The moment you come on a road you see dozens of motorcyclists trying to overtake you from both sides or, at a traffic jam, passing through the smallest spaces available to them between other vehicles. These incidences increase exponentially at the traffic signals.
According to the Association of Pakistan Motorbike Assemblers (APMA), the number of motorbikes manufactured in the country stands at 1.65 million per year. Out of these, a little above 40 per cent are of Japanese make and the remaining are assembled mostly by local assemblers in collaboration with Chinese companies. Besides these, there is a motorcycle brand — Ravi — launched with the support of an Italian company, Piaggio, which has supplied Vespa scooters in the past.
A good news is that a major Japanese make — Yamaha — has re-entered Pakistani market and announced to manufacture 40,000 units every year. Though the 125cc motorcycle they have launched costs a whopping Rs 125,000 per unit, the demand is so high that people are ready to buy it on premium. The buyers are preferring it over Honda CG 125 that costs Rs 102,900.
In words of Hiroyuki Yanagi, President Yamaha Motor Co Ltd, the company will try its best to meet the growing demand of Pakistan’s motorcycles market of 1.65 million units per year. He foresees the motorcycle production to exceed three million units in the country by 2020, keeping in view the population growth rate.
Sources in the motorcycle industry say the number of motorcycles produced in Pakistan increased drastically after the year 1999 when local assemblers were provided incentives to set up their units. Before 1999, there were only three assemblers in the country. But today the number is more than 100, though not all of them are functional at the moment. Due to this development, the motorcycle industry experienced an average growth of 35 per cent per year during the decade.
APMA office-bearer, Sabir Sheikh, says the most important factor behind the popularity of Chinese motorcycles is their reasonable price range. The Chinese motorcycles, he says, have challenged Japanese brands, forcing them to bring down their prices. Today, many of the 70cc Chinese brand motorcycles are available within a range of Rs 35,000 to Rs 40,000 and that also on easy installments. This has further increased affordability and resulted in an increase in demand.
Makhdoom Ahmed Sheikh, a partner of Makhdoom Corporation, one of Lahore’s biggest Honda dealerships, believes production of motorcycles in the country exceeds 2 million not all of these are counted. “Only those units are counted that pay sales tax,” he adds.
Sheikh tells TNS that the demand for Chinese motorcycles has increased also because people who would buy second-hand motorcycles prefer to buy Chinese ones. He says the sale of Japanese motorcycles has suffered due to introduction of Chinese motorbikes but people are gradually returning to the former. He says Honda CD 70 reduced its price from Rs 69,500 to Rs 63,500 in April and the result was phenomenal. “The company sold 70,000 motorbikes in just one month — an all time record in Pakistan.”
Sheikh says the sales are high in summer season and low in winters when people prefer to stay inside. Similarly, the demand increases if there is good harvest and vice versa. The times when expatriates return to the country on religious festivals also means sales.
He says the local motorcycle industry has reached above 90 per cent localisation level. “This saves the industry from adverse effects of currency devaluation and helps it control prices,” he concludes.