Polish motorcycle market 2003

      In the last quarter of the previous century a vehicle called a motorcycle has changed itself significantly. At the end of the 19th century, when the automotive industry was born, a motorcycle was the simplest vehicle helping people in moving from place to place. For mankind it was an object that shortened the time of the journey, as far as increased the speed of travelling. In the times, when cars were not within average people's reach, manufacturers like FN, Scott, Indian, NSU and BSA fulfilled dreams of adventure and travel for the masses[1]. For decades, a motorcycle was technically upgraded and became the most popular means of transport world-wide. New phenomenons connected with motorcycles sprung up like mushrooms. Motorcycle racing, motorcycle tourism and customising were among many others activities more or less connected with motorcycles. From the early eighties a car had begun to squeeze out the motorcycle from the position of the most popular means of transportation in the household. Modern motorcycles are surely far away from being simple and cheap. In different parts of the world motorcycles and cars are at a comparable, technologically advanced level. Such a situation caused cars to become a more and more popular means of transportation. A motorcycle has been changed into a special vehicle that meets different requirements of its users. The process of changing the role of a motorcycle in modern transport is very slow but noticeable. One of the yardsticks of that process is growing number of sport disciplines in which motorcycles take part. Their variety has led to create such extreme sports like aerial stunts, beating records riding on the rear or the front wheel only.

      The Polish motorcycle industry dates back into late twenties of 20th century. The first mass-produced Polish motorcycle was the Lech, which was manufactured  1929 - 1932. Due to the economical difficulties of the country, the production did not exceed a few dozen. The best-known motorcycle made in Poland was the CWS. Its name comes from the name of the producer "Centralne Warsztaty Samochodowe". There were two versions produced, following the Harley Davidson and Indian construction examples. Up to today these models are associated with their market names Sokół 600 and Sokół 1000. Apart from Sokół Polish manufacturers produced such motorcycles as Perkun, Tornedo, SHL, Wul Gum, Moj, Junak, Komar, Osa and WSK.
      In the early seventies the number of registered motorcycles in Poland overwhelmed the number of registered cars. In those days Polish roads were full of motorcycles of more than one million. During the following decades, Polish cars made in Warsaw and in Bielsko Biała, became more and more popular. Simultaneously, production of WFM and WSK motorcycles, which motorised Poland a few decades earlier had been declining steadily. In 1985 a factory in ¦widnik shut down its activity, thereby ending the history of Polish motorcycle industry[2].
      Since the 1980s, a few Polish activists have tried to revive national motorcycle industry. Unfortunately, all without any success. Among these unsuccessful projects were Stella - a moped assembled in Nowa Dęba, Junak - which exists on the Polish market only as a label logo stuck on products from Far East or WFM which is attempting to be re-launched by an enthusiast, Mr Włodzimierz G±siorek[3].

Table 1. Number of motorcycles manufactured in Poland in years 1980 - 1989 (thousands).

Years 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989
Number 94,2 79,2 56,9 55,0 48,0 0,0 0,0 0,0 0,0 0,0

Source: Central Statistical Office, Statistical Yearbooks of Poland 1985, 1990.

Table 2. Number of mopeds manufactured in Poland in years 1980 - 1999 (thousands).

Years 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989
Number 126 105 93,1 107 107 107 113 117 106 93,9
Years19901991 199219931994 199519961997 19981999
Number15,36,6 1,31,61,4 0,90,30,0 0,00,0

Source: Central Statistical Office, Statistical Yearbooks of Poland 1985, 1990, 1994, 1997, 2000, 2001 and 2002.

      The Central Statistical Office's survey shows, that only 4% of Polish households possess a single-track vehicle (motorcycles, mopeds and scooters). From the beginning of the 1980's until 2001 the average number of motorcycles per household in Poland has decreased regularly. Among many different types of households, still the greatest amount of motorcycles is in the possession of farming households. This indicates that Polish statistics still calculate motorcycles which were popular in the communist times. Certainly many of them exist only in the statistics, not withdrawn from the registration offices.

Table 3. Number of motorcycles and mopeds registered in Poland in years 1980 - 2002 (thousands).
Years 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991
Number 1723 1751 1616 1624 1664 1547 1515 1470 1464 1411 1357 1236
Years 199219931994 199519961997 199819992000 20012002  
Number 113411681008 929876842 820804803 803869
Source: Central Statistical Office, Statistical Yearbooks of Poland,Warsaw 1985, 1990, 1997, 2000, 2002; Central Statistical Office, Little Statistical Yearbooks of Poland,Warsaw 2002, 2003.

            It seems quite easy to explain the trend shown in the table 3. Poland has not manufactured any motorcycles since 1985. The only available single-track vehicles have come from Japan, USA or Western Europe. However, products from the Soviet Block (e.g. Ural, Dniepr) have found many riders, who decided to travel eastwards to buy cheap, long lasting, soviet boxer motorcycles. Nevertheless, internal supply has shrunk completely and the volume of registered motorcycles simultaneously started to shrink as well. Moreover, border taxes effectively discouraged potential buyers from going West to buy a new motorcycle.
            Since then Poland has changed radically in terms of politics as well as economics. Thanks to the market economy, the average affluence of the society has risen noticeably. That led to the initiation of new style of Polish motorcycle market. At the very beginning, there were only a few dealers selling Japanese and German products. Currently, the motorcycle market in Poland is a fast growing, significant branch having its own fair and exhibitions. Additionally the number of entities that sell and repair motorcycles oscillate about 100 in the scale of the whole country.

Chart 1. Number of motorcycles and mopeds registered in Poland in 1980 - 1998 (thousands).
Source: Self study at the base of table 3.

            Year 2002 was the first time in 20 years, when the number of registered motorcycles and mopeds has risen. Increasing popularity of motorcycles is being recorded from 2000. Data describing 2003 will be available in August. This positive trend is caused due to the few factors worth mentioning. First, methods of spending free time in Poland expanded into the more sophisticated ones. Among them, we can find riding a motorbike as a sport activity or as a tourism. Second is the scale of traffic congestion. Huge traffic jams in big cities, directed drivers' attention to more flexible means of transport. Every car driver sees motorcycles and scooters push their way through the traffic jams. This makes some to change to a bicycle or a scooter, or a motorcycle. Nowadays, year by year, scooters dealers beat records of sales. One point of sale in Warsaw, sold about 500 scooters in the first eight months of 2003. Such a number seems magnificent, knowing that the level of sales ten years earlier was at about 1500 items all of Poland[4]. Perceiving the motorcycle owner as a person of a higher material status also causes popularity of motorcycles. The motorcycle is seen as a luxury rather than an item for everyday use. Such behaviour of Polish customers affects most expensive models only. Some of them treat a motorcycle like an investment, same as buying work of art or jewellery. This is justified by the fact that Polish chains of Harley-Davidson retailers have the biggest share in sales of the most expensive, Heritage Softail and Road King models[5].

           The Polish motorcycle market is still developing. Thanks to the small size and developing stage, it does not follow slumps or booms on the automotive market. When the German or American automotive market suffers, the volume of sales of cars and motorcycles goes down together. The Polish motorcycle market has nothing in common with Polish car market, which is one of the biggest in Europe. In 2002 and 2003 Poland was at the 8-th place in Europe in the list of best car sellers. There were 358 432 cars sold in 2002 and 308 294 in 2003. Market leader is Fiat with 15% market share. A single model of Fiat Panda (small car intended for cities) was sold in 12 844 pieces during the first four month of its sale. On the other hand, a Pole who buys a brand new motorcycle, is a well earning person in his/her forties. Only after building a house, buying a car and bringing up children, a Pole can decide to fulfil his/her dreams from childhood  - a motorcycle. Polish society still has a very negative stereotype of motorcyclists, due to repeating stories of aggressive hooligans who devastate public order. Nevertheless, well-educated and well earning people usually hide behind helmet's visors. They are also the core of the Polish motorcycle market.
           The Polish motorcycle market does not copy models of Western European markets as for the best sellers of the season. In the EU, there is increasing popularity of classic construction motorcycles, called naked bikes. They are very strong, fast and deprived of windshields and plastic parts of the body. In Poland, on the other hand, chopper and cruiser-style motorcycles still reign. Every make has its pillar model that holds the company on its place of the market. Using a BCG matrix's synonym such models are called cows. Such cows are business units that have a large market share in a mature, slow growing industry. Cows require little investment and generate cash that can be used to invest in other business units. In the Polish market, particular importers also have their cows. Most buyers are focused on these models. For Mitsui Motor Polska, a Yamaha importer, the cow is Drag Star 650 as well as 1100. However, the biggest increase in sales in 2002 was recorded for the R1 and R6, which are super sport motorcycles. Suzuki Motor Poland also has its market pillars. The VL 800 Intruder LC Volusia and the GSX 1300 R Hayabusa are the most popular. Similar to Yamaha, Suzuki also expands on the market due to the cruiser motorcycle and the sport one (R1). Despite Hayabusa represents sport-touring models, as the fastest mass-produced motorcycle is embodied in Poland with sport. Moreover, Suzuki Motor Poland highlights the considerable market share made by scooters[6].

Table 4. Number of brand new motorcycles and mopeds sold in Poland in years 1993 - 2002 (pcs.).
Years1993 - 1996 19971998 19992000 200120022003
Number1533 17933300 45375723* 5980*6521*11847
*  Due to the lack of official information from Motopol (Honda, Ducati and KTM importer) sale level of these models was estimated.
Source: Rzeczpospolita 28.12.1998; Motocykl 01/2001; Motocykl 03/2002; Motor Rynek 22/2000; Motocykle ¦wiata 2003, and 2004 year's issue, Wasaw 2003 and 2004; Motocykle Katalog 2002, year's issue, Wrocław 2002, own research.

           Analysing data from table 4, it is worth noting that more than 50% of the above numbers are vehicles with engines less than 50 ccm. Thanks to the low prices of scooters, these little two wheelers are the most available to young Poles. The aspect of age is very important while talking about popularity of particular models and types of motorcycles. First driving license for small motorcycles can have a Pole, who are 16 years old or more. Apart from that, a scooter or any other two wheeler up to 50 ccm, can be ridden without a license by an adult (18 years old or more). Thanks to such legislation everything necessary to undertake a ride on a two wheeler, is minimized.

Chart 2. Number of brand new motorcycles and mopeds sold in Poland in years 1993 - 2002 (pcs.).
Source: Table 4

           Chart 2 confirms statements made by the Polish biggest motorcycle importers about trend on the market[7]. Mentioned trend formula y=1250,8x - 474,18, where y symbolised number of sold motorcycles and x symbolises time (dashed line on the chart) proves a slow but stable progress in the level of sale of brand new motorcycles in Poland. Apart from that, an indicator R2 tells about vestigial deviation between the linear trend and absolute real values.

           On the base of chart 2 a forecast of the level of sales of motorcycles in Poland can be done. Calculating the formula, in 2004 there should be not less than 11.000 motorcycles sold in Poland.
           Having such a small scale of the market, orders from public institutions, such as police or the army are very influential on the annual result of a chosen brand. For instance, in 2002 Polish Road Police bought 250 units of the XJ 900 Diversion, specially equipped for serving on Polish roads. On the other hand, Border Guards bought the Austrian KTM for patrolling the borderline of Poland. There were no stories about any big contract for motorcycles in 2003. Despite that, Polish importers have believed in continuing the market trend. The expansion of the Polish motorcycle market can also be proved on the basis of the increasing number of magazines and newspapers aimed at motorcyclists. There were only two monthly magazines in 1999, touching upon motorcycles. Today we can find about five of them plus two moto-markets and many inserts in weekend issues of daily newspapers as well as in magazines devoted to cars. Despite that, we know that our market is tiny compared to the western countries. As an example one can observe the German market, where one single Suzuki model, Bandit 600 was sold in quantity exceeding 30.000 pieces[8].


  1. Hugo Wilson, Księga Motocykli, Bielsko Biała, 1996,
  2. Hugo Wilson, Encyklopedia Motocykli, Bielsko Biała, 1997,
  3. Auto Sukces 04/2001
  4. Rocznik Statystyczny Polski, GUS, different years,
  5. Mały Rocznik Statystyczny Polski, GUS, different years,
  6. ¦wiat Motocykli, monthly, years 1998 - 2003,
  7. Motocykl, monthly, years 1998 - 2003,
  8. Katalog Motocykle ¦wiata, year's issue, years 2000 - 2004,
  9. Motocykle - katalog, year's issue, years 2000 - 2004,
10. Rzeczpospolita, issued on 28.12.1998,
11. Pełnym Gazem, radio broadcast, Radio 94, Warsaw,
12. Self survey,

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[1]  Hugo Wilson, Księga Motocykli, Bielsko Biała, 1996
[2]  Wojciech Densiuk, Auto Sukces 04/2001
[3]  Szymon Dziawer, ¦wiat Motocykli 03/2003
[4]  Self survey at "Centrum Skuterów", August 2003, Warsaw.
[5]  Radio 94, Pełne Obroty, broadcast from 12.10.2003, Warsaw
[6]  Radio 94, Pełne Obroty, broadcast from 12.10.2003, Warsaw
[7]  Motocykl 03/2002
[8]  Motocykl 03/2002