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This is China With David McMullan

This column predicted the demise of many Chinese motorcycle factories and unfortunately the prediction is coming true. But despite the current rather desolate motorcycle landscape, new shoots are breaking through. On 25 January I was invited to

the foundation ceremony for a new Chinese motorcycle

factory, Fuego

Power Ltd, started by husband and wife Wang Tian and Zhang Yi Min. More than 200 guests including media, government officials and motorcycle parts suppliers attended what is now a rare event. Two years ago motorcycle

companies came and went with such frequency that even CAAM, the Chinese Association of Automobile Manufacturers, struggled to keep tabs on them all. At that time more factories were opening than closing. Two years on and the trend has been well and truly reversed! Zhang Yi Min started her motorcycle

industry career in the export department of the now defunct Junsun Motor Company. “In those days [eight years ago] it was all about profit and sales and nothing about development and technology,” she said. “It didn’t surprise me when the company went out of business because the whole operation was sub-standard, from the communication abilities of the staff who spoke poor English to the shoddy quality of the products. “At first we did well in Africa, but the

market there became so cut-throat that we had to reduce prices. We then tried out the South American market but our products were not good or stylish enough and we quickly lost the customers we’d fought hard to find. I could see where the company was going wrong. It was greedy for a quick profit and sacrificed the long-term business plan for the quick buck. “These days companies like Junsun cannot exist in the Chinese motorcycle export industry. I learned valuable lessons from their failure.” Talking about his motorcycle

apprenticeship days, Wang Tian says: “Chongqing Bashan were and are an excellent motorcycle company. From the day I started they instilled professionalism in me. We were taught to treat every export enquiry with respect. The Bashan research and development department was one of the best in Chongqing and for a time their on-road ATVs sold very well in European countries. “Of course, like most young Chinese lads I was ambitious to start my own company and when I met Zhang Yi Min we put our collective knowledge together. She could see what was wrong with the industry and from my position I could see what was right.” The couple started with a

cooperation agreement with government-owned motorcycle and coach/bus maker Kington Liyang. Kington had very little experience in the motorcycle export industry and formed an alliance with them in order

to boost export capacity. Zhang Yi Min and Wang


brought in their own export staff and designers but were hungry for more autonomy. Said Zhang Yi Min: “We were keen to strike out on our own so that we could have complete control over our products, which we wanted to copyright and trade mark. “Our first move was to rent

production lines at the Vision factory, which was producing engines and electric scooters. We then set up our own brand name. We went with an idea by David McMullan and called it Motorhead. He advised us that one of the things that puts some customers off dealing with Chinese factories is the unpronounceable Chinese names. He felt that something Western was more in order. “Of course, growth brings profit and

it wasn’t long before we were realising our dream of building our own factory from scratch. We’re pretty proud of our success story so far.” Wang Tian continued: “Our

reputation for decent quality meant that our sales increased while others didn’t. This was noticed by Zongshen, who supply our engines. “Zongshen took note of our growing

reputation and we were soon a ‘gold’ standard engine customer. Now we are a ‘diamond’ customer. “Our relationship with Zongshen

was essential for us to open a new factory. They gave us their certification for export, which in turn gave the government confidence in allocating a licence to build the factory. “All Chinese motorcycle factories

now have access to the same supply chains that the bigger factories use, which means that we can supply models of good quality. We are not interested in the domestic market at this stage and won’t be unless radical law changes about motorcycle bans in cities are overturned. “To really make an export push we

have employed renowned American motorcycle designer Terry Linebarger to improve our reputation still further and to compete with the Indian motorcycle industry, especially in Latin America. Like most Chinese companies we are looking at supplying our units CKD. Zongshen and Lifan have long set this trend and everyone is following now. Of course, CKD parts have to be of superior quality or we’ll be spending most of our profit freighting replacement parts to importers. “We are starting with 15 different models including cubs, enduros, street bikes, dirt bikes and cruisers. We make all of our models to a EURO III standard and when the factory is finished and operating at full strength we intend to export models to Europe. We are currently doing well in Latin America especially Argentina, Chile and Peru.”

China Motor Magazine chief foreign correspondent David McMullan reports from Chongqing, the motorcycle manufacturing capital of China.;

MARCH 2013 11

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