    Based on recently provided Polk data HD has been the heavyweight motorcycle category market leader in new motorcycle sales to young adult men and women ages 18 to 34 since at least 2006. (Heavy-weight means 651cc and up, practically 750s, 800s, 900s and bigger bikes. All 650s do not fall into this category.)
    That’s already surprising; I’d thought at least Honda would beat HD’s sales figures. But even more surprising is that when it comes to new motorcycle sales to young adults in ALL sizes of on-road motorcycles, Harley-Davidson has been the U.S. market share leader since 2008. (Young adults are riders from 18-34.)
    I got this info from another site, and many, including me, dispute these figures. But they were supplied by R. L. Polk, who collect data for the automotive and insurance industries and their data is well respected and referenced by all of the manufacturers. There you have it!
    Market shares in the US about 5 years ago (it’s difficult to find recent figures) are:
    Harley-Davidson 28%
    Honda 25%
    Yamaha 17%
    Suzuki 13%
    Kawasaki 11%

    HD sells the most bikes, but the Big Four still make up 66%, 2/3 of the market!
    I don’t have exact figures for Triumph in Britain but I remember reading a report about big sales increases while the Japanese sales slumped. If someone has info on this, please post it!
  7. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Ol'Timer

    Ah, so your figures are only for sales of "heavy bikes"; 651cc and above? That explains a lot since it doesn't include all of the Japanese 600cc and under bikes which, based on my completely unscientific observations, still account for the majority of bikes you see on the roads in the US these days.
  8. KZ25

    KZ25 Ol'Timer

    "But even more surprising is that when it comes to new motorcycle sales to young adults in ALL sizes of on-road motorcycles, Harley-Davidson has been the U.S. market share leader since 2008."

    It's not about bikes on the road, Tony, those are sales that have been made a long time ago.

    HD has the biggest market share for some time with 28% over Honda - I doubted it at first, too, but fact is fact. These are not some cooked statistics. Harleys sells more bikes in the US than either Honda or any other maker.
  9. KZ25

    KZ25 Ol'Timer

    Good one! I wonder why HD hasn't brought out its own beer - lots of profits there!
  10. KZ25

    KZ25 Ol'Timer

    Don't you guys read The Guardian? ;-)

    Here's a link to an article from the 13th of January '11 - Triumph boasts that it sells more bikes with engines over 500cc than any other manufacturer in the UK:

    Quote: The performance cements two years of market share gains, which have seen the historic British firm outsell the big four Japanese motorbike manufacturers in the UK – Suzuki, Honda, Yamaha and Kawasaki – an outcome unthinkable when the marque went bust in the 1980s.

    Okay, that's not the entire market, but who would have thought that?
  11. KZ25

    KZ25 Ol'Timer :

    Sunday Times 06 April 1997
    Big Triumph bikes zoom past Honda
    TRIUMPH, the British motorcycle marque revived by John Bloor, has passed a new milestone. In the first quarter of 1997, according to the industry newspaper Motor Cycle Trader, the group ousted Honda from its long tenure as king of the big-bike sector in Britain, scorching to sales of 525 Daytonas in the 900cc-plus category, writes Matthew Lynn.
    Honda's CBR900 RR-T, with 468 bikes sold, came second and Honda's CBR1100 XX third. Neil Asten of Motor Cycle Trader said bike demand was booming, up almost 42% year on year in the first three months. "The market is doing well, and the European manufacturers are gaining share," he said.
  12. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Ol'Timer

    I'm confused, hasn't the Daytona always been a 675? :confused:
  13. nikster

    nikster Ol'Timer

    In short: The Japanese screwed up. KTM, Ducati, Triumph, BMW all make more exciting bikes. I dont know whether its lack of investment or lack of ideas... And HD just does one thing and does it right. I know so many hard core HD fans here in thailand... All of them Thai, none of them have long beards or beer bellies, they are all in their 20ies and 30ies. HD is most definintely doing something right!
  14. KZ25

    KZ25 Ol'Timer

    You've got a point there. The success of the Japanese came in the early 70s when they built bikes that really were advanced at the time and also affordable. Think of Honda's first 750cc four-cylinder and its competitors, Triumph, BSA, Norton, Harley, BMW. Top-of-the-line technology for a price lower than the oil-leaking competiton; BMW didn't leak but who could afford them? So they wrapped up the whole market. They copied, they definitely improved, and they conquered.
    The Japs are great when it comes to technology, but come up short in the "feeling" department. The bikes don't "inspire", you don't fall in love with them and restore them after 20 years. They function, they last, but then get replaced. There are only a handful of Japanese bikes that are getting lovingly restored, but you can't compare that to "western" products. The Japanese can build reliable, affordable vehicles with top technology, but they can't build a Ducati (Honda and Suzuki more or less flopped), can't build a Norton, can't build a Moto Guzzi. And they sure can't build a Harley, even though they tried hard, using push rods and single-pin cranks. They can't build a Ferrari, no Lotus, no Porsche, no Corvette.
    First they learned from the West, now the West caught up. Triumphs are as reliable as Hondas, even though more expensive. Higher sales figures may even change that, but even today people are paying a bit more to get a bike that has something not many Japanese bikes have - personality, character, soul.
  15. feejer

    feejer Ol'Timer

    Agreed. The mass produced Japanese stuff today is generally a pretty bland and uninspired package as delivered from the factory. But what remains is a rock solid, reliable foundation to work from when the tinkering/mod bug hits. And for me at least, that is straight away because a big part of the fun is taking a bike that was OK but not great and transforming it into something that really "moves" me. The price point of the factory Japanese stuff makes it more practical to do so.

    I personally would have a much harder time justifying replacing OEM parts on a top dollar BMW or Ducati the first weekend I have it home. So the way I see it, the non-Jap stuff is fitted/tuned to a higher degree from the factory but you pay for that up front. I would rather pay less up front and then build/tune the way I want the bike to perform. Either way, you pay but I prefer to turn the wrenches myself.
  16. KZ25

    KZ25 Ol'Timer

    But even a modified Japanese bike would be a "personalized" bike, you can improve looks, performance and sound, but it'll always be a Japanese bike - which is not "bad" at all, don't get me wrong. But it wouldn't compare to a stock Triumph, BMW, Moto Guzzi or Harley.
    To me a bike should be fascinating; just watching and listening to it idle in the driveway should be exciting. That's where the Japanese fall short. As good as their bikes are, they're the best in the world in some aspects, they don't have this certain something an old Norton has. A Commando 750, just sitting at idle, makes my heart beat faster.
    The Japanese use the word "romanchikku", meaning "romantic", because there is no word with that meaning in Japanese. When foreigners first mentioned "romantic", the Japanese didn't know what the foreigners were talking about. Different mentality. Japanese don't feel romantic; some try to. They just have a different mindset. That's why a modified Japanese bike is still a modified Japanese and doesn't have the charisma of a "western built" bike.
    I'll attach a photo of my modified and personalized 1400 Intruder, the only cruiser I ever owned. Cool bike, but a Harley it ain't.
    If that is good or bad is a question for another day!

    Attached files
  17. feejer

    feejer Ol'Timer

    That's what makes this crazy world great. Variety and freedom of choice (for those of us lucky enough to have it). Personally, H-D/Cruisers/Vintage bikes have zero appeal. I have ridden many of them and within 10 minutes was always ready to fall asleep. Just not my bag as I want the damn thing to rip my arms off when I twist that throttle. Never outgrew the 2 stroke motocross powerband rush of my youth I guess.

    But I understand the "romantic" side when automobiles are concerned. I had a 1969 Dodge Charger with the 383 magnum engine in high school/college. By all accounts it was a tank with 4 wheel drum brakes, loose steering and low tech by todays standards. But what I wouldn't give to have that car in my garage today. I also had a 1983 Porsche 911SC in gunmetal grey. A beautiful machine and an unmatched chick magnet. Again, a primitive platform but the feedback from the road and the sound of that flat-six was intoxication at its finest.

    But with the modern Jap bikes, I have found that I can so easily/cheaply mod them to the point of ridiculous performance that there is no need for romance. Kinda like other things that are fun to ride :)
  18. brian66

    brian66 Ol'Timer

    In 2010, Honda sold 14.3 million motorcycles in what it calls Asian countries last year.
    17.7 million Globally, a figure that is 23% higher than the previous record, which was set in 2009

    Compare that staggering quantity to the 1.3 million units sold in China which is the largest single country for Honda sales, 261,000 units sold in Europe, and 210,000 in North America.

    These are figures for 2010. Honda has experienced a decline in 2011 but dropping sales by a paltry 10% from 18 odd million bikes is a minor hiccup.

    Honda, for instance, in one month, November 2011, sold 386,317 units, a decline compared to the previous month at 415,071 units. Yamaha’s sales figures also dropped 152,927 units from 230,150.
    Harley Davidson, Triumph and European manufactures can’t even compete. Honda sells more bikes in one month than any of them can in two years. They dream of these numbers.
    That’s a lot of people who think Jap bikes are good enough.
  19. KZ25

    KZ25 Ol'Timer

    feejer, everybody likes a different cup of tea and the Japanese provide it. The Intruder was an experience, but been there, done that, don't want another chopper. Talking about ripping arms off, I had a ZX9R and that thing went like a rocket without being scary. I thought of it as "cocaine on wheels". But lots of times when I twisted that throttle I was getting into trouble; near-accidents because nobody expected me to suddenly be there and of course the Kojaks. Sold it and don't want another. Having owned 30 used bikes in seven years in the US, from Ninja 250s to XS650s, BMW K triples and fours, I ended up with 650 Enduros. Tall, light, quick without being a rocket, comfortable and simple. Of course they're not really for long distances on the highway. These days I'd be happy with a 250 or 400cc supermoto.
    I mentioned "romanchikku" as an example that the Japanese don't have certain feelings we have which may explain the lack of "soul" or "character" many people lament about.
  20. KZ25

    KZ25 Ol'Timer

    brian66, thanks for coming up with some facts and figures! Good to know that the Japanese MC industry is not in serious trouble.
    Honda still outsells other makers worldwide, all sizes. In India Honda sold even more bikes than in China through Hero Honda, but got out of that deal.
    The high numbers are mainly sales of 125cc and smaller bikes in growing markets like India and China, is my guess.
    The people don't buy the bikes because they are good enough but because they are the only ones they can barely afford.
    I don't want to get into a big discussion about how many Honda Waves they have to sell to make the profit of a sold Fireblade or Gold Wing; I was more thinking of the North American and European markets, where local bikes over 650cc outsell Honda's products, which is still surprising.
  21. brian66

    brian66 Ol'Timer

    KZ, I agree with you. Most people buy a motor cycle for transport. They don’t give a toss about the bike, Just the price to buy and the fuel economy.
    Maybe 10 % buy a bike for the pleasure it gives. Some are loyalists and would not be seen on any of the competitor’s brands. Others like me can change with every upgrade or new model that comes out regardless of who makes it. My only exception is Korean and Chinese motor cycles now. But 50 years ago I though the same of Jap motorcycles. I would only buy British then so who knows in 20 years if Chinese bikes can be as good as Japanese bikes are now.
    I have owned many different makes. I now own Japanese bikes and a Triumph, The Triumph is made in Thailand mind you.
    I am an avid reader of motorcycle magazines and I follow trends and sales figures. It is a fact that large Japanese’s sports bikes have taken plunge in sales numbers in the past year and that is where this “Slump in sales” comments have come from. But so has Ducati and Harleys. Especially in Australia.
    The percentage figures are misleading also. You see BMW bragging about an 60% increase in sales and the figures show they are including a model that wasn’t for sale the year before. The BMWS1000R is the culprit there.
    The slump in sales is mainly due to choice. There is more choice in large capacity sports bikes now so people are migrating across the brand spectrum at the expense of the Japs losing sales. In addition because of the currency value movements, European bikes especially have become relatively cheaper in some developed countries.
    There are many more models in each brand inventory. Plenty of dual sports and crossover bikes to tempt people away from their previous choice.
    The beauty of it all this is that there is a choice, albeit in Thailand a limited choice in terms of large capacity bikes. But worldwide that choice caters for every one and I glad I have the choice.

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