Did you just feel that? That movement was a tectonic shift in the motorcycle landscape, as India just surpassed China as the world’s largest market for two-wheel vehicles.
Just how big is the Indian motorcycle market? Last year, over 17.7 million motorcycles were sold in India. That is over 48,000 motorcycles sold…each day. Compared to China, that is a margin of roughly one million motorcycles per year (16.8 million units sold last year).
India has seen a sharp rise in the sales of two-wheelers within its borders over the seven years, growing over 32% during that timeframe. Transportation in general has been growing in India, but that growth has been fueled by the country’s two-wheeler market.
India has seen some gains in passenger vehicle sales, but growth in commercial vehicles and three-wheelers has remained fairly static. As such, roughly 80% of all the vehicles on the road in India are of the two-wheel variety.
Fueling this sales trend are two factors. One, is the increase in female riders, which is likely a byproduct of the increasingly powerful women’s movement in India. The other factor is India’s increased infrastructure, which is seeing more paved roads in rural areas and cities.
With more potential riders in the marketplace, and more roads connecting those potential riders to places they want to go, India’s continued industrial growth is the real reason for this boom in sales for scooters, mopeds, and motorcycles.
Meanwhile in China, sales for two-wheelers have been on the decline – 2016 sales were down nearly 11% over the year before – as citizens are opting for cars over motorcycles as the country continues to grow wealthier.
Another factor is pollution, with some Chinese metropolitan areas limiting access that motorcycles have to city center spaces. This has helped fuel the sales of electric motorcycles and scooters, but that shift in powertrains hasn’t been able to close the gap in two-wheeler sales.
All of this has lead to a strong decline from the zenith seen in 2009, where over 19 million two-wheelers were sold domestically in China, to the now roughly 17 million units being sold within the country.
A reversal of fates compared to India, China’s rural market is another factor in the country’s decline, as China’s budding economy hasn’t benefitted all of its citizens, especially those who haven’t switched to more urban locations.
With motorcycle sales linked closely to China’s rural markets, this economic impact has trickled into the country’s two-wheeler sales. Couple that to the difficulties already in place when it comes to riding a motorcycle in large urban areas, and it leaves a tough market for motorcycle sales to flourish within.