David McMullan's blog
|Posted by Shem on June 12, 2018 at 11:55 PM||comments (1)|
In 2017 Chongqing off-road motorcycle and quadbike specialist Shineray joined forces with auto-maker Brilliance Auto to produce the SWM X7 SUV car and join the growing list of motorcycle manufacturers who are moving into the automotive market. This move displays a trend for motorcycle manufacturers to either diversify or expand in order to continue trading in an era when the market cannot support the multitude of motorcycle factories manufacturing in China, especially in light of the general trend of declining sales.
Back in 2006 there was over 100 motorcycle companies operating production lines in Chongqing alone, a good proportion of them ‘one line’ export factories that provided super-cheap models for the African and domestic markets. Unlike India in which the Hero Group and Bajaj share a huge proportion of the market the Chinese market was shared by a multitude of smaller companies. The number of Chongqing motorcycle factories still operating is now less than 40 relevant companies and is likely to reduce even further over the coming years.
Many of the smaller companies that have remained manufacturing have joined together with other similar sized companies to become middle-sized in an effort to compete with India on traditional markets and to expand their range to new territories. A representative example of this was explained to me by Troy Ma, an ex-export clerk for motorcycle manufacturer Kington-Liyang who reported that “Kington’s supply chain and buying power was not big enough for the company to expand in certain areas including the development of a range of dirt bikes with DOT and EPA for the US market. They were approached by a rival company called ‘Andes’ and after negotiation it was decided to merge the two companies to increase buying power of parts and increase the range of the supply chain. This is a phenomenon that we now see happening all over China. In Zhejiang province the biggest rivals to the Chongqing companies are Keeway (the company that own Italian marque Benelli) and in Guangdong province it is Qianjiang. They have been snapping up smaller companies for the last few years and have expanded their influence world-wide. It’s not just smaller motorcycle manufacturers coming together, the whole buying out or merger phenomenon started 12 years ago when Loncin, who are obviously a very large company, bought out another large company in Kinlon. That was the start of it all”
In recent years the upsurge in the demand for electric bikes has been a catalyst for change in the industry as more urban centres ban traditionally-fueled motorcycles from their roads. It is now estimated that there are more than 150 million electric bicycles, scooters and motorcycles on China’s roads and motorcycle manufacturers are beginning to react to the trend by producing their own EV. A good example of this is Chongqing giant Zongshen who have previously set up a company called Zongshen PEM Power Systems which is dedicated to “electric motorcycles, electric bicycles and other e-vehicles in China for the Chinese domestic and international markets. Zongshen PEM Power System's largest shareholder is Zongshen Industrial Group, one of China's largest manufacturers and distributors of engines and power equipment.”
Cars and vans
As mentioned above (Shineray and brilliance) more and more Chinese motorcycle manufacturers are looking at diversifying by entering in to the manufacture of cars and vans. The biggest and most famous of these companies is Lifan (who were for many years China’s best known motorcycle manufacturer) who sell close to 300 thousand cars a year and was “successfully listed in Shanghai Stock Exchange as the first private passenger car A stock listed in China.”
The smaller (but still bigger than motorcycles) end of the auto spectrum sees mini-van releases by Dayun, Loncin, Dayang and many others.
While not strictly a recent phenomenon bigger Chinese manufacturers have often joined forces with more famous foreign manufacturers for the sake of improving their technical nous or just plainly to use a brand that is recognizable to the motorcycling public (especially in light of the fact that a huge percentage of exported Chinese motorcycles are re-branded). Some of the more famous examples are Loncin (BMW), Zongshen (Piaggio and Norton), Qinqi (Suzuki and Peugeot), Jianshe (Yamaha), Lifan (MV Agusta), Qianjiang (owners of Benelli), Jialing (Honda), and CFmoto (KTM).
These joint ventures come in many guises; some are full-on manufacturing deals like Jianshe manufacturing Yamaha’s commuters for the Chinese market and the agreement for Loncin to make BMW engines and scooters, Lifan who sell MV Agusta machines through their dealerships. Some arrangements are for tech as in Norton’s contract to supply Zongshen with engines for 20 years. There are them just straight forward buy outs of foreign companies as in Qianjiang’s procurement of Benelli and Shineray’s purchase of SWM from Italy (incidentally Shineray is using the SWM brand for its new car along with a shiny badge showing the Italian flag)!
So here we can see that Chinese manufacturers are adapting rapidly in order to keep profits up, but then we never suspected that they were building motorcycles for the love of riding anyway.
|Posted by Shem on June 5, 2018 at 3:05 AM||comments (0)|
Zongshen’s recent engine manufacture deal with Norton caused a lot of people to write to me asking “why couldn’t Zongshen develop their own engine?” I suppose this is a relevant question considering that Zongshen produces hundreds of thousands of its own engines every year and has recently spent millions of dollars on a new research and development centre. The truth is that the Chinese industry does still need help from outside (foreign) sources in certain areas but is also making great strides itself, often with financial help from local governments.
Local governments in China (often at provincial level) have acknowledged that the Chinese motorcycle industry is evolving in its effort to progress with regard to creating quality and technical standards on a par with the Japanese and Europeans. As a result governmental moves are being made in China’s 3 largest motorcycle manufacturing provinces/ areas (Chongqing, Guangdong, Zhejiang) to supply subsidies to aid the upgrading of motorcycle manufacturing facilities and the education of the next generation of research and development experts. Previously Qianjiang (producer of the Keeway brand and owner of Benelli) had declared that the provincial government of Zhejiang Province would implement “industrial technology innovation and comprehensive pilot work in order to accelerate the setting up of "enterprise-oriented, enterprise-leading, industrial technological innovation systems, closely integrated production, study, research and application, cultivation and support emerging motorcycle technologies.” The company later received in excess of 2 million dollars as a ‘support fund’ designed to improve the R&D of industrial production line robots.
One of the major considerations of the modern Chinese industry is to develop their ‘smart industry’ (integrating IT applications with industrialisation). China’s premier online motorcycle media i-motor reported that “the Chongqing Municipal Government has joined with the local motorcycle industry to create an intelligent programme for industrial transformation and to stimulate the potential power for industrial transformation and upgrading, forming new paths for the integration of IT application with industrialisation featuring intension, interaction, interconnection and innovation in the developing regions.”
Commenting on the effect of this programme Huang Chengcai, general manager of Chongqing Baisha Ltd. has seen the improvement of working efficiency. He stated “we started to implement the MES system (system for information-based management of enterprises’ production process), and now I can learn and understand the whole production process of the company on the telephone terminal. It is clear that developed independently in Chongqing, the MES system has now been successfully implemented and applied in over 50 manufacturing enterprises including Chongqing Sokon Industrial Group Co., Ltd., Shineray Chongqing Motorcycle Co., Ltd, South Air International Co., Ltd, and Chongqing Loncin General Purpose Engine Co., Ltd. It has be seen from the feedback of the enterprises that the application of this system improves the average production efficiency of enterprises by 25%, improves the product quality pass rate by 30%, decreases average energy consumption by 10%, and reduces the product cost by 20%, thus achieving an economic benefit of over RMB 100 million overall.”
In Chongqing, Lifan’s EFI development unit the ‘Chongqing Lifan Electronic Fuel Injection Company’ announced that their newly developed electronic fuel injection system has been successfully applied in various models and its self-developed ECU (electronic control unit) products have set a world record for the world’s smallest and most highly integrated ECU.
Also in Chongqing, last month 2 government funded bodies the ‘Department of Science Technology’ and the ‘Department of Science Technology (CSGC) conducted a site acceptance test on the “097 Plan” programme of CSGC -- the “Application Research on the Key Technologies of the New-type Four-valve Water-cooled Electronic Fuel Injection Small and Medium Displacement High-performance Engine”. This programme was led by the CSGC and included the participation of motorcycle industry giant and founder Jialing. Once the CSGC officially set up the programme they obtained governmental financial support of RMB 9 million. The main goal of this programme is to develop world-class small and medium displacement, four-valve, water-cooled, electronic fuel injection and high performance engines using Chinese technology.
It would seem that the motorcycle industry is taking a lead from its electric counterpart in terms of ground breaking product development and have shown that they can innovate and are no longer condemned to ‘cloning’ and also as a result are also becoming less reliant on foreign technology advisers. It’s fair to say that over the next 5 years you will see the Chinese industry leading the way in certain new technologies as they continue to receive funding for new research and development projects.
|Posted by Shem on October 3, 2016 at 3:20 AM||comments (0)|
China: Less Attention Given, Less Sponsorship
Motorcycle races are favoured by global competitive sports fans due to its features of excitement, low participation threshold and low team costs. However, motorcycle racing is not as popular in China. The ban on the use of motorcycles in China also contains the development of motorcycle sports. The majority of audiences of two major motorcycle races in China CSBK and CRRC are motorcycle fans. These two events are not known by any other sports fans. The direct influence of less attention given to the event is lack of sponsorship. We can hardly see any big international or professional sponsors on the sponsor list of the CSBK. China Superbike Championship）China Road Racing Championship）
Sponsor shortage will affect the overall performance of the race. The racing costs of riders and teams will rise and their enthusiasm for the race will decrease. If things continue like this, Chinese motorcycle sports events will lag further and further behind overseas motorcycle sports events. In addition, international motorcycle manufacturers give little attention to Chinese motorcycle sports events; this fosters a lack of confidence in the Chinese motorcycle market. That's why Japan's four major motorcycle manufacturers (Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki) are largely under-represented in China.
Abroad: More Sponsorship, High Attention Given
When one speaks of overseas motorcycle sports event, many people will think of Moto GP and SBK the popularity and influence of which can compete with world class car sports events. We can easily find the names of many world famous companies on the sponsorship list of SBK. Meanwhile, Ducati, Japan's four major motorcycle manufacturers and others always sponsor motorcycle racing teams and give their latest motorcycle models to the racing teams. This helps make the race competitive and more entertaining. When a racing team wins the crown, the motorcycle sales of its sponsors will be increased. This virtuous circle helps boost the popularity of these world class motorcycle sports events.
We can tell that the development of the motorcycle industry has a positive influence on traffic, environment protection and economic development by comparing the Chinese motorcycle market development situation with its international counterparts. We hope that local governments can lift the ban on the use of motorcycles in China as early as possible so that more motorcycles can take the place of cars to become once again a major transport tool in cities.
|Posted by Shem on September 28, 2016 at 3:35 AM||comments (0)|
BMW and Loncin have created a partnership that offers spectacular benefits for both parties in the short term. Loncin manufactures engines for BMW under a license agreement. These Loncin production engines are in the 47bhp class the power limit for novice riders in the UK and the standard for BMW entry-level big bikes. From 2005 through 2012, Loncin shipped approximately 35,000 engine units to the Berlin Factory at Spandau. The engines powered the G650GS and were part of a record sales year for BMW in 2012.
From Austria to China
In the 2011 BMW G650gs production country switch, BMW moved business to Loncin in China as a costs savings move. It also provides a method for BMW to acquire deeper involvements in the Chinese and Asian markets. The production switch from the Austrian Rotax works to a factory in China reduced costs. However, it has raised questions about quality standards among consumers. BMW has stood firmly behind the policy statement that the move to Chinese production with Loncin has not compromised its quality standards and tolerances. Since 2005, Loncin has produced engines for the G650GS motorcycles at the Chongqing factory. Loncin ships the units to the BMW Spandau Plant in Berlin for assembly.
Restricted Sales in China
By the 2011 BMW G650gs production country changes, Loncin gained the right to produce motorcycles for sale in China using the G650GS engine. Loncin introduced the CR9, a road bike using the same engine as BMW's G650GS, at the Chinese motorcycle show in 2009. It has sold extremely well in China since as a premium motorcycle. The agreement initially has restricted sales to China. In so doing, they have by-passed other Asian markets where Loncin Chinese-made motorcycles compete with competition at all price levels. The CR9 initially sold for $8,000 in China, a premium price-range product.
Now Bigger Engines Too
In November 2013, BMW entered into a new agreement with Loncin. Following on the 2011 BMW G650gs production country change, the new agreement will produce 300,000 units of large displacement motorcycle engines, in the 650cc class. The arrangement establishes Loncin as the leading Asian producer of large displacement engines following on its initial successes with 47bhp engines for the BMW G650GS and its own CR9 model.
The relationship has expanded due to successful results for both parties. One anticipates that the large displacement engines will someday become power plants for high-powered Loncin models following on the success of the CR9. On a global basis, the Asian growth markets include the emerging potential of India as a consumer of luxury goods.
A road bike using the same engine as BMW's G650GS has been unveiled at the Chinese motorcycle show.
Chinese firm Loncin, which makes the single-cylinder 650 engine for BMW under licence, is using it to power its new CR9 naked roadster.
It comes with the same 47bhp power output as the BMW and costs just over £5,000. But because of the firm's licence with the German manufacturer, the machine cannot be sold outside China, according Loncin's Deputy General Manager Mike Shen.
Shen said: “We've had an operation with BMW since 2005 and we have exported more than 35,000 units to them in the past five years, so this is a mature engine.
“But we have an agreement with BMW to supply the CR9 only in China. So we cannot sell in Europe at this moment."
On March 12, 2015, LONCIN Motor Co., Ltd(hereinafter referred to as Loncin) and the German BMW (hereinafter referred to as BMW) signed a new agreement. According to this new agreement, Loncin will undertake the manufacturing of 350CC large displacement water-cooled scooters and the engines for BMW. The product will be made completely in accordance with BMW's standard and Euro IV requirement as well. It will be sold in BMW's global markets (including China market) and the expected annual output is around 15,000 units.
To meet the product's high quality requirement, Loncin will invest about one hundred million RMB to upgrade all the equipment and facilities related to the manufacturing process of the scooter to the world's first class standard. And then the product will gain advantage in aspects of quality, cost and assembling time.
The signing of the new agreement marks the deepening cooperation between Loncin and BMW. Loncin realizes from just big replacement engine manufacturing to vehicle assembly for BMW, and this will further consolidate Loncin's advantage in the motorcycle field.
LONCIN Motor Co., Ltd and BMW's cooperation also shows that Chinese large displacement motorcycle manufacturing capacity has reached the world advanced level, and Chinese motorcycle manufactures are on the progress of "from big to strong".
|Posted by Shem on September 23, 2016 at 1:10 AM||comments (1)|
A couple of years ago I predicted that the winds of change would have to blow through the Chinese motorcycle industry for it to evolve. It was quite obvious that the industry was flagging and needed a large injection of new ideas to get it rolling again and it seems that Zongshen have taken the lead in pushing forward the reputation of the industry.
One of the serious problems facing the industry is the ‘Indian invasion’ on traditionally safe Chinese markets in Latin America and Africa. Zongshen’s reaction to this is to start a campaign which actively targets commuters in Europe and the USA. Over the next couple of years many marketing campaigns will be launched at EICMA Milan, EUROMOT Cologne and other venues which will see Zongshen changing their brand name to ‘Cyclone’ and producing high quality products for these regions.
The ‘Cyclone’ brand naming is a reaction to the Chinese industry trend of producing OEM and rebranding for just about every customer. On the European and American markets Cyclone will be the name of Zongshen’s products and there will be no rebadging much in the same was that QJiang promote their ‘Keeway’ brand in Europe.
Another boost to the Zongshen reputation comes from joint ventures and technical partnerships with international motorcycle manufacturers and parts factories. Zongshen have enjoyed a successful partnership with Piaggio for many years and share a scooter making factory in Foshan, Guangdong. In recent months Zongshen have stepped up their quest to produce better quality products as they are just about to dry the ink on an exciting new adventure which will see them collaborating with Norton to make bigger (in China 600cc is a big displacement engine) and better engines and perhaps eventually (according to Zongshen) produce a Norton motorcycle for the Asian market.
Zongshen Manager Thomas Fan stated “it’s a perfect partnership, we get to improve the quality of our bigger displacement engines and then we can help Norton to their rightful place as one of the world’s leading motorcycle manufacturers. We initially went to David McMullan to ask him if he could advise us on whom to approach with regard to evolving our engine technology and producing bigger engines for our new market targets. David put us together with Norton and after a very successful visit to the UK we have been negotiating the terms of our agreement to get the best win/win situation. Our partnership is starting carefully but there is no reason that it can’t expand and evolve to become one of the more famous working relationships in the global motorcycle industry.”
Zongshen also have a good working relationship with Fantic of Italy. Famous old 70’s off-road brand Fantic has enjoying a renaissance in recent times and has expanded their catalogue to include street bikes. Fantic and Zongshen have collaborated to produce an excellent engine and it won’t be long before they step up to the next level with full partnership as Zongshen look to increase their influence in Europe.
Zongshen are backing up their new market campaigns with the biggest and most expensive research and development centre in the Chinese motorcycle industry. Mr. Fan reports “Zongshen are one of the only factories who have actually increased their spending on research and development and I think we have made a decent statement to the world with our new 50 million dollar facility. No one else in China has anything like what we have developed with the possible exception of Haojue and they really do not concentrate on export motorcycles. With the new facility we can concentrate on trying to produce new types of products for different markets like snowmobiles. We feel now that we are starting to get everything in place to make a big push in to Europe and the United States. We have the technical partners and also the facility to make the best of them. What we really need now is to speak to the media in the countries we are targeting and make sure that everyone knows that Zongshen, and more to the point Cyclone, is looking to become one of the major players on western markets.”
To conclude I think it’s safe to say that if Zongshen do not succeed with this new venture it is certainly not for lack of trying. Industry experts have been advising the Chinese motorcycle industry to take these measures for years, especially the decision to launch their own brands which marketing wise should be a no-brainer! I think one of the major catalysts of Zongshen’s decision will be a domino effect which will see other Chinese motorcycle companies follow suit in trying to evolve into new markets and attract partners that can improve their technical quality and know-how.
Now let’s hope they get their marketing right!
|Posted by Shem on September 22, 2016 at 3:00 AM||comments (1)|
The motorcycle industry, for the main part, has long been regarded a man’s world. Recently I was asked by FIM to write a report about women in the motorcycle industry in China and as I have recently written an article involving Ruby Zhang the owner of Fuego Power (Motorhead brand) I decided to have a further look in to the female influence on the industry. One of the biggest influences on any industry is the media that supports it and in China there is a huge female input in that region.
Lucy Cheng is the owner and editor of i-motor, the biggest Chinese language motorcycle media. In her opinion “There is no discernable sexism in the modern Chinese motorcycle industry. Females exist in every position from company owner down to production line worker and in every aspect of the industry including media (namely myself). If there is a lack of females in the industry at any time it is just a matter of their choice as opposed to discrimination. It is true that there are no Chinese ladies currently competing in moto-sports but then, there is not yet a big participation from men in moto-sports either in China. As moto-sport grows I guarantee you will see the emergence of capable Chinese women riders and technicians at race tracks.”
There are an estimated 200 thousand woman motorcycle riders in China, most riding scooters under 125cc. MaCong of the Chongqing custom bike society is an exception. MaCong relates “it’s quite rare for women in China to ride bigger bikes but I have been in love with Harley Davidson bikes for years. Finally last year I bought myself a soft tail which I had bored and stroked to 1600cc and the heads flowed. I love the sound and torque. I’m considering open pipes but I’m not sure because I attract a lot of attention already and I’ve had some traffic incidents with guys looking at me.” ZhongLi owns a small supermarket and regularly delivers groceries to her elder customers on her 50cc Lifan scooter. “For me the scooter is my main means of transport. I regularly change the oil and filters and tighten the drive chain because my husband doesn’t know how to do it! A lot of ladies around here get together to maintenance for the scooters and cubs that we ride, if we leave it to our husbands they would take the bikes to a mechanic, we prefer to maintain the bikes ourselves to save a bit of money!”
C2W editor David McMullan said “More often than not, when I am reporting on a new motorcycle product the head of the publicity and advertising company for the motorcycle factory is a lady. Their knowledge of the new products is at least equal to the men that we deal with. It’s not just Chinese women employed either; I remember years ago Shineray employed a Swedish lady as the general manager. Recently a woman, Yan Haimei, was installed by Qianjiang as the CEO of Benelli”
Li Lian is an 18 year old assembly line worker at the Liyang motorcycle factory in Chongqing. She tells of her decision to work at a motorcycle factory. “I come from a poor village where the main employment if farming. Most young people these days have enough education to move to the cities and try to make our lives there. In Chongqing the main employer is the auto and moto industries (over half a million employed) so it was the natural choice. I was given full training and taught about the safety issues of the line. Like everyone starting out I have quite a mundane job, just connecting parts, but for the good and diligent workers there is the chance to learn and progress to the testing areas and the research and development department. Men and women have the same opportunities to progress and it seems that women are quicker on the production line!”
Zhang Lin is an export account manager for the Yinang motorcycle company. She explains the advantage of hiring females in the export department. “If you go to any language school university in China you will see that the classes consist of 90% females. I don’t know why but it’s invariably girls who prefer to study English and other languages which mean that there are many girls working in motorcycle export departments as they have the language requirements.”
Rio Wang CEO of Fuego Power agrees. “I wouldn’t think twice about hiring a female for any aspect of the operation. My general manager if female, and three quarters of the export staff are female. Their motorcycle knowledge is on a par with the guys even though they are a bit reluctant to get on and ride sometimes. I also find that they are generally more organised than the men and that many of our male customers prefer to do business with a lady!”
It’s not just Chinese owned motorcycle companies in China that hire females. High level female operatives are essential to the running of Harley-Davidson and Ducati China.
It’s not just the traditionally powered 2 wheeler industry that is graced by the fairer sex; the electric scooter industry also benefits. Yadea is the biggest EV export company in China and was captained by Nancy Zhou as GM. Nancy reports “as the EV industry is still relatively in its infancy there are huge opportunities for women as the industry has not taken a male-orientated culture in the same way as the standard motorcycle industry. It’s also the case that many women prefer to ride an electric scooter.”
To conclude it seems that there is no discrimination against women in the Chinese motorcycle industry, conversely, women hold some of the top positions and this trend is not likely to change.
|Posted by Shem on September 20, 2016 at 9:25 PM||comments (1)|
Generally with a Chinese scooter you are getting old technology made to be as affordable as possible. Many 125cc - 150cc Chinese scooters uses a clone of the 80’s era GY6 engine, while 50cc Chinese scooters almost always use an engine based on the Minerelli engine. These old engines don’t perform beyond mediocre in power or fuel economy, but it can be reliable if well assembled. The hard thing is, knowing if you’re getting one that has been well assembled, or if it’s been hastily put together at the wrong torque specs and with cheap components. If you stick with a more established Chinese brand like the ones listed here then you can know you are getting a scooter of adequate quality.
There are however exceptions to these rules and we have listed some of our favourite scooter manufacturers here
Baotian scooters are based in Jiangmen near to Guangzhou in Guangdong province, a good hub for scooter production. Possibly Baotian’s most famous market is the UK where they are distributed by Baotian UK and are a growing brand.
Despite recent financial problems Wangye scooters continue to battle on and are known to make some of the most stylish scooters in China. With a worldwide distribution this Zhejiang province manufacturer is still a popular choice globally.
Based in China’s Zhejiang province Znen are sometimes touted as the top scooter company in China. After buying out the old brand ‘Fosti’ Znen continued to grow its scooter sales despite the financial crisis and continues to be one of China’s leading scooter manufacturers.
Back in 1956 Qinqi made the first commuter (non-military) motorcycle in China. They followed this up by being the first scooter manufacturer in China after signing a successful cooperation agreement with Suzuki in 1985
Benzhou is one of the rare factories that make its scooters from almost scratch. Producing scooters since 1995 Benzhou boasts two motor factories, an engine factory, a frame factory, a plastic factory, a painting factory, a wire factory, a light factory and a mould factory.
In 1999 the establishment of Zhejiang Jia Jue Industrial Co. Ltd., started manufacturing scooters culminating in 2001 when heavy investment produced the Jiajue brand. In 2006 Jiajue began cooperation with Bullia in Italy to achieve European testing standards.
Jonway motorcycles/motor scooters (especially electric scooters) occupy a large portion of the market in China. In addition this is where Jonway makes the majority of its profit. Also, their products are exported to over 80 countries including some in the European Union.
Taotao is probably the most famous Chinese scooter brand in the USA. A rare Chinese success in the states Taotao has been a household name for scooter commuter for many years and remains one of the only Chinese success stories in the USA.
Although Zongshen are a Chongqing giant motorcycle manufacturer they also have a scooter factory in the Guangdong province town of Foshan. In this factory Zongshen partners with Italy’s Piaggio to produce the Piaggio/ Zongshen scooter range.
Why not throw an electric scooter manufacturer in to the list? Yadea are China’s premier electric scooter manufacturer with a distribution network on every continent. They are so good even C2W’s David McMullan rides one although he does look a bit silly riding it.
Old European and American brands that Chinese motorcycle manufacturers should revive and restore to former glories
|Posted by Shem on September 7, 2016 at 8:40 PM||comments (1)|
By David McMullan
In a previous issue of China Motorcycle news we reported on the trend for Chinese motorcycle manufacturers to investigate the possibility of reviving old and famous brands. As it is increasingly difficult for motorcycle OEM’s to avoid rebranding in established markets (as entering into those markets with their own brand name would put them in direct competition with their existing customers in that country) it is likely that Chinese manufacturers will look to produce new brand names and what better way to do that than to revive an old and famous existing motorcycle brand?
The state and ownership of some of these brands is unknown, some are well known and some still exist in minimal ways. Some of the brands mentioned here may be still being manufactured but only in small quantities and not restored to their former glories.
Some currently revived brands have their models or at least most of their parts made in China but they are not what we are talking about here as these marques like Fantic, ATK and AJS are still owned by businesspeople and enthusiasts in their home countries.
The best idea for a revived model would be the example of Royal Enfield in India which has seen a huge renaissance all over the world and is set to come into China within the next couple of years.
Although there are literally hundreds of now defunct motorcycle company brands which are ripe for resurrection here we will have a look at some of the more famous brands which are or should be available to revive and develop.
BSA is the marque that most probably deserves reviving on this list. Coming from the golden age of British motorcycles (along with Vincent, Triumph and Norton etc.) BSA was a household name for many years. Starting (like many motorcycle manufacturers including China’s first bike factory Jialing) as a military equipment maker. Wouldn’t it be great to see a rejuvenated BSA Bantam on the roads of Europe and America again? Albeit a 4 stroke version!
Why China? If a Chinese motorcycle manufacturer really wants to increase their world profile there’s no better brand to resurrect properly than BSA
Levis motorcycles were manufactured by Butterfields of Birmingham, were for many years one of England's leading marques of two-stroke motorcycle. Levis built two-stroke machines from 1911, adding a line of four-strokes in 1928, which ran to 1941 when production ceased. The Levis was first made in the Norton motorcycle works and enjoyed success in the Lightweight 250 class within the 1920 Isle of Man TT Junior race with a 247 cc machine, a feat which was repeated in the 1922 TT Lightweight race.
Why China? Because I happen to be a friend of the person that owns the brand now so it would be easy to set this up with a Chinese manufacturer!
Laverda was a famous old high performance Italian brand that was founded as long ago as 1873. During the rise of the Japanese manufacturers on the European and American markets Laverda struggled in the same way as Triumph, Norton and BSA as well as Italians contemporary rival Moto Guzzi. In 2004, the Aprilia Group was acquired by Piaggio who elected to close all activities related to the Laverda brand, and has publicly stated that they would be willing to sell the rights to the brand if an investor should appear.
Why China? Chinese companies have already proved that they are willing to buy out and revive Italian brands (Benelli, SWM and Italjet are testimony to this).
The Dot Cycle and Motor Manufacturing Company were established by Harry Reed in Salford, an area of Manchester, England, in 1903. By 1906 they had built their first motorcycle, using a Peugeot engine. Although ceasing mass production in 1932 The DOT factory still exists at Ellesmere Street, opposite St. George's Church in Hulme, Manchester, and the company produces and sells a range of spares for postwar machines. The DOT Motorcycle Club actively caters for owners and enthusiasts, publishes a magazine, and attends most major classic motorcycle events.
Why China? DOT stands for ‘devoid of trouble’, that’s exactly the kind of legend that Chinese companies love to use on their motto!
Excelsior Motor Manufacturing & Supply Company was a U.S. motorcycle manufacturer operating in Chicago from 1907 to 1931. In 1912, Excelsior was the first motorcycle to be officially timed at a speed of 100 mph. The Henderson Motorcycle Company became a division of Excelsior when Schwinn purchased Henderson in 1917. By 1928, Excelsior was in third place in the U.S. motorcycle market behind Indian and Harley-Davidson. The Great Depression convinced Schwinn to order Excelsior's operations to cease in September 1931.
Why China? For a time Excelsior was one of the biggest names in motorcycle manufacture in the USA and in my opinion ‘Excelsior’ is a great brand name!
Velocette is another one of those old famous British marques which deserves a long overdue revival. Founded in 1904 and running until 1971 Velocette produced all manner of motorcycles and scooters in its 67 year reign including the Velocette MSS which was a successful desert racer in the United States. The late 1960s were the last years of production for Velocette motorcycles, production for the Velocette Viper and Vogue ending in 1968, "Special", Scrambler and Endurance in 1969, and MSS Venom and Velocette Thruxton in 1970.
Why China? Velocette has an already built in fan club of riders and enthusiasts waiting for the revival of this popular brand.
Aermacchi (like BSA, Jialing, Royal Enfield and others) has its roots in the weapons industry and only turned to bikes after WW2 as a way to make ends meet. These days, you’d think a marque linked to fighter planes and race bikes would be hot property, but after Harley-Davidson’s brief ownership, the name was sold to Cagiva. With both the MV and Aermacchi names in its portfolio, Cagiva opted to re-launch the former. So Aermacchi remains dormant.
Why China? Aermacchi has a rich history of Grand Prix racing and a revived machine could prove to be good policy for a Chinese motorcycle factory.
The Scott Motorcycle Company was maintained by Scott Motors (Saltaire) Limited, Shipley, West Yorkshire, England and was a well-known producer of motorcycles and light engines for the automotive industry. Founded by Alfred Angas Scott in 1908 as the Scott Engineering Company in Bradford, Yorkshire, Scott motorcycles were produced until 1978. This famous old brand surely deserves a makeover
Why China? The Scott brand has been defunct since 1978 and with no current plan to revive it the brand could be a cheap purchase for a smaller Chinese company.
Puch is a manufacturing company located in Graz, Austria. The company was founded in 1899 by the industrialist Johann Puch and produced automobiles, bicycles, mopeds, and motorcycles. It was a subsidiary of the large Steyr-Daimler-Puch conglomerate. Puch produced motorcycles for many years and the name was sold on a few times before being taken by Hero in India who produced under the name until wrapping things up in 2003. It is thought that they could be persuaded to part with the brand name.
Why China? In their later years Puch were quite well known for producing lower displacement commuter motorcycles and mopeds not completely unlike the models made in China currently.
ATK is a motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle manufacturer in Centerville, Utah, USA. ATK was founded by Austrian-born engineer Horst Leitner in the 1980s. The name "ATK" comes from Leitner's 1981 patented device to eliminate chain torque for improved handling. Known later as the A-Trax, Leitner originally called the device the Anti-Tension Kettenantrieb (German: chain drive). These days ATK concentrate their technical efforts on electric motorcycles and are looking for a partner to restart the traditional motorcycle manufacture.
Why China? The ATK brand is already recognized in the United States, a buy out of this marque could ensure the success of a Chinese manufacturer in America.
|Posted by Shem on September 5, 2016 at 8:35 PM||comments (0)|
For centuries the clash between the Chinese and the Japanese has seen constant conflict until the relatively recent, more peaceful years of the latter 20th century. While the cultures and people are very similar in many ways there have always been rivalries in production that will remain in contention for as long as the two nations exist separately. One of the biggest industries now drawing battle lines between the two countries is the motorcycle industry. Rather than drawing swords in the field they are smelting metals in the factories to out-do each other on the economic front.
While it’s evident to any industry figure that the Japanese have had the head start in this production war it’s not a lead that remains completely in favour of the Japanese in some respects. If we look at the numbers it’s plain to see that China has eclipsed any other nation on earth when it comes to sheer volume of units produced but that’s without factoring in quality of the units, of course.
From the mid 80’s Chinese motorcycle manufacturers have been taking their lead from the Japanese “Big 4” and replicating the models and technology already on the market to make Glone such as the ever popular cubs and CG copies. This strategy made for good business in previous decades but modern Chinese manufactures with the means of researching and developing their own technology are becoming more commonplace. Where once a Chinese bike may have been an exact copy of its Japanese counterpart the industry is now seeing Chinese bikes designed and built from the ground up using original plans.
A large difference in production strategies between the two nations falls on the restriction placed on the Japanese industry after the Second World War when the government limited only four companies to producing motorcycles (Suzuki, Yamaha, Honda and Kawasaki) and other producers, such as Bridgestone and Fuji were forced to take different paths.
China’s origins in motorcycles came from the necessity to have mobile armed forces and military motorcycles were some of the first off the production lines. These days their focus is on domestic and export markets; the former to transition the agrarian work force from mule to motor and the latter to build brand recognition among the leisure and commuter markets abroad.
None of the restriction placed on companies in the Japanese scene have ever been imposed on Chinese manufactures leading to the many hundreds of firms that jostle for market share today.
It may be the internationally trusted Japanese models making all the right noises in the European and American markets where motorcycle riding is more for enthusiasts and the thrill seekers but the low cost simplicity of Chinese bikes has made them a key tool for the people of poorer nations in places like South America and Africa. Even other Asian countries like Vietnam and Thailand have seen huge sales figures on Chinese motorcycles due to their competitive prices and fair quality.
Seeing the potential threat to their market share some of the Japanese makers have entered joint partnerships with bigger Chinese builders in an effort to share production and profit. Honda has a deal with Wuyang and Sukida, mega company Jianshe have teamed up with Yamaha and Qingqi are involved with Suzuki. It’s only Kawasaki that are yet to make a deal with Chinese factories but that may not be far off as rumours have circulated for years about possible cooperation in China.
At a glance it’s evident to see that the Japanese are still the leader of the two nation battle but it’s only a matter of time before the Japanese lose their foothold in previously secure market.
|Posted by Shem on September 5, 2016 at 4:50 AM||comments (0)|
For the Chinese motorcycle industry by far the most important and cooperative hub for the in Spain is the ‘Catalan Cluster’ in Catalonia. Manufacturing in this cluster represents nearly every aspect of motorcycle technology and accessories and is known for the high quality of its products.
The permanent exhibition at the Barcelona Motorcycle Museum is dedicated to the history of the motorbike in Catalonia, to Catalan bikes, and specially, to all those pioneers which set up the foundation of one of the most brilliant industries in this country and who also managed to plant the seed to create the love for the world of motorcycling which still goes on nowadays.
Because, apart from the most famous names which were internationally recognized such as Montesa, Bultaco, OSSA or Derbi, not everyone is aware that some hundred and fifty different motorcycle manufacturers have operated in Catalonia. Big and small factories, most of them launched by courageous entrepreneurs who, in very difficult times and with reduced tools and possibilities, managed to convert their dreams into real motorbikes.
Find out the history of the Catalan motorbike from 1905 until 2010 through a selection of 40 models which best represent the main brands by clicking on the Catalonia Cluster museum link
Motorcycle parts and accessories manufacturers from the Catalan cluster have been enhancing Chinese motorcycles since the beginnings of the Chinese motorcycle industry including maintaining a presence at CIMAmotor expo. Here are a few of them
JJuan Brake Systems is always positive about China and CIMAmotor “we exhibit every year at CIMAmotor, we were the first foreign motorcycle technology company to do so and it’s given us a huge advantage in the market. 5 years ago Chinese companies just looked at us like we were a producer of ‘luxury’ products but now it’s different, we have become an essential part of the Chinese motorcycle manufacturing industry’s infrastructure. We collaborate with all the top companies and are now looking to expand our influence to the many middle-sized motorcycle manufacturers that now need to upgrade their brake systems in line with international expectations. It is in large part due to our persistent marketing campaigns like this one that we have established ourselves as the number one international brake system company in China.”
Ixil silencers have something in common with JJuan and Shad in that they all belong to the huge motorcycle industry cluster in Barcelona, Catalonia. General Manager Enric Llevadot Porta commented “although upgrades in exhausts are not yet a factor in the same way as they are for brakes and EFI (with regard to the changing world laws and the export manufacturers need to meet those laws) we are finding that there is a fast growing interest in our products from the bigger Chinese motorcycle manufacturers who have the ambition to compete on motorcycle markets that demand more quality. We are looking to become the top international brand in China and everything is going very much to plan.”
Pau Xicola Serrano General Manager of motorcycle storage box manufacturer Shad commented “the Chinese are now getting in to motorcycle touring in a big way, also their commuter bikes are of a higher quality than in the past so they are requiring boxes of the best quality. Of course there are many motorcycle storage box producers in China but Shad has become a market leader as Chinese riders are changing their view on consumption and are now choosing to buy goods of a greater quality rather than the cheap but practical stuff of the past, in many cases Chinese consumers are now asking for Shad by name and we have been getting many inquiries from motorcycle accessory distributors throughout China.”
Yasuni Exhausts was founded with the aim of offering products designed to improve the performance of both urban and racing motorcycles. The technological development has allowed them to achieve better times, offering pioneering solutions. The specific actions led by their R+D+I Department have enabled them to win many championships at a worldwide level such as: 2011 Alex Rins, Spanish Champion 125cc GP Jérez Circuit, 2009 Julián Simón, World Champion 125cc GP Australia, 2006 Alvaro Bautista, World Champion 125cc GP Australia. Yasuni strategic vision is to guarantee Chinese motorcycle and scooter users integrated solutions with mobile devices, to enhance the driving and riding experience, embedding industrial technology along with electronic and software development.
Galfer is a leading manufacturer of friction materials and components for braking systems for the automobile, motorcycling, and bicycle sectors. Since our company was founded in 1952, we have been known for being at the forefront of innovation, quality and organization. Today we link our experience and tradition to new technologies, cutting-edge materials and the most advanced management systems. To stay at the forefront of the market and to get to know in depth the needs for the industry, the R&D department at GALFER works closely with top-level competition teams. All our products are strictly tested for quality to guarantee its safety. We are so committed with quality regulations that our quality controls exceed the ECE R-90 standards necessary for new Chinese motorcycles.
It is worth mentioning (maybe essential to mention in the context of this article) that many of the Catalonian international companies represented at CIMAmotor have production plants established in China. Despite having a manufacturing presence in China for many years it is only relatively recently that most of these European manufacturers have actually marketed these Chinese made products to the Chinese industry itself. Inaki Leopold commented “it is a bit ironic I suppose, but for many years the Chinese workers were making these products, in China, for European companies without the Chinese industry needing to purchase the parts themselves. It’s all changed now of course, but although we manufacture in China we still maintain the levels of quality that the world has become used to from a European manufacturer. “