Sri Lanka Motorcycles Market in the 2019 has reported the fourth decline in a row, losing 14.4% from the previous year and landing just over the 300.000 units. In the global chessboard, the country lost positions and actually ranks as the 18th. Of course, Indian brands dominated but Yamaha shines with a market share over the 20%.
The two-wheeler industry is reflecting the not easy economic momentum of Sri Lanka and the domestic sales are declining progressively, with 2019 figures down for the fourth year in a row. Actually the market ranks as the 18th in the World, while in the next five years should be able to change the current trend and recover volume substantially, probably been back at the 2015 record level
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 total sales (including moped, motorcycles and tricycles) have been just over the 300k, losing 14.4% from the previous year.
“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.