Honda Motor Co. just released its sales figures for motorcycles in 2010, and surprisingly the Japanese company has done very well during an otherwise dismal year for the motorcycle industry. The secret to Honda’s success? The Asian market. Eight out of ten motorcycles Honda produces, ends up in Asia…and this figure excludes motorcycles sold in Japan and China.

Honda sold 14.3 million motorcycles in what it calls Asian countries last year (17.7 million globally), a record for the company, and a figure that is 23% higher than the previous record, which was set last year (another horrible year for the motorcycle industry we might add). Compare that staggering quantity to the 1.3 million units sold in China (the largest single country for Honda sales), 261,000 units sold in Europe, and 210,000 in North America, and the true value of the growing Asian economy becomes apparent.

These sales figures tell an interesting story, beyond the fact that Honda seems to be doing just fine financially on a global level. It’s obvious the markets that show growth for Honda are the same markets that have exploding economies right now, South America, Southeast Asia, and China are all on a war path to become economic powerhouses, and appropriately are buying more motorcycles.

Reading between the lines on these figures though, it’s all but certain that small-displacement machines are where the real money is in motorcycling. In fact when you look at the markets that large-displacement bikes are traditionally sold in, i.e. North America, and to a less extent Europe, you see corresponding losses on sales compared to 2009. This is not a coincidence.

The only noticeable exception to that rule seems to be China, where we suspect the country’s own domestic market is pushing Honda out and filling in the gap for motorcycle sales growth (we’ve reached out to Honda for their take on it). The takeaway from this information is that small-displacement bikes are the moneymakers in this industry, and you should always diversify your portfolio.

2009 2010
% Change
Global Sales 15,047 17,952* 119%
Domestic 181 196 108%
Overseas 14,865 17,755* 119%

North America

210 192 92%

South America

1,387 1,640 118%

Europe, the Middle & Near East and Africa

261 258 99%

Asia and Oceania

11,702* 14,378* 123%


1,303 1,285 99%
Global Production 14,847 18,111* 122%
Domestic 189 190 100%
Overseas 14,657 17,921* 122%
*New Record – All Units are in Thousands

Source: Honda

  • Other Sean

    A&R, I would love it if you could somehow get your hands on these number for the other major (and minor) manufacturers and display them side by side, just to give a sense of the staggering size of Honda compared to say, Ducati and other small batch single malts.

  • We’d love to do that too. OEMs are amazingly tight-lipped on actual sales numbers.

    For comparison though, Harley-Davidson sells between 300,000 – 400,000 units on any given year, while Ducati is about tenth of that size.

  • MajorTom

    “Globally, Triumph sold 45,501 bikes in the year to June 30, 2010, giving it a market share of 4.7 per cent in the 500cc and above sector.”

  • Jean-Paul

    Two questions:

    1. Does Honda include scooters in their motorcycle sales figures?

    2. What defines “small displacement bike”?


  • JP,

    1) Yes.

    2) <651cc is usually the cut-off, I'd call anything under 500cc small-displacement though.

  • Tom

    I’d love to see the numbers of companies side by side, like Harley’s big cruiser segment numbers compared to Honda’s smaller bikes. From reports here and there, young people are gravitating away from big bikes in general to smaller efficient commuters.

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