The world's 10 biggest motorcycle manufacturers are not what you might expect

The numbers have been crunched to determine the 10 biggest manufacturers in the world in terms of sales volume... and the results really might surprise you

Yamaha XSR 900

We may now be half-way through 2022 but it has taken almost six months for the numbers on 2021 to be crunched when it comes to determining the biggest motorcycle manufacturers in the world.

To be fair, there are a lot of numbers to sift through. Indeed, looking at the biggest firms in the world, Honda right at the top accounts for a mammoth 16.8 million sales alone. 

The Japanese firm holds sway by some margin in many markets, not least in the UK where it generally leads Yamaha, Triumph, BMW and budget Chinese firm Lexmoto.

Buying habits on a global scale, however, do really vary so when you look at the top ten below - which we will count down from 10 to 1 - there may be a couple of names you don’t recognise. 

First up, a bit of housekeeping. These totals (supplied by Motorcycles Data] include motorcycles, scooters and three-wheelers, but rule out ATVs, rickshaws and the like… which is shame for some Indian firms as the latter’s inclusion would see them right up there with Honda.

10 - Italika [0.9 million sales]

Now, we wouldn’t blame you for not having ever heard of Italika. And we wouldn’t be surprised that with a name like that it originated from Italy.

Instead, Mexican firm Italika is a force of motorcycling in Central America and one that has enjoyed a startlingly rapid rise up the ranks since it was founded in only 2004. It has posted an uptick in sales for each of the last 17 years with its 2021 total seeing it bump out Italian powerhouse Piaggio from the top ten.

Majoring on low capacity, low cost and low maintenance machinery, Italika’s scooter and motorcycle range doesn’t creep above 250cc but they are original productions that have enjoyed immense success in its native Mexico, plus populous nations as Guatemala, Peru, Brazil, Costa Rica, Honduras and Panama.

The success might see it get a bit more ambitious though with rumours it is preparing to launch a mid-size sportsbike with around 650cc.

9 - NIU [1.0 million sales]

The first of two all-electric manufacturers inside this top ten, NIU has made huge strides over the last 12 months.

Already a big hit in its native China, NIU’s mammoth 76% growth in 2021 was helped by the growing shift towards electric scooters in Asia and increasing popularity of such models in Europe too where it competes with the likes of Vmoto Super Soco.

8 - Haojue [1.37 million sales]

The Chinese Haojue marque would have been higher in this list if it considered the many models it offers in emerging markets under licence from Suzuki.

But even on its own Haojue produces impressive sales numbers with its range of low capacity models available at knockdown prices. They aren’t sophisticated but that isn’t what many buyers in its many markets are looking for.

7 - Suzuki [1.7 million sales]

After a period of decline, Suzuki is rebounding back up the sales charts with a big 38% increase in sales of its models in 2021.

The Japanese firm has been courting some rather concerning headlines at the moment on its four-wheel side, with a looming fine and boardroom reshuffle as a result of an investigation into emission cheat devices, which in turn is believed to be a major factor into its decision to shutter its MotoGP effort.

However, a focus on bringing minor updates to its ageing models - a method that has seen it reposition as something of a value-for-money brand -  seems to be reaping benefits. 

Regardless, it is its mammoth footprint in the crucial Indian market - where it dominates on the four-wheel side - that ultimately controls Suzuki’s global fortunes.

6 - TVS Motors [2.4 million sales]

You might not have heard of TVS Motors on this side of the world before it swooped in to save Norton Motorcycles from collapse, but these figures show it is actually kind of a big deal.

It is the third best-selling Indian manufacturer, which accounts for the vast majority of its 2.4 million sales in 2021, a rise of just over 3%.

5 - Bajaj [2.6 million]

Another name maybe not so familiar over here but a force in Asia, it is worth knowing Bajaj’s name anyway.

Formerly a major stakeholder in Kawasaki, Bajaj now goes a long way to pumping money into the Pierer Group responsible for KTM, which gets to use the firm’s low cost manufacturing facilities in return.

Similarly, Bajaj will be the construction behind Triumph’s much anticipated new range of affordable motorcycles, the first of which could be revealed before the end of the year.

4 - Yamaha [4.1 million sales]

Though its sales figures pale in comparison to that of major rival Honda, Yamaha is still producing some impressive results year-on-year.

Its sales rose 13.5% in 2021, stimulated by what has been a quicker range overhaul than that of Honda with a fresh MT-09, MT-10, the Tracer range, R7, R3 and XSR900 arriving in the last 18 months or so.

3 - Hero [5.1 million sales]

The largest Indian manufacturer in the world thus equates to one of the largest manufacturers in the world outright.

That said, it is the only firm inside the top ten not to post a sales growth in 2021, which in turn has lost it its prized #2 spot. But it still sold 5.1 million motorcycles and scooters last year, while the figure would be significantly more if rickshaws and commercial models were included.

2 - Yadea [6.1 million sales]

And now the big surprise. Its range may be electric and only produce scooters, but Yadea has rocketed up the sales charts in recent years to hold the runner-up spot overall in 2021.

While little-known in Europe, Yadea has been the leader in the huge Chinese market space in recent years, allowing it to take full advantage of government incentives towards purchasing an EV to become an immense success.

Moreover, it has done it by quite some margin, with 6.1 million sales dominating closest rivals NIU by a rather significant 5 million units.

See, even Vin Diesel has one…

1 - Honda [16.8 million]

No surprises to learn Honda remains the biggest manufacturer in the world - partly because it was mentioned at the top of this article - but its mammoth margin over the competition is something to behold.

While its 2021 figure is still some way down on the 20 million it achieved in its record year pre-COVID, Honda bounced right back in 2021 with a 12% increase that assures it of a remarkable 28.5% market share globally.