News Article

Japan Market Declines Further

Sales & Trends

TOKYO, Japan – For the second year on a row, the Japanese bicycle market is declining in volume. Value-wise however, production and import are reaching new highs. This contrasting development is rooted in the depreciation of the Japanese yen. Also, made in Japan e-bikes contributed to the rising value of the bike production and import.

Japan Market Declines Further

This Market Report Japan is based on Japan Bicycle Promotion Institute (JBPI) data that covers the first nine months of 2015, compared to the same period of 2014 (the available data at the time of writing). During that period the Japanese yen became 18% weaker against the US dollar. This is one of the main causes for the increase in production and sales expressed in yen.

During the first nine months of 2015 Japan’s home production dropped to its lowest level in the last ten years. A total of 661,545 bicycles and e-bikes were made. Imports came in at 5.56 million units, which was the lowest three quarter level since 2001. The resulted in a Japan market drop from close to 6.9 million units in the first three quarters of 2014, to somewhat over 6.2 million in the same period of 2015 – a 9.3% drop.


The total sales value of Japan’s bicycle production also dropped compared to the first nine months of the previous year. But with a 3.6% drop it remains on a high level.

With JP¥34,110 million (€267 million) it reached the second highest level in the last ten years. The depreciated yen also pushed the January to September 2015 value in yen of bicycle imports to a record high within the last 15 years. Total CIF value (Cost, Insurance, Freight) reached JP¥72 billion (€566 million).

Japan’s bicycle production is divided into the three categories: light bicycles (the cheap version of Europe’s city bike), e-bikes (in Japan pedal-assist only), and miscellaneous (others). Most of the three categories saw production and value drops. The production of electric bikes dropped 7.2%, while the sales value of that production dropped 6.1%. Light cycles and the miscellaneous category dropped 5.8% and 11.3% in units produced respectively, but increased 7.8% and 1.1% in sales value. All in all the number of made in Japan bikes dropped 7.3% to 661,545 bicycles while the sales value of the number of bikes produced dropped 3.6%.

Made in Japan e-bikes

The majority of the 660,000 bikes produced in Japan are e-bikes. They have a production share of 53%. Light cycles are the second most produced category with 34%, followed by miscellaneous at 13%.

Value-wise e-bikes are (of course) also the biggest production category with 77% of the sale value of the total production. The 2015 average value of a made in Japan bike came in at JP¥51,561 (€390.20), up 4.0% compared to the first three quarters sales total for 2014. Of course this value is pushed higher by the greater production of expensive e-bikes. The average unit value of e-bikes stood at JP¥75,906 (€574.43), up 1.2%. The average value of light cycles stood at JP¥22,742 (€172.11) an increase of 14.5%. The miscellaneous category came in at JP¥29,900 (€226.28) up 14%.

Looking at the average sales values specified here and comparing them to the ones in Europe it emphasizes that the EU bike market is a more advanced high-end market.

What in particular stands out in the statistics from the JBPI is the drop in production and sales value of electric bikes. During the last years e-bikes were a growing segment of the market. Is the saturation point now reached? In Japan trends come and go quickly….

Viewing the average values of the two other bicycle categories produced in Japan it looks like some upgrading is taking place. That’s much needed for the cheap light cycles category. The value increase of the miscellaneous category could be rooted in more high-quality sports bike (road and MTB) sales. In particular weekend road bikers are seen more and more in the countryside.

Imports at lowest level in 15 years

In the first three quarters of 2015 Japan’s bicycle imports reached the lowest level in 15 years with 5.56 million units. Compared with the first nine month of 2014 this is a 9.6% decrease. 95.9% (5.34 million units) of the total 2015 imports came from China, followed by 3.8% (212,245 units) from Taiwan and 0.3% from the rest of the world. The total sales value of the import increased 10.7%, which is the highest in the last 15 years.

What’s striking is that the average CIF value of a bicycle imported into Japan from China stood at only JP¥11,230 (€85.29) while those from Taiwan were a much higher JP¥53,350 (€405.16).

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