Yamaha Sales Expand

Yamaha Motor Corp., the world's No. 2 motorcycle maker, are projecting that worldwide sales of motorcycles and other two-wheeled vehicles will expand 7.7 percent in 2001.

Yamaha forecasts overall bike sales increasing to 2.29 million units, led by a 7.8 percent rise in demand abroad, a 7.1 percent improvement in Japanese sales. Takehiko Hasegawa, Yamaha president, stated the estimates at a Tokyo press conference...

"We're worried about the downturn in the U.S. economy," said Yamaha spokesman Minoru Morimoto. Still, "baby boomers are continuing to return to the motorcycle market -- and they're bringing their kids, so we have a good future," he said.

The Shizuoka prefecture-based company expects sales of motorcycles in North America, its most profitable market, to grow 11 percent to 789,000 units this year, said Morimoto.

The company expects total sales of motorcycles and scooters abroad to rise to 2.035 million units, while Japanese demand will increase to 255,000 units in 2001.

Yamaha said motorcycle exports from Japan to Asian markets, excluding China, should rise 22 percent to 1.1 million units.

"Demand seems to be recovering in Southeast Asia," said Koji Endo, an analyst at Credit Suisse First Boston who rates the stock "hold." "The falling yen should help because they export a lot of key components" for assembly in local markets, such as Indonesia.

The yen has fallen 17 percent against the euro and 7.7 percent against the U.S. dollar since October.

Yamaha officials said sales in China are being hurt by imitation models built by local producers. Yamaha's bigger rival, Honda Motor Co., is also facing piracy problems for its vehicles in China, the company has said.

In Japan, motorcycle sales have fallen from a peak of 3 million units in 1983 to just 800,000 in 1999. In an effort to stem that slide and attract younger consumers, Yamaha last month said it would create an e-commerce site that lets buyers order custom features for their bike.

news release from AP newswire

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Danielle Grossman
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