Yamaha president, Takashi Kajikawa, is pushing for a hybrid motorcycle (possibly like their concept, Gen-Ryu?) by the end of the decade. This was just one of the interesting comments he made in an interview with The Times Online. Kajikawa noted that Yamaha faces a declining motorcycle market in Japan, even though it is growing everywhere else, and in the face of that domestic Japanese decline, Yamaha is diversifying into products such as electric wheelchairs, a product that is showing the potential for serious profits.
Yamaha’s corporate history has been one of dramatic shifts in business. The original — and now entirely separate — piano-making company gave rise to aeroplane propellers during the Second World War and became motorbikes and outboard motors a decade later. Kajikawa has embraced the ethos of corporate reinvention and is unabashed about targeting the greying market: “It cannot be denied or avoided: for the coming ten or twenty years the proportion of older people in Japan will increase. This is definitely an opportunity for us,” he says.
The Japanese market decline, where young men in Japan are not turning to motorcycles like they once were, is, according to Kajikawa, due to spending their time on computers instead of showing the rebel streak of the earlier generations. Their mothers also think it’s too dangerous and forbid them to buy motorcycles, a bad combination that hurts sales. Contributing, too, is a sinking Japanese birthrate and regulations like a law that forbids motorcycle riders from carrying passengers. Added together, the effect reduces Yamaha’s Japanese sales to only 10 percent of their total.
These comments help explain Yamaha’s push into metric cruisers, with their popular Star motorcycle brand in the U.S. which suits the U.S. market far more than it might many other countries. But Japanese boomers are also retiring soon, and many returning riders will likely spur sales as they have done elsewhere so Yamaha is not likely in permanent decline in their home market. It will be interesting to see what other new products Yamaha tries out in the coming years to deal with their home market troubles.