Japan’s e-bike market begins to decline – sales fall below 6 million units

Japan's e-bike market begins to decline - sales fall below 6 million units.

E-bikes originated in Japan and developed differently in China and Europe. Japan was the first country to develop, produce and sell electric bicycles.

In the 1890s, Yamaha invented the electric bike (called PAS, Power Assist System), which realized the hybrid drive of “human power+ electric power”, which is now popular as e-bikes.

Electric bikes have been growing steadily in Japan, but as the global market becomes more saturated, the Japanese electric bike market and the number of bicycles purchased by Japanese people are decreasing.

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    Electric bike sales are declining

    Japan’s terrain is mainly hilly, so bicycles have become the most convenient means of transportation for people’s daily travel, and Japan’s bicycle market has been on a growth trend.

    Since 2015, the official debut of high-level sports electric bicycles, driving the accelerated growth of electric bikes in 2016, and its market share is also growing year by year, and by 2021, the overall market size of Japan’s bicycle market will reach 842.9 million units.

    In 2021, the overall market size of Japanese bicycles reached 842,900 units, of which the market size of e-bikes reached 657,700 units, accounting for 78.02%, but in 2022, sales of electric bicycles declined for the first time.

    Affected by the high inventory of the global electric bike market, in 2022, sales of electric bicycles in Japan decreased by 8.8% compared to 2021 to 600,100 units.

    Electric bike sales are declining

    But due to the long-term popularity of bicycles, public acceptance of the high degree of production of electric bicycles has reached 82.1% of the bicycle market.

    Sales fell at the same time. Japan’s light bicycle sales also declined year by year, which is related to the decline in the number of cyclists in Japan. Japan’s bicycle penetration rate is high, but the population is gradually declining.

    The volume of purchases is also gradually decreasing. 2022 Statistics show that Japan’s domestic deliveries of 5.79 million units fell 16.1%.

    China is the main supplying country

    Japan is a major seller of electric bikes and a major importer of bicycles. In recent years, Japan’s domestic production and imports have declined, light bicycle production fell 26.7% to 93,000 units, imports fell 14.5% to 1.13 million units.

    China is Japan’s top importer, with 88% of Japan’s bicycle market demand dependent on imports, with mainland China and Taiwan providing 99% of its imports, and JPBI’s data shows that electric bike imports totaled 234,000 units in 2019, with 98.2% (230,000 units) imported from China.

    The value of Japanese imports can be seen in the rising prices of Chinese exports as well, with the value of domestically produced lightweight bicycles in Japan falling by 56%, while the value of Chinese imports rose by 10.4%, indicating that China’s exports are no longer low-end products that act as the bottom of the production chain, but are trending towards high-value, high-end trends.

    China is the main supplying country

    Bicycle price changes in Japan

    With the diversified growth in demand, the price of electric bicycles is on an upward trend.

    In addition to rising material prices, lifestyle changes under the new coronavirus epidemic are also contributing to higher bike prices, with electric-assisted products enriching their functions and improving the performance of their components, and especially high-priced electric-assisted bikes capable of long-distance riding are favored by consumers.

    A survey by Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications showed that the price of bicycles in July 2022 had risen by more than 70% compared to 20 years ago, and the average price of each electric bicycle sold in Japan in that year was about 96,200 yen.

    In addition, the price of light electric bikes has risen 74%, with the July 2022 survey showing an average unit price of 44,590,000 yen for bikes in cities with prefectural offices and cities with populations of more than 150,000 people.

    This is the highest price level in the last ten years, and 74% higher than the July 2002 price of 256,380 yen.

    Bicycle price changes in Japan

    Bicycle core company Shimano's first-half sales down 39.5%

    Recently, as one of the top 10 e-bike conversion kits brands in the world, Shimano announced its sales results for the first half of the year. For the first half of the year ending June 30, Shimano’s bicycle business posted net sales of 204,986 million yen ($1.45 billion).

    Operating income for the division fell 39.5% to ¥42.093 billion. On a quarterly basis, the bicycle division’s second quarter sales were down 18.6% from the same period last year, while the division’s operating income fell 7.5% in the quarter.

    Shimano: “Interest in bicycles continues to be a long-term trend, even though the coronavirus epidemic is far behind us and people are returning to normal life, and demand for bicycles has cooled.”

    On the other hand, recessionary concerns, including rapidly rising inflation, have led to a slowdown in sales of finished bicycles, and market inventories have remained generally high despite the company’s ongoing supply and demand adjustments.

    Bicycle core company Shimano's first-half sales down 39.5%

    In North America, sales remain weak and market inventories have been high.

    Sales were somewhat subdued in much of Asia and South and Central America, although sales were strong in China, particularly for road bikes.

    Shimano said the depreciation of the yen had slowed bike sales in Japan, and high inventory levels in Japan had contributed to poor sales there.

    Sales in Shimano’s fisheries division were similarly weak in the first half of the year, resulting in a 13.3% decline in company-wide net sales and a 33.4% decline in operating income in the first half of the year.

    Shimano cut its full-year sales forecast by 2.2% to 4.5 billion yen, down from its previous forecast of 4.6 billion yen. That would be a 40% drop from full-year 2022 sales.

    The main group of Japanese bicycle users

    Compared with the diversified product needs in Europe and the United States, such as long-distance travel, mountain sports, daily commuting, exercise, etc., Japan’s electric bicycles tend to be practical.

    In Japan’s cities, especially the big cities, traffic congestion is a serious problem, and many Japanese people choose to use bicycles to get around, and the compactness and flexibility of the bike make it easier and faster to get around the city, and it can bypass traffic jams and subway congestion. You can check the top 5 city electric bike for your reference.

    Therefore, commuters and housewives are the mainstay of the market, and the number of people who have purchased bicycles for ordinary use, such as commuting to and from work or school, has increased from five to six years ago.

    Japanese people say that bicycles can be the best way to travel, whether it is to go to work, school, shopping, or for leisure and recreation.

    In addition, silver-haired people who pursue spiritual enjoyment are the driving force behind the rapid growth of high-level e-bikes.

    In many cities and tourist destinations in Japan, bike paths are very well developed, thus giving rise to a number of groups of cycling enthusiasts in Japan, and this type of group of people’s enthusiasm for cycling is also promoting cycling and fitness attributes.

    The main group of Japanese bicycle users

    Hi, I'm an experienced writer about mechanic and an expert on bike and e-bike tech who appreciates practical, beautifully-engineered things. And of course, I love cycling.
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