Sri Lanka Motorcycles Market felt down 2.6% in the 2018 posting the fourth decline in a row. The country ranks as the sixteen in the MCD Global Motorcycles Ranking. The market is a feud for Bajaj Auto which dominates with over 60% of market share. 2019 outlook is almost negative.
Sri Lanka economic growth fell to a 17-year low in 2018 as the constitutional crisis that erupted in October paralyzed the country, hammering investor sentiment and the tourism sector. The slowdown in Q4 was broad-based, with a particularly sharp contraction in fixed investment.
Economic prospects are expected to improve this year. Renewed investor confidence should boost investment outlays, while robust tourism should strengthen service sector activity. Low foreign reserves, hefty debt servicing requirements and susceptibility to external shocks represent key downside risks to the outlook, however.
Sri Lanka two-wheeler industry is the 16th largest in the World, with end of 2018 sales at 358.437, down 2.6%. (data includes the tricycles).
Indeed, after hitting the record in the 2015 when sales achieved the milestone of half million sales in a calendar year, the fall of the domestic economy had reduced the purchasing spending and the sector – primary in the transportation industry – felt down.
The 2019 outlook is almost negative considering the economic environment not yet positive with forecast for a decline between 5 and 8 percent.
“The first motorcycle arrived in the island on January 20, 1903. Mr. C. Hahn of Messrs Bohirnger & Co. was the first person to introduce the motor cycle to Ceylon. These early motorcycles were belt-driven from the engine to the rear wheel and had only one speed and pedals were used to start it. The first motorcycle ride to Kandy and back was undertaken by Mr. Fred Nell, the founder of Colonial Motors on a ‘Noble’ machine. His trip from Colombo to Kandy and back in one day was a great achievement”.
English manufactured motorcycles were very popular and were imported by Sri Lanka users in the 1960’s too. English makes namely Norton, BSA, Royal Enfield and Triumph motorcycles were very popular here till the 1960’s. These English motorcycles had gear shifting lever located in the right side of the engine. They had choke and half compression facility for easy kick-start. Some models had gear levers that were operated by hand.
Later Japanese made Honda motorcycles were introduced in Sri Lanka by 1970’s. At first the small Honda motorcycles with less sound and gear changing levers on the left side didn’t attract much attention against the British models. Later when the Government allowed importing of used motorcycles from Japan, the Honda’s 90cc motorcycles (Super Cub and Postman Bikes) became a hit in Sri Lanka. People were looking for less priced motorbikes from Japan with different engine capacities. After this, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suzuki and other companies started to open their marketing expansion here in Sri Lanka.
Honda took the lead in the market in the seventies and reinforced it with the partnership with the Indian Hero. In more recent years Japanese brands have left space to Indians and the market become a feud of Bajaj Auto, which in the 2014 hit an impressive record of 80% market share, actually declined at some more than 60%.
Others Indian brands are on top of sales, like TVS (with the Apache very popular), Hero, Mahindra (actually declined) and Royal Enfield. All Japanese are represented while KTM – thanks to the partnership with Bajaj and with vehicles arriving from India – is the leader among the premium brands. BMW was able to supply local police department in a country were the cc limit for road use is 250cc.