Suzuki has emerged as the biggest winner of the Japanese ‘Big Four’ manufacturers in terms of sales figures so far in 2022, with a sizable rise stimulating a fight-back from the firm after a prolonged period of decline.
Though ranked as the seventh largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world for 2021 in terms of global sales, Suzuki has nonetheless been steadily sliding down the order over the last ten years.
Indeed, with sales almost halving between a sales peak of 2m in 2012 to just 1.2m in 2020, Suzuki rebounded back to 1.7m in 2021 - an increase of 39% - partly due to the industry’s recovery from the COVID pandemic but also thanks it doubling its sales in the fast-growing Chinese market.
Suzuki’s performance comes despite an ageing range that has only seen fairly minor updates to the V-Strom 1050, Haybusa, GSX-S1000 and GSX-S1000 GT at the higher end of its line-up, while it is currently further behind its rivals in the development of electric models.
That said, by extending the shelf life of its models, Suzuki has found favour by repositioning itself as a more value-orientated brand compared with Japanese rivals Honda, Yamaha and Kawasaki.
Honda, meanwhile, consolidated its status as the world’s largest manufacturer with strong sales during the three months of April, May and June, up 10% compared with the same period in 2021. (Honda calculates and reports its annual sales during the 12-month financial year cycle - April to April).
The firm shifted 4.251 million PTWs (powered two-wheelers) during those three months thanks primarily to a big jump in the recovering Indian market. It is currently forecasting annual sales of 18-19m which, though down on its record 20m figures from pre-COVID 2019, would put it up on the 16.8m it sold in 2021.
An incremental gain of 0.3% means it will retain its status as the fourth largest manufacturer in the world, albeit potentially lose ground to third place Indian firm Hero and fast-expanding Chinese electric scooter firm Yadea, which ranked second in the 2021 global sales charts behind Honda.
The smallest of the Japanese firms in terms of global sales, Kawasaki has endured mixed fortunes in 2022 so far. Despite strong gains in North America and its home Japanese market - even with issues stemming from the ongoing semiconductor shortage - Kawasaki’s overall figures were hit by a huge drop of 33% in shipments to Europe.
Kawasaki’s story is reflective of a contracting European motorcycle market in general with Honda also recording a 25% decline, while BMW - which produces Europe’s best-selling motorcycle in the R1250 GS/GS Adventure - also posted a rare drop in sales.