Obstacles for Chinese motorcycle manufacturers trying to crack the European market

Obstacles for Chinese motorcycle manufacturers trying to crack the European market


Chinese motorcycle manufacturers are very good at creating obstacles for themselves but here I will detail some of the aspects (mainly outside of their control) that they (especially the small and medium sized manufacturers) will have to overcome to become a power on European Union nation markets.


We have recently seen a lot of movement from Chinese motorcycle companies wanting to produce models for the European market, this rapid development is intended to get them bedded in before the Indian motorcycle manufacturers begin their inexorable march into Europe. Despite the Chinese factories slow reaction to EURO 4 certificates of conformity there are, at least style, quality and price wise, several models from the likes of Zongshen, Tayo, CFMoto, Fuego and Loncin that would undoubtedly become popular on European markets if they can overcome the obstacles.


There is a conversation with a common theme pervasive in the Chinese motorcycle industry. The over-riding feeling is that European and Japanese motorcycle manufacturers increasingly fear the evolution of Chinese motorcycles market shares on the commuter markets in European countries and that these companies have reacted by lobbying the European Union to change the conformity of motorcycles to make it difficult for the Chinese manufacturers to continue their rise.


Motorcycle industry analyst and motorcycle parts fair organiser Ziwen Zhang commented “What’s wrong with EURO 3? It’s a perfectly good conformity for modern conditions. I have spoken to lots of industry staff on this matter and everyone has the same opinion, EURO 4 is completely unnecessary for the rider of a motorcycle with a displacement under 250cc. We Chinese rarely make a motorcycle over 250cc. Of course there are exceptions like CFMoto and Loncin but 98% of our export models are under 250cc (another exception could be ATV’s but I’m really talking about 2-wheelers here). While I agree that electric fuel injection is better for the environment why would a commuter with small engine need an ABS brake system? The simple answer is that it just doesn’t. In the opinion of many in the motorcycle industry EURO 4 was invented to make it difficult for Chinese motorcycle manufacturers to export to Europe as many of them had only just adapted to EURO 3 when EURO 4 was announced. Chinese bikes are cheaper and less technical and they were gaining a better reputation in Europe and even outselling the Japanese at certain times in countries like the UK. EURO 4 was a huge spanner in the works for some Chinese manufacturers who had to absolutely revamp their research and development departments and hire foreign experts to aid with their attainment of EURO 4 certificates. It seems that the European free market really is just for Europeans.”


This year will see the event of the 2 most important and popular motorcycle exhibitions on the planet, Intermot in Cologne, Germany, and EICMA Milan. In previous years these expos have been busy with Chinese motorcycle industry exhibitors of bikes, parts and accessories but in recent years the attendance of Chinese companies has reduced, Chen Long from the industry council explains why. “In the early years of Chinese motorcycle export expansion exhibitions were everything, they were the only way of displaying new models to a growing world market. In China we had Canton fair to display models but Chinese manufacturers began to utilise exhibitions around the world including smaller ones in Latin America, the Dealer expo in America and of course Intermot and EICMA. The way that Chinese exhibitors were treated by Intermot and EICMA was an absolute disgrace. They were placed in the most remote parts of the exhibition halls, the places were fewer visitors went. They were absolutely marginalized. I remember when Xie Fie from Junsun called you (David McMullan) to ask you to make a complaint to the organisers of EICMA. After receiving that treatment for a few years it was decided by many companies that they would not exhibit at these European expos any more. All the exhibitors used to go to these expos under the organizational umbrella of one business travel company so when one firm decided that they would boycott the European expos many followed their lead. I will tell you honestly that the treatment that the exhibitors got was very, very unfair.”


On an optimistic note, the ride and tech reports dedicated to Chinese brands in many of Europe’s motorcycle trade magazines are increasingly positive. The European 2-wheeler media seems to concur that Chinese models are being progressively better styled than their predecessors and that the quality to cost ratio now provides good value for money. This is essential for the success of Chinese bikes in Europe as apart from the bigger joint venture companies like Zongshen-Piaggio and Loncin-BMW you are very unlikely to see new models displayed at Europe’s exhibitions anymore!





November 18, 2016