News Article

Japan 2011: Pedelec Sales on the Rise

Sales & Trends

TOKYO, Japan – Bike Europe’s latest published Japan bicycle market report for 2011 was based on the January to October figures. Correspondent Jo Beckendorff went to Tokyo for the final year 2011 figures and research. What he found most astonishing is the positive impact of rising Made-in-Japan e-bike sales on the entire Japanese bicycle home market production. Will the e-bike segment be able to breathe new life into the long-suffering Japanese bike industry?

Japan 2011: Pedelec Sales on the Rise

While material and shipping costs went up, those bicycles still being produced in Japan experienced – compared with the previous year – slight unit and value sales decreases.

All in all, Nippon’s struggling home production for 2011 reached 1.1 million units. Compared with 2010, this is a 4.2% increase. But unit and value sales of the all-important light cycle category – the cheap Nippon version of what in Holland and Germany is regarded as a city bike – dropped 1.6% and 1.1% respectively. The ‘others’ category (all other Made in Japan bicycles other than light cycles and e-bike) also showed a 8.4% unit and 7.1% sales value decrease.

What saves the Japanese bike industry was the domestic increase in e-bike sales. Last year Made-in-Japan pedelecs skyrocketed 20.1% in units and 27.4% in value. Thanks to this outstanding result overall domestic production was able to increase by 4.3% in units and 15.6% in value. All in all, Japan’s 2011 e-bike sales stood at a total of 403,208 units (see chart 2). Note that when talking in Japan about e-bikes in Japan it’s all about the pedal assisted pedelecs.

Focus on home market
Japan doesn’t export electric bikes. Producers concentrate on their home market. Ambitions to get a piece of the booming European pedelec market all failed. The reason for that failure is easy to explain. The Japanese exporters did not understand that the type of bicycle they sell on their home market doesn’t fit design- and quality-wise the tasted of the European markets. Nippon’s pedelec design is based on the light cycle category you might be able to sell in some Asian countries (but they are served directly from cheaper producing China) but definitely not in the Western world.

Not only Yamaha and Sanyo failed to sell their pedelecs in Europe. The only e-bike product they are able to sell outside Japan is their e-bike drive systems and battery packs. In both fields Japan has a longtime know-how. Panasonic’s e-bike system for example is getting a fait share of the European market. But when is comes to the fast e-bike class or speed pedelecs, Panasonic is out.

Their existing and longtime proven system is for commuting, pedal assisted up to 25 km/h bikes only. That’s what the home market wants and nothing else. Therefore they are about to miss further e-bike trends in the western world. Nevertheless, to get a share of the young and upcoming sportive pedelec market, Panasonic is counting on a partnership with Austrian KTM Bike for the 2013 season. KTM is a pioneer in the field of speed pedelecs.

Price development
According to the Japanese stats the average sales price of a Made-in-Japan pedelec being sold on their home market increased 6.1% up to a total of JPY71,253 (approximately €705.25). Compared with the price levels in Europe this is really cheap. But bicycle prices are generally low. The average sales price of the typical Japan ‘mama’ light cycle is only JPY18,992 (€187.81) and for ‘others’ JPY24,173 (approximately €239.05). This trend receives some tailwind from the strong Japanse and US currencies, compared to the suffering euro.

Due to the rising pedelec average sales price the overall average sales price of a Japan-Made bicycle increased 10.9% up to JPY38,787 (€383.60). These prices stand out from the ones in Germany. According to the Bike Monitor Germany 2011 the average sales price of bicycles being sold to all distribution channels (including mass merchants) reached about €600. The average sales price of a bicycle being sold through Germany’s IBD network reached €1,089 in 2011 (source: VSF).

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