Why do you suppose MotoGP’s top riders are so often shown in press releases visiting Indonesia? The reason is that there are 65 million motorcycles on Indonesian roads, and last year, seven million new machines were sold there, as compared with just 1.1 million cars. In other words, when the US market took its terrible dive after 2008, Indonesia (and other Asian markets) is where Japanese manufacturers turned for continuing strong markets. Furthermore, because this Indonesian market is so youthful, there is tremendous interest there in motorcycle sport.
According to recent reports, Honda has more than 60 percent of that market, Yamaha is second with 32 percent and Suzuki, with five percent, is third. In a Global Business Guide Indonesia piece I read, Robbyanto Budiman, of Jakarta’s main Honda dealer, Wahanaartha Harsaka, said because 85 percent of new-bike sales are made on credit, that market has “taken a hit” from a recent government decision to raise the minimum down payment to 20 percent, and subsequent measures to raise interest rates (classic anti-inflation stuff for hot-running economies). The peak year was 2011, with 8 million bikes sold!
Some salient points:
- The major appeal of the motorcycle to Indonesians is as a cheap alternative to public transportation that is unreliable and of poor quality
- Half of bike owners are self-employed
- Half use their bikes in making a living
- Honda has been strong in reliability, fuel economy, and resale value, but not so good in product development and youth appeal
- Yamaha excels in youth appeal and in attracting first-time riders
- Brand-building in Indonesia has been expensive for Indian and Chinese makers
- Chinese producers have not backed their products with long-term maintenance
- Motorcycle sport has not exploded in China because Chinese buyers want cars
Budiman said that a Chinese producer offering high-end technology would be a very attractive joint-venture partner.
#1 Indoprix Race 2012 Seri-1
I Googled “motorcycle sport in Indonesia” and was treated to a video of a starting grid of sporty and amazingly fast step-throughs on the twisty kart track of the Sentul Circuit. Before the start, the riders looked just like riders on the grid of any MotoGP—tense and focused. Umbrella girls worked to keep their smiles on the job. That’s racing.
Now we see why major race series want events in Asian nations. World Superbike ran at Sentul 1994–97, and in 2013, the series signed a five-year contract there. Two Grands Prix were held at Sentul, as well, in 1996 and ’97.