April 2016

Motorcycle Market Trends in Japan: Summary of Results of JAMA’s Fiscal 2015 Survey

The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) is pleased to release the results of the survey it conducted in fiscal year 2015 (ending March 31, 2016) on motorcycle market trends in Japan.  This survey, whose primary targets are new-model purchasers, is conducted by JAMA in odd-numbered years to track evolving trends in Japan’s motorcycle market and thereby determine how to grow demand in coming years.  Along with this survey, adjunct “special topics” surveys were also conducted to monitor specific issues related to the motorcycle market.

I.  Main Survey: Principal Findings

Focusing on purchasers of new-model motorcycles, the survey revealed the following:

  • The average age of new-model purchasers was 52.9, up 1.5 years from the previous survey (in fiscal year 2013).  The age increase was particularly pronounced among owners of scooters with engine capacity of 50cc and under.
  • Replacement demand accounted for about 60% of all new-model purchases.  Survey results indicated a trend towards growth in purchases of both on-road and off-road models.
  • The average period of motorcycle ownership prior to its replacement with a new model was 6.3 years, compared to the previous survey’s 6.6 years.  At 7.2 years, the average period of ownership of scooters 50cc and under in engine capacity was longer than the overall average.
  • For purpose of use, “Commuting to work or school” accounted for approximately half of all replies.  The greater the engine capacity, however, the more respondents cited “Touring” as their use purpose.
  • Respondents expressing the desire to continue riding motorcycles in the future remained high at 86%.  The greater the engine capacity, the more respondents asserted this desire.


II.  Adjunct “Special Topics” Surveys: Principal Findings

1.  Background trends

  • Among respondents licensed to operate motorcycles but not currently owning one, more women than men cited the reason for wanting to ride motorcycles upon attaining their license as “Because it’s cool” or “Because it’s been an aspiration.”  This suggests that cultivating the interest of women as potential purchasers could be one key strategy for expanding Japan’s domestic motorcycle market. 

Young respondents in their late teens tended to place greater emphasis on motorcycles as a “Handy means of transportation” and other practical factors.  These findings point to the need for targeted efforts to promote images of motorcycle users that reflect the values and needs of younger people destined to become the next generation of riders.

  • Among reasons for currently not owning a motorcycle, survey answers indicated that personal finances, maintenance fees, and other costs were a major deterrent.  The same factors lay behind the anticipated decision of some respondents not to purchase a motorcycle.

2.  Factors currently or potentially impacting the market

  • The majority of respondents (including new-model purchasers, used motorcycle owners, and non-owners) cited the desirability of lower rates in optional insurance, expressway tolls, and other fees/charges.

In terms of demand for products and services, survey respondents indicated that they highly favor “Lower-priced maintenance services and replacement parts,” “Expanded optional insurance coverage,” and “Development of advanced safety equipment.”

  • As for perceptions of motorcycle riders and motorcycle use, riding as a “Keenly pursued hobby” ranked high among respondents’ answers, whereas upbeat perceptions of motorcycle use as “Fashionable” or “Youthful,” for example, ranked low, which may at least partially explain the declining interest in motorcycles among youth.

On the other hand, perceptions that motorcycle use provides riders with feelings described as “Free and easy,” “Exhilarating,” “Liberating,” and “Thrilling” ranked high among all respondents, underscoring some of the benefits to be gained from motorcycle riding.

3.  Extent of awareness of developments in the market

  • Familiarity with the rate hike in Japan’s Mini-Vehicle Tax (which includes taxes on motorcycles) was 55% among respondents, and 74% of respondents were “Fully aware” of the increase in the national consumption tax scheduled for April 2017.  In regard to both taxes, awareness increased with age.  Regarding the impact of these tax hikes, there were many respondents in the youngest age groups expressing their desire to take steps such as “Purchase [a motorcycle] before the hike” and “Economize in other areas.”  For all age groups, and particularly in the youngest age groups, respondents intending to postpone a motorcycle purchase or settle for a model in a lower class were few.
  • Commenting on the impact on potential purchases of higher vehicle prices resulting from compliance with emissions regulations, about half of all respondents indicated “No particular impact.”  Among those replying that higher prices do have an impact, a large number of respondents expressed the desire to “Continue riding my current model.”  Asked whether the regulatory requirement (also affecting vehicle pricing) that all new models be equipped with a brake-assist system would have an impact on potential purchases, a large number of respondents replying in the affirmative expressed their intent to take “Active steps in making a replacement purchase or in purchasing an additional model.”  Among on-road model owners in particular, there was a relatively high degree of intent expressed to purchase a new, brake assist-equipped model.
  • When owners of power-assisted bicycles were asked if their purchase of such vehicles led them to make comparisons with other vehicle types, very few respondents said they compared them with motorcycles.  With only 10% of the power-assisted bicycle-owning respondents expressing the intent to switch over to the use of a motorcycle, a clear distinction between the power-assisted bicycle and motorcycle market sectors can be inferred.

4.  Overview of the used motorcycle market

  • When asked about the origin of the used motorcycle model they purchased, about 80% of respondents replied “Domestic make,” but among owners of 751cc-and-over used models there was a large share of overseas makes and reverse imports (with only some 40% of 751cc-and-over models being domestic makes).  By type, “on-road sports” models accounted for roughly half of the total of used motorcycles purchased, and within that “on-road sports” segment, the 251cc-and-over class accounted for about a 90% share.
  • As the reasons for having purchased a used model, around 50% of respondents cited “Good condition,” with the same percentage citing “Low priced.”  “Preferred model only available previously owned” and “Preferred model also available previously owned” were also high, at 30% each.

When asked about new-model purchase intent, among owners of 401cc-and-over models responses were high for “If I can find a particular model that I like” and “If there is an appealing model lineup.”

  • As top-priority requirements when they purchased a used model, among owners of motorcycles with smaller engine capacity “Low price” was cited most often, whereas for owners of motorcycles with larger engine capacity “Special models” ranked high.  Mentioned frequently as potential concerns when the purchase of a used model was made were “Defective body or engine,” “Defective replacement parts, etc.” and “Accident history.”  These responses were especially common among owners of 1000cc-and-over models.


Complete survey results are posted online, in Japanese only, at http://www.jama.or.jp/lib/invest_analysis/two-wheeled.html.

See attached file: http://www.jama.or.jp/lib/invest_analysis/pdf/2015Motorcycle.pdf