5 of the World's Best-Selling Motorcycle Brands. Do You Know Who's No. 1?

Americans aren't the only ones who love to ride. Find out what company sells the most motorcycles in the world.

Jan 25, 2014 at 10:12AM

For motorcycle enthusiasts, it can be difficult to know what brands are the top sellers, because they're seldom owned by purely motorcycle-focused companies, which can make it difficult to find sales data. Case in point: Ducati, which is owned by Lamborghini, which is owned by Audi, which is owned by Volkswagen. Luckily, Volkswagen is publicly traded, so its sales data is readily available.

Today we'll look at five motorcycle companies with publicly available sales data to see which one reigns supreme -- Ducati, Honda (NYSE:HMC), BMW, Harley-Davidson (NYSE:HOG), or Polaris (NYSE:PLL).

No victory for Polaris ... yet

Victory Polaris

Cruising on the Cross Country. Image: Polaris.

Polaris owns the Victory and Indian brand names and chalked up $195.8 million in motorcycle sales in 2012. The company doesn't give information on units sold, but even at a low estimated average transaction price of $12,000, that puts the company at 16,250 motorcycles sold. Polaris hasn't tackled international markets, though, and as a result it comes in at the bottom of the list.

Not even close, Ducati


Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Ducati, which can be viewed as a luxury brand in the motorcycle world, also has luxury-type sales numbers. In 2012, Ducati sold around 44,000 two-wheelers. The company is growing in the double figures in the United States and now claims 10% market share in its target market.

This German is stuck in neutral

Bmw Moto

The S 1000R: BMW's wheelie-happy naked sportbike. Image: BMW.

BMW's Motorrad division sold a whopping 117,100 bikes in 2012, of which 106,400 were BMWs and 10,700 were Husqvarnas. BMW's motorcycle sales have recovered from their 2008 lows, but it remains to be seen what the future will hold, with a Lamborghini-backed Ducati brand attacking some of its key markets.

The fastest hog you've ever met


Harley's Screamin' Eagle drag-racing bike in action. Image: Harley-Davidson.

America's favorite cruiser comes in at second place with 249,849 bikes sold around the world in 2012. The company still has a sizable foothold in America and has recently seen 39% unit sales growth in Latin America. Look for Harley to continue making up ground south of the border in the near future.

And the winner is ...

Honda Crf

2014 CRF450R: Honda does more than just street bikes. Image: Honda.

Honda's motorcycle division sold nearly 15.5 million motorcycles in 2012, of which 13.2 million came from Japan and other Asian countries. In North America the company also dominates, with 153,000 bikes sold, a 43% increase over the previous year. Honda has seen sales boosted by the incredible success of its new NC700X model in North American markets. Look for Big Red to continue its spot as the world's largest motorcycle company for quite some time.

Final thoughts
Honda reigns supreme for a variety of reasons, but its presence in Asian markets and its lower price point on commuter bikes give it a huge advantage over the rest. In the following video below, Fool analyst Blake Bos looks at all five of these manufacturers and tells investors which pick he thinks has the best opportunities going forward.

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Blake Bos has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends BMW and Polaris Industries. 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.

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