Honda Motorcycle Sales History

Honda sports bike

From humble beginnings in 1949, Honda motorcycles have grown to be the best-selling motorcycles in the world. In 1947, Soichiro Honda experimented with putting small, surplus World War II generator motors on bicycles to provide cheap, efficient transportation to get around war-torn Japan. Honda now manufactures more than 10 million motorcycles a year.


Soichiro Honda founded Honda motorcycles in 1949. The company’s first motorcycle was the Dream D, a two-stroke. By 1952, Honda was making 7,000 motorcycles a year, which accounted for 70 percent of Japan’s motorcycle production, according to Honda opened its first sales room in the United States in 1959 in Los Angeles, and its first manufacturing plant outside of Japan in Belgium in 1963. Today, Honda motorcycles are made in 28 plants in 21 countries.

Best-Selling Honda

The Super Cub, a small sporty motorbike, was first manufactured in 1958; it was the successor to 1952’s Cub, which was a motor clipped onto a bicycle frame. At 50 million bikes sold, the Super Cub remains Honda’s best selling motorcycle. The Super Cub also is famous as the focus of a 1964 pop song, “Little Honda” written by Mike Love and Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys.

Recent Sales History

Honda manufactured its 150 millionth motorcycle in 2005; in the fall of 2008, it surpassed the 200 million mark, according to the Honda Motor Company. In recent years, the sale of Honda motorcycles has been affected by the poor global economy. In 2005, Honda sold 10.48 million units, but only 10.11 million in fiscal 2009. The 2009 sales figure is an increase from 2008’s 9.32 million, however. Honda also includes ATVs and scooters in their motorcycle division.

Companywide Sales

Motorcycles are the best-selling product that Honda makes. The sales volume is nearly triple that of Honda automobiles and slightly more than double for its power products, including lawn mowers. About 80 percent of Honda’s sales come from outside Japan, according to Honda’s 2009 financial report.

Comparison to Harley-Davidson

Soichiro Honda acquired his first motorcycle, a Harley Davidson, when he was 17 years old. Harley is the most popular motorcycle manufactured in the United States, but Harleys have nowhere the popularity in the United States that Honda enjoys. According to a report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Harley manufactures less than 300,000 motorcycles annually, with 30 percent of those motorcycles being sold overseas.