August 18 2004

Japanese domestic motorcycle sales fell 1.4% to 760,121 units in 2003, after posting a rise in 2002, as the first year-on-year gain in eight years in sales of models with a displacement of 50cc or less failed to offset weak sales of larger models.

The smaller models account for roughly 70% of overall motorcycle sales, and their good results last year reflected solid sales of low-priced 50cc scooters.

Suzuki Motor Corp. (7269) served as the driving force behind the greater sales of low-priced 50cc scooters, with its "choinori" brand of products, which were released in February 2003 for 62,790 yen. The company managed to realize the low price by reducing the number of parts.

Robust sales of choinori scooters helped Suzuki score a 21.6% increase in domestic sales to 144,859 for a market share of 18.9%, up 3.5 points, though it ranked third, unchanged from the previous year.

Apparently, with its share cut into by Suzuki, Yamaha Motor Co. (7272) suffered a 4.2 point drop to 23.0%, though it remained the runner-up. The company came up with few new models, and also faced an uphill battle in sales of its mainline Jog 50cc models, in 2003.

Market leader Honda Motor Co. (7267) saw its share rise 0.9 point to 55.0%, partly because of the popularity of its Today 50cc scooters made in China, with their sales totaling some 120,000 units. Its SuperCub 50 and Fusion 250cc scooters also boosted overall sales.

Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. (7012) placed fourth with a share of 3.1%, down 0.2 point, because the domestic market for larger models, except for scooters, remained weak, though the company tried hard to boost its ZRX1200R model.

Motorcycle Sales
1 Honda Motor 55.0 0.9
2 Yamaha Motor 23.0 -4.2
3 Suzuki Motor 18.9 3.5
4 Kawasaki Heavy 3.1 -0.2
(Rank. Company. % Share. % Change.) Total domestic sales 760,121 units (down 1.4%)

Source: The Nikkei Business Daily