The domestic motorcycle market is showing signs of pulling out of the prolonged doldrums as sporty, easy-to-maneuver machines, with an engine displacement of 250cc, are attracting young people, including women.
Sales of new 125cc and bigger motorcycles totaled some 106,000 units in 2012, up 14.9 percent in the first year-on-year increase in seven years, according to the Japan Light Motor Vehicle and Motorcycle Association.
In particular, motorcycles with displacements of up to 250cc, which have low maintenance costs as they are not subject to regular mandatory safety inspections, logged a 16.5 percent sales increase to 45,300 units. Sales in the category jumped 52.2 percent in the first four months of this year from the same period last year.
One 27-year-old Tokyo woman who bought a 250cc motorcycle last summer now goes on touring rides with her friends once or twice a month.
The motorcycle is “fuel-efficient and economical,” she said. “Light and easy to handle, it’s good for a ride around town as well.”
The sales growth for motorcycles has been led by Honda Motor Co., Japan’s biggest motorcycle-maker, as it has attracted people, especially those in their 20s, to its lineup of machines such as the CBR250R.
“Sales are greater than expected and women form a large portion of buyers,” said Masaharu Iuchi, president of Honda Motor Cycle Japan Co.
Honda bikes are attracting young riders because of their designs and affordable prices. Equipped with a windscreen, for example, the CBR250R looks like a racer.
Honda produces the CBR250R in Thailand to make it affordable for global sales. In Japan, the suggested retail price is ¥449,400, low for a sport-type motorcycle.
Strong demand for 250cc motorcycles among young people is a “good chance to lure them back to motorbikes,” said Kazutoshi Imaizumi, manager of a Honda shop in Kawasaki.
Yamaha Motor Co. added a touring version, equipped with windscreen and luggage carrier, to its long-selling Serow series of dual-sport motorcycles last September. The new version, priced at ¥543,900, contributed to a 20 percent year-on-year gain in sales of motorcycles in the Serow family in the first quarter of this year.
The ¥438,900 GSR250, released by Suzuki Motor Corp. last July, is attracting first-time motorcycle riders in their late teens and 20s because of its powerful design and easy handling, says a representative for the company.