October 29 2006.
Kawasaki Heavy Industries plans to beef up motorcycle production, especially of large bikes, in response to surging demand in the U.S. and Europe.
The company intends to invest 50 billion yen in its Akashi Works plant in Hyogo Prefecture over the next five years to increase annual output by 50% to 300,000 units in fiscal 2010 from the current 200,000.
The heavy machinery manufacturer also aims to launch development of next-generation motorcycles, such as hybrid models and electric vehicles.
To improve production efficiency, Kawasaki Heavy will bring together its processing and assembly operations for crankshafts and other engine parts to a single location within the Akashi facility. The company also plans to automate some of the assembly and parts processing lines.
Though domestic sales have been dwindling, Kawasaki has enjoyed brisk turnover in the U.S. and Europe, with sales in those markets growing to 120,000 and 88,000 units, respectively, in fiscal 2005, from 100,000 and 79,000 units a year earlier. Motorcycle sales, including all-terrain vehicles, expanded by roughly 30 billion yen last fiscal year to 366.9 billion yen.
The company will also increase the capability of its technology research center at the Akashi plant, which currently focuses on gasoline engines, to start developing next-generation technologies. Kawasaki Heavy lags behind its competitors in that field. Honda and Yamaha have already put some hybrid motorcycles and electric-powered vehicles on the market.
The global trend toward tighter gas emissions regulations is another incentive prompting the firm to work on advanced technologies.

Source: The Nihon Keizai Shimbun