The Rollercoaster Ride of Two-Wheeler Sales in India: A Tale of Peaks, Valleys, and Recovery


In 2018-19, two-wheeler sales in India reached a remarkable peak of nearly 21.18 million units, marking a 6% growth during the year. However, this glorious momentum took a sharp nosedive in the subsequent three years, plunging to a decadal low of less than 136 million units in 2021-22. With the economy gradually recovering from the impact of the pandemic, two-wheeler sales have shown signs of revival, reaching 15.86 million units last year. While the industry is poised to cross the 17 million unit mark this year, it remains significantly below the peak achieved in 2018-19. In stark contrast, the passenger vehicle segment has already bounced back to pre-COVID levels, with commercial vehicles and three-wheelers set to follow suit this fiscal year. This article delves into the rollercoaster journey of two-wheeler sales in India, exploring the factors that led to the peak, the subsequent decline, and the path to recovery.

*The Pinnacle of 2018-19: A Glorious Year for Two-Wheeler Sales*

The fiscal year 2018-19 was a golden era for the Indian two-wheeler industry. It achieved a record-breaking high of 21.18 million units sold, representing a remarkable 6% growth. Several factors contributed to this peak, including a burgeoning middle-class population, increased urbanization, and a growing demand for affordable and fuel-efficient transportation options. Furthermore, two-wheelers are considered an integral part of Indian households, serving as a primary means of transportation.

*The Three-Year Descent: Factors Behind the Decline*

Despite the exuberance of 2018-19, the following three years witnessed a consistent decline in two-wheeler sales. The primary factor behind this decline was the economic slowdown, which was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. As disposable incomes dwindled and consumer confidence waned, people began to defer their vehicle purchases. The pandemic-induced lockdowns and restrictions also disrupted manufacturing and distribution, causing supply chain bottlenecks. Consequently, sales slumped to less than 136 million units in 2021-22, a level not seen in a decade.

*The Rebound and Recovery: A Glimmer of Hope*

With the Indian economy gradually recovering from the pandemic’s impact, two-wheeler sales have started to show signs of a resurgence. In the previous fiscal year, 2022-23, the industry managed to sell 15.86 million units. It is anticipated that this year will see further growth, with estimates suggesting that two-wheeler sales are likely to cross the 17 million unit mark. This is a positive sign that the industry is bouncing back from its slump.

The recovery can be attributed to various factors. One crucial factor is the pent-up demand resulting from the lockdowns and restrictions of the previous years. Consumers who had postponed their vehicle purchases are now returning to the market. Additionally, the government’s focus on infrastructure development and its push for the adoption of electric two-wheelers have played a role in stimulating sales. Furthermore, the rise of last-mile delivery services, driven by e-commerce, has increased the demand for scooters and motorcycles, further boosting sales.

*The Ongoing Challenges: A Long Way to Return to Peak Levels*

While the industry’s recovery is a promising development, it’s important to note that even with the expected 17 million units in sales, the figures will still be 20% less than the peak achieved in 2018-19. This highlights the challenges that the two-wheeler segment continues to face. The economic uncertainties and supply chain disruptions that linger from the pandemic still cast a shadow over the industry. Rising fuel prices and input costs also pose significant challenges for manufacturers and consumers alike.

*Contrast with the Passenger Vehicle Segment*

In contrast to the two-wheeler segment, the passenger vehicle segment has already surpassed pre-COVID levels. This divergence can be attributed to the varying consumer preferences, economic dynamics, and the unique role that two-wheelers play in the Indian market. Passenger vehicles are seen as a status symbol and are often associated with higher income groups, while two-wheelers remain a practical and affordable means of daily transportation for a broader demographic.

*Expectations for Commercial Vehicles and Three-Wheelers*

On a more positive note, the commercial vehicle and three-wheeler segments are expected to follow a similar trajectory as passenger vehicles. These segments are closely tied to economic activities, such as logistics and transportation. As the economy continues to recover, the demand for commercial vehicles and three-wheelers is likely to increase, helping these segments regain their lost ground.

In conclusion, the Indian two-wheeler industry has experienced a rollercoaster ride over the past few years, from the peak of 2018-19 to the nadir of 2021-22 and now the path to recovery. The recovery is encouraging, but the industry still has a long way to go to return to its peak levels. The challenges posed by economic uncertainties, rising fuel prices, and supply chain disruptions persist. However, with the government’s push for infrastructure development and electric mobility, coupled with the growing demand for last-mile delivery services, there is optimism for the future. As the Indian economy continues to rebound, two-wheeler sales are expected to regain their momentum, although it may take some time to reach the heights of 2018-19 once again.


Disclaimer: The thoughts and opinions stated in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of any entities represented and we recommend referring to more recent and reliable sources for up-to-date information.