Thirst Increases for Motorcycle Oils


Thirst Increases for Motorcycle Oils
A traffic jam of cars and motorcycles in downtown Sao Paulo, Brazil. © Alf Ribeiro /

The global motorcycle oils market is projected to grow by a compound annual rate of 1.5% to 2% during the next four years, according to a forecast that predicts North America’s demand – due mostly to Mexico – will grow at the highest rate over that time.

North America and South America together accounted for just under 20% of global motorcycle oil demand in 2019, said Kline & Co., which pegs that global demand at between 1.5 million and 1.6 million tons.

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Sushmita Dutta, a project manager in the firm’s energy practice, said during an Oct. 7 webinar that although Asia-Pacific is expected to add the highest volume over the next five years, the North American market is forecast to grow by the highest percentage, “because of Mexico, which is a fast growth market, not because of the U.S. or Canada.” The latter two country markets are expected to see declining demand over the next five years, she added.

The company predicted that global demand for oils used in motorcycles, scooters and mopeds demand will slip to as low as 1.3 million tons in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts. For 2020, she said, “the degree of decrease in different countries will depend on how severely the pandemic affected the economy, the duration of lockdown and the kind of services that were considered non-essential during period of lockdown.” She added, though, that demand should recover in 2021.

The study covered factory and service-fill lubricants used in two-wheelers and excluded lubes used in three-wheelers, all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles.

Ninety-five percent of the engine oils used in two-wheelers are four-strike engine oils, she said. Other types of lubricants used in two-wheelers include fork oil suspension oil, greases, chain oil and gear oil.

Kline estimated motorcycle engine oil factory fill and service fill demand at 1,000 to 2,000 tons in North America and at 2,000 to 3,000 tons in South America. She noted that many owners of two-wheelers prefer to perform their own oil changes. Brazil ranked sixth in factory-fill motorcycle engine oil demand globally, the United States ninth and Mexico 11th. Many owners of two-wheelers prefer to perform their own oil changes, she added.

The company estimated South America’s motorcycle engine oil demand at 60,000 to 70,000 tons in 2019 and North America’s 20,000 to 30,000 tons. In South America, synthetic and semi-synthetic oils accounted for around 30% of demand, including less than 10% for full synthetics. In North America, synthetics account for almost 30% and semi-synthetics for around 10%.

Dutta noted that Mexico – considered part of North America for the study – is a price-sensitive market where conventional products make up 90% of motorcycle engine oil demand. By contrast, synthetic and semi-synthetic made up more than half of the United States’ demand last year.

In South America, synthetics – primarily semi-synthetics – have made inroads. In Colombia, conventional oils remain dominant, accounting for around three-quarters of motorcycle engine oil demand last year.

Kline projects that the global two-wheeler population will grow from about 700 million units in 2019 to 800 million in 2024.

Dutta noted that in developed countries such as the United States, the two-wheeler market is primarily focused on recreational usage by enthusiasts, who typically use them for motorsports, bike rallies, cruises and other recreational uses. “Bikers in this segment associate motorcycles with a certain lifestyle, and bike riding is a hobby for them,” she noted. “Even maintenance and servicing of their vehicle is kind of a hobby. Many of them engage themselves in doing oil changes by themselves.”

Such enthusiasts are very particular about maintenance, she added, and like to follow original equipment manufacturer recommendations. “They can be very brand loyal as well,” she said.

In the business use category, she explained that two wheelers are used for commercial purposes like food delivery, bike taxies and rentals. “Depending on the size and ownership of the vehicle fleet, servicing is done either on site or by specialty repair shops,” Dutta said. “Riders of such vehicles are not very brand conscious but are definitely quality conscious and like to purchase quality lubricants that are cost effective to them.”

In countries like Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, “we see a relatively higher share of business use of two wheelers,” she said.

Brazil and Colombia are the two important markets in South America, she noted, with other countries in the region having much smaller two-wheeler populations. Among countries, Brazil trails only India, Indonesia and China in motorcycle oil consumption. “This is because in Brazil, the frequency of oil change is quite high,” Dutta said.

The motorcycle oils market is highly fragmented, Dutta noted, with a large number of smaller suppliers accounting for about half of global demand in 2019. “The leading suppliers don’t have a very large share in this overall market,” she said. “BP is the leading supplier because it is present in most of the [motorcycle oils] consuming countries,” Dutta noted. Similarly, she said, Shell has a presence as motorcycle oils supplier in many markets. “Both these companies focus on innovative products, marketing and offer from time to time promotions to their customers and invest in advertising. All these activities make these companies the two leading suppliers to this market.”