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Are world motorbike sales in a slump?

Motorcycles in asia pollution

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
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.Ace Cafe

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.

Victory Empulse TT
Victory Empulse TT electric motorcycle


  1. I don’t think that this is something that will have surprised any of the manufacturers.

    In the developing world there is a developmental progression in modes of transport – as countries develop they move from animal powered transport to bicycle powered to motorbikes to cars. This means that in the western, developed nations motorbikes are sold as a luxury or recreational choice rather than the only affordable mode of transport.

    More Honda Super Cubs (50cc to 100cc) have been manufactured than any other motor vehicle in the world because they are exactly what the developing nations need and want.

    Western economies are not recovering at the expected speed and so the market for what is a (technically) luxury purchase is not rising. I also think that the recent quality and longevity of bikes sold in western markets means that owners have less need to replace and update their bike. So those companies need to either attract new customers in their home markets or try to compete with the low-cost asian manufacturers in the “developing” markets.

  2. Nigel, I’m not sure I agree with all of that. For instance, since the introduction of legal filtering in QLD and other states motorcycle registration has boomed. This tells me people are buying motorcycles as a genuine means of transport, not as a luxury item.

    Sure there is still a demographic that buys bikes as a luxury, but I think that is slowly changing in Aus.

    As the traffic slows more and more, who in their right mind would want to sit in a car?

  3. Scooters are in massive decline.. Maybe the public are being turned off by the “step through” design.. Why not make scooters 200cc and up look like a proper moto motorcycle?

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