News Article

Japan: All Good In 2014; 2015 Looks Less Promising

Sales & Trends

TOKYO, Japan – E-bikes were the driving force of Japan’s bicycle market in 2014. Despite the fact that sales in units dropped; money-wise the Japanese market was still able to record growth. However, it’s doubtful this will continue in 2015 when looking the latest figures.

Japan: All Good In 2014; 2015 Looks Less Promising

The e-bike trend in particular is helping the otherwise suffering Japanese producers. Made in Japan light cycle sales dropped unit-wise by 11.8% in 2014 to 345,978 units and value-wise 6.7% down to JP 7.67 billion (€55 million). Japan made e-bike sales increased 8% in units to 479,404 and an even bigger 14.2% in value up to JP¥35.96 billion (€259 million). The average sales price of a made in Japan e-bike increased 5.8% to JP¥75,001 (€538.26).

E-bike production share

Viewing this average retail price one has to take note of the fact that made in Japan e-bikes can’t be compared with those made and sold in Europe. Japan made e-bikes are focused solely on the home market and are designed for elderly and young mothers with kids. Those for young mothers are called ‘mamacharis’; have front and rear child seats and they are cheap. Interesting to note is that Japan’s e-bike production accounted for 50.4% of all bicycles produced in Japan in 2014.

As e-bike production is growing in numbers and value, Japan Bicycle Promotion Institute (JBPI) started tracking e-bike imports from China to Japan. A category named ‘other motorbikes’ is now appearing in Japan’s statistics on bikes.

Decline in import from China

However, the problem is that the ‘other motorbikes’ category includes several other motorized two-wheelers, including mopeds and all kinds of other ‘e’ products such as wheelchairs. This makes it difficult to determine the exact number of e-bikes imported from China into Japan. But, the fact is that the import statistics for this new category shows – compared to 2013 – a decreasing number of imported units in 2014 (55,407).

Average value per imported unit stood at JP¥41,048 (€ 295). Compared to 2013, the number of imported e-bikes from China dropped 19.2%. However, the value per imported unit increased 16.3%. This seems to indicate that while Japan’s e-bike production is increasing in units, in value, and in average sales price, the Chinese imports are decreasing. It points to the fact that the Japanese producers are very competitive compared to the Chinese e-bikes.

Typical ‘light bicycle’

This is contrary to regular bikes being imported into Japan from China. One example is so-called ‘light cycles’ – a cheap and very successful Japan version of the European city bike. In 2014 China controlled that market in Japan; unit-wise 96.3% of all light cycles sold in Japan came from China. The average sales price of the China-imported light cycle was JP¥9,840 (€70.62)! The only good news regarding this category is that the 2014 stats indicate that the import number dropped 6.9% to 2.68 million units.

While Japan’s 2014 market trends present hope for 2015, first quarter results are disappointing. Japan’s bike production as well as imports decreased significantly. Japan’s bike production dropped 10.2% in units and 9.2% in value. Imports dropped 13.3% in units and 5.4% in value. Also Japan’s e-bike production took a blow, with a 10.6% decrease in units and 12.4% in value. Also the new import category ‘other motorcycle’ shows figures that are way down; 25.8% unit and 25.1% value drops.

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