Beginner’s Guide to Chinese Motorcycle Import (Part I)
Chinese Motorcycle Industry News
With the Chinese motorcycle industry almost fully recovered and marching on new territories, here I present my opinion on the best way to enter into business relationships with Chinese motorcycle companies.
Also, with more and more motorcycle industry types beginning to dabble in Chinese import this guide may help you to know what you are about to get yourself in to.
Factory or trading company?
There are thousands of motorcycle exports companies in China, some of them are just trading companies buying and selling on motorcycle models. Some trading companies will give you the false impression that they are a factory, many building websites that are indistinguishable from a factory website; test them by threatening to visit the factory.
Trading companies do have their advantages, they have a bigger spectrum of models for you to choose from and they are far more likely to mix a container for you (filling containers with several different models) whereupon many factories see mixing containers as a huge pain in the posterior and would refuse to do it for a smaller customer.
Disadvantages of working with a trading company include the fact that your product is likely to be more expensive (they buy it from the factories after all), they do not have as much control over quality and they are far more likely to go out of business/ scam you/ not give a toss if your order is wrong, than a recognized motorcycle manufacturer. This being said, for the importer of smaller quantities a trading company may be essential and there are many respected and responsible companies, check first, ask them to give you the contact details of one of their other customers in another country.
Companies importing motorcycle parts from China will invariably have to deal with trading companies due to the huge selection of Chinese motorcycle parts (and parts made in China for Japanese, American and European brands too). This will be covered in the next issue.
Dealing with manufacturers can be problematic too. Unlike traders (who are delighted with your business and will bend over backwards) they dictate the terms of you deal. As mentioned, many factories will not mix containers; many will not allow you to customize your choice of model and many bigger manufacturers will just flat out refuse to deal with you unless you can buy 10 containers a month! Furthermore, many factories have exclusivity arrangements with importers in many countries.
There are 3 types of Chinese motorcycle factory. The giants like Loncin and Zongshen use state of the art technology which is advised upon by European motorcycle companies (in the case of the former and latter it is BMW and Piaggio). They are more likely to turn down an order from the importer for the reasons listed above and only really take on new customers from new markets (my friend Don Carlaw imports Zongshen motorcycles to the Cook Islands). They are also the companies that are most likely to invest in EURO, DOT and other certificates of conformity and export to western countries.
Middle sized companies are the bread and butter of the industry. Manufacturers like Wonjan, Bashan and Yingang are more likely to give you the personal service you really want. They crave your orders and produce decent quality models. They are also more likely to knock up a bespoke model for you. At the smaller end of the spectrum is the back-street, one production line manufacturers that produce models of a quality only really suited to markets that need cheap products, more often than not the African markets. These companies pop in and out of existence like quantum particles and provide very little after-market service with the spare parts required for their models being plentiful and easily purchased.
Where to find new models
Searching for new models by internet search can be problematic. Looking through dozens of pages on multiple websites can be counter-productive. By far the most effective way of tracking down your desired model is to visit one of the Chinese motorcycle trade expos.
A visit to Canton fair, CIMAmotor or both (they run concurrently in October) will afford you a display of all new motorcycle models as well as the rest of the range manufactured by the factory. If you visit an exhibition in China take the chance to also visit a factory in action, and then you can judge the professionalism of their production lines, quality testing and research and development. I strongly advise you to go unannounced!
That way you will not get the ‘special tour’ which could have been specifically set up to your requirements. This is made possible by hiring a guide and translator at the exhibition and asking them find out the address of the factory and take you there in a taxi (providing it’s not too far, the CIMAmotor expo in Chongqing is no more than a 12 pounds/ 17 dollar taxi ride to over 50 factories). Once there ask your guide to speak to someone in the export department (who will speak English) and ask them to take you on a tour. They will not refuse.
Another way to compare many models at once is to read ChinaMotor Magazine which is in English throughout and showcases dozens of models old and new with reviews and company news.
After you have chosen your preferred model find out if it is legal to register it for the road! Too many times shipments of motorcycles are received by novice importers who then find out that they cannot be registered for road use because of the lack of Certificates of Conformity certifying its emissions.
Too often Chinese motorcycle manufacturers will tell you that their bikes are made to EURO, DOT, and ECE conformity. They may well be but this doesn’t mean a damn thing without the paperwork to prove it. Insist on seeing a copy of the certificates needed but remember that you need a certificate for each different model!
Too many times inexperienced importers have seen a COC that they think validates their requirement only for it to turn out to be a COC for a similar, but different model. If you think that this article is treating you all like idiots I would tell you that you would be surprised how many times this happens!
Next Story: How to order samples, containers and parts.