Bearing this in mind I decided to conduct a bit of an experiment and emailed the biggest 50 motorcycle companies in China with a genuine request for cubs and scooters on behalf of my friend in South Africa.
The results were astonishing – astonishingly negative! We are now over two weeks on from my initial contact and the grand total of twp companies have replied to me. Bear in mind that I contacted the email address featured in the official company website in each case. Bear in mind that the message was a genuine request for 2-wheel products that every one of the companies that I contacted can supply. Bear in mind that I sent every email individually and mentioned the company name in the email heading to make sure they didn’t end up the spam folder. So gold stars for Dayang and Jianshe (both top 10 companies that produce over a million units a year) who had the decency to do their jobs properly and frowning faces for everyone else.
I can pretty much second guess your next question, “how can I contact these companies if I like the look of some of their models?” Here are the answers.
Every motorcycle related company in China has representation on Alibaba. Alibaba is the biggest b2b search service in the world containing more products that eBay and Amazon combined. The beauty of this service is that you can move seamlessly from page to page with little effort viewing all that the Chinese motorcycle industry has to offer (2-wheelers, 3-wheelers, ATV’s, parts, accessories, and clothing) Alibaba allows you to view the products on offer and also contact the supplier directly through a chat portal. Alibaba also gives the accolade ‘gold supplier’ to companies that have proved themselves over a number of years. The only possibly downside of either advertising or browsing Alibaba is that there are too many products featured, leading to a bit of confusion. Not every review of Alibaba is favorable.
A motorcycle parts importer from the Dutch Antilles once reported to me “Alibaba, although once extremely useful has become entirely void of any decent customer service; this change in their attitude has coincided with their huge growth. I ordered some gaskets, was told that I would receive them within 30 days.
Near to the 30th day I received an email declaring that the shipment date would be moved back about 3 weeks. After 3 weeks had gone by I received an email saying that my gaskets were on the way. They never arrived. When I tried the tracking number related to the order, it could not be found. Lastly, after about 6 weeks from placing the order, I asked for my money back because Alibaba does not have a way for me to call them by phone. Their alleged “virtual customer service” is non-existent. The man that developed Alibaba is a billionaire, too bad he nor anyone else in that company gives a damn anymore. I would not use Alibaba again.”
Despite this experience many customers of Chinese motorcycle (and all other) products use Alibaba as their main method of sourcing.
Alibaba’s main competitor is “Made in China” a similar but smaller b2b platform. Although smaller ‘Made in China’ still features over 8400 pages of motorcycle products and is a useful alternative.
Please do not just visit China without pre-arranged meeting with motorcycle manufacturers or the intention of visiting a motorcycle related exhibition. Pretty much every one I know in the Chinese and global motorcycle industry chooses exhibitions for their new motorcycle model reconnaissance.
A trip to CIMAmotor (motorcycles), The China Parts Expo (parts) or Canton Fair (everything) can reveal much more than a scan through Alibaba. At the expo you can kick the tyres bounce on the saddle to your heart’s delight but more importantly you can establish a relationship with the export clerk over a cup of tea. Bearing in mind how difficult it is to get anyone from China to email you take the opportunity to write down his/ her mobile phone number or Skype address and add them to your ‘we chat’ or ‘whatsup’ list (if that’s your kind of thing, it will certainly be there’s).
If you do not have the time or inclination to visit China and Alibaba is giving you selection headaches have a look at MEGA ChinaMotor magazine. MEGA is a monthly magazine that features the latest models released in China along with ride reports and technical updates. If you experience the same problems of communication when replying to the email addresses in the adverts (as when trying to contact a company by using the email address published on their website) write to the magazine itself and they will contact the factory on your behalf.
It’s important for me to note that once you start the communication with your chosen company it will be good, attentive and swiftly responsive; as mentioned above it’s getting them to reply to your initial inquiry that’s the real pain in the neck!