Chinese motorcycles in Russia

David McMullan talks to Юрий Зуев (Yuri) from SM- Motors

What is the general condition of the motorcycle market in Russia? Is it growing due to fuel prices or receding due to cheaper cars?
The motorcycle market was growing in Russia since 2008 year until the end of 2014. The first locomotive of the market was scooters. This segment was growing until end of 2013 (only one biggest importer, company called Racer, brought 70 000 vehicles during 2013). At the end of 2013 new regulations regarding scooters were invented by the government. From that moment licenses are needed to drive 50cc vehicles. This regulation killed the scooter business. Along with the scooters the import of motorcycles from China was growing as well. After 2013 this segment of market was growing rapidly. Everything stopped at the end of 2014 after Crimea annexation and great fall down of oil prices. Due to all these reasons the exchange rate of national currency dropped down 2 times. In June 2014 the exchange rate was 36 roubles for 1 usd, now it is 67 roubles for 1 usd. This made all imported products incredibly expensive for 90% of the population. It was a shock for everybody. According to official statistic sales of new vehicles the amount dropped by 30% during 2015. My opinion is that the average decrease in motorcycle sales is at least 50%.

What are peoples attitude to Chinese motorcycles?

Attitude to Chinese motorcycle is getting better and better every year. Of course it is very far from Japanese brands but now people are not afraid to buy Chinese vehicles and know what they expect from Chinese motorcycles
What are the main selling models? I.E commuters (cubs, scooters), Japanese sports bikes, American cruisers etc…
Main models are road motorcycles. Enduro was growing rapidly during the last 2 years
What certificates are needed for Chinese companies to export motorcycle models to Russia?
Every road vehicle should pass Russian certification and get a special road homologation called OTTS. OTTS can be given on the base of ECE or EEC tests but sometimes some tests must be made in addition. Also factory inspection is a duty for Chinese makers.

Why would Russia riders choose a Chinese model? Why not a Honda for example?

Main reason is price level. One of the most important reasons in my opinion is that there is no motorcycle industry in Russia now. In the past, when Soviet Union was alive, there were several big factories for motorcycles. Motorcycles were popular in Russia especially in the country side because of lower prices compare to cars. Also it was very difficult to buy a car in SU as production was very low. Both Russian cars and motorcycles had very low quality; people used to repair them by themselves every time. This fact helped a lot for Chinese vehicles. It is not a problem for most of Russian population to repair a vehicle.

What improvements have you seen in the Chinese motorcycle industry?

Quality is growing, assembling is getting better.

What advice would you give to the Chinese industry with regard to progress and the evolution of the export industry in Russia?

Big displacement engines at affordable prices. Also they should stop copying the designs of each other.

What do you see as the main negative factors of the Chinese industry?

Main negative factor for Chinese industry is huge amount of assemblers and makers with quite different quality levels. I guess big manufacturers in China should push for more strict regulations for assembling.

China’s dominance is under threat from India, have you noticed this in Russia?

For the moment, Indian giants were not presented at Russia at all. Only this year Bajaj is starting distribution. We will see in 2016 if they can beat Asian tigers.

What advice would you give to a Chinese manufacturer looking to break in to the Russia Market?

Same advise as everywhere – high quality / low price.  Only one more thing can help: get Russian homologation OTTS by yourself!!! Only one OTTS can be done for each model. If you give this to your Russian partner, he will be the exclusive distributor for at least 3 years. Even if he will buy 40 motorcycles per year the maker can do nothing. If assembler will make OTTS by himself, he can sell to several importers or to change importer in case of bad service easily.

Are there any motorcycle exhibitions that Chinese companies could attend to promote their products?

There is only one fair in Moscow called Motorpark and it is pretty small. It does not influence on the business very much.

Do Russian motorcycle trade people come to China to see the industry?

Yes, of course all importers are visiting fair and factories.

Can you give us some information on the top 5 Chinese motorcycle importing companies in Russia?

1. Racer
2. Stels (Velomotors)
3. Baltmotors
4. Omaks
5. ABM

Please tell MEGA ChinaMotor Magazine readers about your company and its goals….

SM-Motors have been working since 1996 in the motorcycle business. Our main activity was the importing of spare parts and accessories for aftersales service. We are real professionals in parts. In 2013 we noticed a market trend for pit bikes in Russia and start importing pit bikes and some MX motorcycles. Now we are the leading company in Russia on the pit bike market. We are not the biggest company but one of the oldest. Our policy was always quality for reasonable prices. As we do not play in lowest price level our turnover is not as big as Racer but we have a good reputation on market for our products. Another difference from other companies working with China is that along with big business with Asia we are working with many companies from USA and Europe. This is making our assortment full and unique on the market. With our partner from Taiwan, we are running offices in Taichung and Ningbo. This allows us to work very close with our suppliers and the control quality of our products.

February 11, 2016