JAMA Four Motorcycle Manufacturers Joint Press Conference

posted Oct 17, 2010, 5:34 AM by Loose Tube   [ updated Jul 26, 2011, 11:46 PM ]

JAMA - July 28, 2010

Measures for simplifying the process of obtaining a license to operate Class-2 motor driven cycles (51~125cc) were proposed. The models in this category were indicated as especially practical in the future traffic society, with easier licensing procedures needed to help riders reap the full benefits of this class of motorcycle.

The worldwide motorcycle unit production in 2009 was heavily impacted by economic crisis. As a result, output fell by 4.8% from 2008 results to 50.15 million units, recording the first year-on-year decline in 11 years. Japanese domestic production in 2009 was also hard hit, down 48% from the previous year to 640,000 units.

Unit sales of motorcycle in major world regions during 2009 showed the majority of markets in decline, with Asia being the only region to chart gains. Sales grew in China, India, Vietnam and the Philippines, with Asia as a whole seeing unit sales rise by 6.4% over 2008 to 41.37 million units. South America, a region showing an increase trend through 2008, was dragged down by the recession to 2.68 million units (a drop of 24.7% from the previous year). Sales in Europe, which fell into negative growth from 2007 due largely to the impact of the subprime loan problem, finished 2009 down by 13.6% from the previous year at 1.78 million units. North America, a market where motorcycles sales have fallen for five consecutive years, declined by 36.8% in 2009 at 840,000 units.

Examining motorcycle unit sales in Japan for 2009, the situation continued to be harsh. This included uncertainty over the prospects for the economy, rising vehicle prices reflecting responses to stricter emissions regulations, motorcycle parking lot shortages in urban areas and other negative factors. As a result, sales for the year finished at 433,000 units (a decline of 23.5% from 2008). The market environment has also continued to be harsh in 2010, with sales for the year projected to fall by 6.8% from last year to 404,000 units.

Viewed by size categories, however, only the “125cc class” (Class-2 motor driven cycles with displacement of 51~125cc) is selling far above the previous year. The effects of new model introductions are one reason for this strength. For January-June 2010, while overall domestic sales of motorcycles have declined by 6.6% compared to the same period last year to 216,367 units, the 125cc class scored a healthy increase of 50.5% during those same six months at 45,524 units.

Motorcycles in the 125cc class are noted for being lightweight and compact, and continue to earn popularity for their mobility in commuting to work or school, taking shopping trips and other daily uses. They also excel in economy, while not being subject to the 30km/h speed limit applied to the “50cc and under” class and other restrictions. These and other advantages make motorcycles in this category the most efficient means of transport in urban environments. Examining the use of 125cc class motorcycles in Japan, however, shows that they account for only 12% (or approximately 1.48 million units) of total motorcycle unit ownership. In contrast, the unit ownership share of “50cc class” mopeds (Class 1 motor driven cycles with displacement of 50cc or less) is 61% (approx. 7.7 million units). This difference exists despite the fact that there are no major gaps between the 125cc and 50cc classes in terms of price, taxation, insurance premiums, fuel expenses and other total ownership costs.

Although 125cc class motorcycles are vehicles offering much the same convenience as 50cc class models, ownership in this category lags behind in Japan. One major cause of this situation is the heavy burden involved in acquiring licenses to operate 125cc class motorcycles. For the 50cc class motorcycles, no skills testing is required to obtain a license, while these mopeds may also be operated with an ordinary driver’s license. With 125cc class models, however, it is necessary to attend a driving school and obtain a license approving the rider to operate motorcycles up to 125cc in displacement. This process naturally requires considerable time and cost. Therefore, even if motorcycles in the 125cc class offer attractive merits, drivers will be discouraged by the trouble involved in actually acquiring a license.

Taking this to heart, JAMA has proposed the launch of a new license acquisition system for 125cc class motorcycles. Under this proposal, introduced under “skills training” would be shortened instruction hours and a shift from the conventional “skills testing” to a “skills evaluation” approach. With the changes envisioned, the time required to graduate from a driving school with a license in this size class would be reduced from about seven days to one to two days for automatic transmission models, and from about 10 days to two to three days for manual transmission units. Such a system would clearly make it easier to obtain 125cc class licenses. JAMA hopes to use this brand of simplification of the 125cc class license acquisition process to lighten the burdens on persons wishing to become licensed to operate motorcycles in this category. The ultimate goal is to empower this class to live up to the full scope of its usefulness in society as a more handy and familiar means of mobility.

Taking a look around the world, in Asia 125cc class motorcycles account for close to 90% of all motorcycle unit sales. This popularity is linked to the reputation of these cycles as handy and economical vehicles, while they are also closely matched to the needs of Asia as a region where tandem riding of motorcycles is heavily practiced.

In the European Union, meanwhile, the 125cc class is positioned as a so-called “entry level motorcycle” for the traffic society. Specifically, commuters to work, students and others can easily obtain licenses to operate motorcycles in this size category. There are also countries where it is legal to operate 125cc class motorcycles with an ordinary driver’s license.


As stated here, 90% of the vehicles in Asia are 125cc which means by definition the 50cc and 250cc sold in Japan are specific for Japan. As volumes fall, such models are no longer economic to produce. The real issue regarding the push to boost 125cc sales in Japan relates to production scale efficiency.

Relaxing the license law of the 125cc makes it easier to ride faster compared to 50cc models. If this is the goal, the appeal of the existing 50cc could be increased by simply increasing their maximum speed limit from the current 60kmh.