Markets
HMC

You'd Probably Never Guess That This Is the World's Best-Selling Motorcycle Brand

During the summer there's a good chance that if you hit the highway you're going to see quite a few proud Americans riding their motorcycles.Motorcycles are a true symbol of Americana , offering the opportunity for riders to experience the thrill of two-wheel riding and the unique freedom that comes with owning an iron horse.

According to Honda's 2013 annual report, the company, inclusive
of its subsidiaries and affiliates, sold 15,494,000 motorcycles
(including scooters) last year. Sales were skewed toward Asia, which accounted for slightly more than 13
million units sold, with Japan, North America, and Europe combining
for just 646,000 total units. Other regions, including emerging
markets, totaled roughly 1.8 million units.

Honda Motor 2013 annual report (link opens a PDF). Source: Honda.

According to Honda's 2013 annual report, the company, inclusive of its subsidiaries and affiliates, sold 15,494,000 motorcycles (including scooters) last year. Sales were widely skewed toward Asia, which accounted for slightly more than 13 million units sold, with Japan, North America, and Europe combining for just 646,000 total units. Other regions, including emerging markets, totaled roughly 1.8 million units.

Honda can attribute several factors to its Asia-Pacific, and global, success.

First and foremost, Honda understands how to keep pricing under control. While price might not be the biggest objection in the United States, as evidenced by strong sales numbers for Harley-Davidson and Ducati, cost is among the most important factors in a number of emerging-market countries. Although the middle class in China, India, and other rapidly growing emerging markets are seeing opportunities for wealth grow, this broad group of people still remains constrained by ample budgetary concerns. That means motorcycle manufacturers need to be smart with their pricing.

Honda, for example, has been manufacturing select models of its PCX series motor scooters in Thailand since 2009, beginning first with its 125cc-class scooters. Thailand offers some of the most competitive labor costs around the world, which has allowed Honda to build in the Southeast Asian nation, and then export its products to key markets at a reasonable cost. The end result is that Honda's motorcycles are competitively priced and well-received throughout its key markets.

Second, Honda understands that emerging markets are key to success. For example, Honda has established three motorcycle subsidiaries in the African nations of South Africa, Nigeria, and (most recently) Kenya. By expanding into underdeveloped and undermarketed regions which, until recently, have been ignored by the world's largest motorcycle manufacturers, Honda believes it can hit consumers' price points and desires while also beating its peers to the punch in getting manufacturing facilities off the ground. The company also recently expanded sales into Myanmar and Bangladesh. Don't forget that emerging-market economies can often grow independent of a global recession, meaning the potential for less volatility to hit Honda's top and bottom lines.

Innovation is another reason Honda stands head and shoulders above the competition. As Honda stated in its annual report, the company has identified a trend in a number of markets in which consumers are seeking a more "fun" riding experience and a bigger engine. Honda's plans include developing bikes with larger engines for its Brazilian customers, as well as the ongoing maturation of its middleweight-series motorcycles, such as the CBR500R, CB500F, and CTX700, which have larger engines and are as primed for pleasure as they are ready to get the rider from Point A to B.

2013 Honda CBR500R, CB500F, and CB500X. Source: Honda.

Putting things into perspective

From the standpoint of an investor examining Honda there are two important takeaways.

Perhaps the most important is that you need to put Honda's motorcycle sales into perspective with its other business segments, which include automobiles, financial services, and various power products. Despite being the best-selling motorcycle brand in the world last year, its motorcycle operations accounted for just 13.6% of total sales, while the automotive segment comprised 78% of total sales. The automobile segment, not surprisingly, offers Honda the potential for much beefier profits than its motorcycle segment, with operating income in automobiles nearly tripling that of motorcycles last year.

However, it's also worth noting that operating margins for motorcycles tend to be higher and more consistent than with automobiles. In other words, this is a business segment that Honda will want to continue to promote. Honda's entrance into new emerging markets and the costs and pricing associated with those moves could weigh on its operating margins, but the results for the past five years speak to the consistency of the motorcycle segment.

Honda's share of the motorcycle market coupled with its superior price leverage could be part of the formula that helps push its share price higher over the long run. And that could be welcome news foran avid rider considering investing for the future or an avid stock market hound looking for the next investment,

This technological shift has turned into Warren Buffett's worst nightmare!

A major technological shift is happening in the automotive industry. Most people are skeptical about its impact. Warren Buffett isn't one of them. He recently called it a "real threat" to one of his favorite businesses. An executive at Ford called the technology "fantastic." The beauty for investors is that there is an easy way to ride this megatrend. Click here to access our exclusive report on this stock.

The article You'd Probably Never Guess That This Is the World's Best-Selling Motorcycle Brand originally appeared on Fool.com.

Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong , track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong , and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong .The Motley Fool owns shares of, and recommends Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days . We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy .

Copyright © 1995 - 2014 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy .

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

In This Story

HMC HOG

Other Topics

Stocks

Latest Markets Videos

    The Motley Fool

    Founded in 1993 in Alexandria, VA., by brothers David and Tom Gardner, The Motley Fool is a multimedia financial-services company dedicated to building the world's greatest investment community. Reaching millions of people each month through its website, books, newspaper column, radio show, television appearances, and subscription newsletter services, The Motley Fool champions shareholder values and advocates tirelessly for the individual investor. The company's name was taken from Shakespeare, whose wise fools both instructed and amused, and could speak the truth to the king -- without getting their heads lopped off.

    Learn More