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Big Four Look Beyond US

Japanese OEMs see greater growth potential outside of North America

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Feb. 27, 2008
A meeting of the minds, so-to-speak, was held recently by JAMA (Japan Automobile Manufacturer Assocation) with the four biggest vehicle makers in Japan. Specific to motorcycles, company representatives had some rather enlightening comments. Here in the U.S. we've enjoyed almost 15 years of unprecedented growth in the motorcycle industry, so the remarks may seem like doom and gloom, indicating that maybe our motorcycle bubble is ready to burst.

It's interesting to note Suzuki representative,  Akira Tsugihiro's comes out of the gate swinging, saying that the company's largest market is currently China, and that there's potential for distributing parts made outside of the country. Wonder if we'll be seeing a Made in the Peoples ROC on the bottom of a GSX-R1000 any time soon? Or maybe we'll be getting a bag of Colombian coffee beans with every new bike purchase.

Have we become spoiled in this time of biking bliss in the U.S., loosing sight of the fact that all good things must come to an end? Be sure to chime in on this subject in Reader Feedback to let us know what you think.

Below is a list of who attend the round table meeting, and some of what they had to say.

Representing Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd.: Akira Araki, motorcycle operations head. From Honda Motor Co., Ltd.: Minoru Harada, senior managing and representative director/chief operating officer for motorcycle operations. With Suzuki Motor Corporation: Akira Tsugihiro, managing executive officer and general manager, domestic motorcycle, marine and power products marketing. Representing Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd.: Shinichi Tamba, senior vice president/president of consumer products and machinery.

Led by a moderator, each spoke briefly on some of the issues the industry is facing. Regarding performance in Asian markets, Suzuki’s Tsugihiro said, “China is our largest market. Next year we’ll be launching a new joint venture [in China], and are thinking in terms of supplying products built there to destinations outside China.”

Turning to Europe and North America, participants saw a mixed bag, “In the U.S., neither our motorcycles nor our all-terrain recreational vehicles are doing so well,” said Honda’s Harada. “In contrast, sales in Europe remain strong. But it’s a mature market, so growth potential is limited. One positive aspect is that the market there is expanding into Eastern Europe.” “Although our U.S. sales are down, their decline hasn’t proven commensurate with the slump in the economy, so we’re determined to keep performance figures up,” said Kawasaki’s Tamba. “The European market to date was driven by Italy and Spain, but sales in those two countries have fallen off, whereas in the U.K. and Germany they’ve picked up.”

Looking to South America, the delegates saw lots of growth potential. “We think demand in Brazil will climb to about 2.5 million units per year by 2010-11” compared to the 1.6 million sold in 2007 in the country, said Yamaha’s Araki. “Colombia is also performing well, and with the focus on Brazil we see South America generating robust results over the next five to six years at least.”