Cub Motorcycles in China

The biggest selling vehicle in history is the Honda Super Cub, which has sold around 30 million units. The effect of cub production on the Chinese industry cannot be understated.

Cub Motorcycles - Small Bikes, Big BusinessThe Chinese motorcycle export philosophy was previously influenced by the domestic industry, but as the Chinese market dwindles the industry has looked to other influences to make up the deficit.

While these changes are happening (through necessity) there is a part of the motorcycle industry that hasn’t been so affected by diminishing Chinese and foreign markets, the production of cub motorcycles.

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On the domestic market the rapid emergence of scooters, cubs, and crossovers is an inevitable product of market changes. The popularity of mopeds, electric bicycles and other similar low end products has caused a number of consumers to develop the habit of riding two-wheelers.

However, when government regulations and policies become more comprehensive and quality control becomes more effective, the usage of these lower end products will reduce. Consumers are expected to begin seeking alternatives for a better riding experience, comfort, safety and performance; making scooters and cubs the first choice for “new riders.” This phenomenon has a knock-on effect for the export market.

Long Jiang Hu is the CEO and owner of motorcycle manufacturer Wanqiang, a company that produces over 300,000 units a year – 90 percent of which are cubs. Such is Wanqiang’s reputation for cub motorcycles they regularly manufacture cubs as the OEM for other giant Chongqing factories and also for Taiwan’s Kymco brand.

Mr. Long has big ambitions for the cub industry. “We have many large manufacturing plants in the Chongqing satellite town of He Chuan (about an hour from Chongqing city center). What we are currently doing is consolidating all the individual manufacturing plants for the individual parts of a cub motorcycle and situating them in one huge ‘cub cluster’ which will be the biggest centre for cub manufacture anywhere in the world except for Japan. To have all of the cub parts designed and manufactured on site will be a huge boost to our efficiency and will enable us to concentrate more time on the research and development to enable us to improve and move on to markets where we can honestly compete with the Japanese in terms of price (which we can already do) and quality.”

Market demands always determine product development trends. According to an in-depth analysis (by CAAM) on 2014 motorcycle production and sales data we find out an interesting phenomenon; although the production and sales of the industry as a whole declined by about 6%, the sales of scooters, cubs and crossovers increased steadily. It is these consumer demands that are shaping the future industry product structure.

Dimitri Hettinger is the CEO of Netherlands motorcycle company “Super Motor Company” a business that manufactures in China and has distribution all over Europe. He comments “we concentrate on the retro side of the market with cubs and café-racers. Our cubs are representations of the famous ‘super cub’ which remains the bestselling road vehicle in the world and sales of it have never dropped. I think there is a timeless appeal to cubs; they are what they are, functional! Not as stylish as a scooter although some of the modern cross-overs we are seeing from China now are designed with fashion the main consideration For example, Jialing previously incorporated the stylishness of a scooter and practicality of a cub into its concept product SCV the JL125-9 and many other factories followed suit. Also, the great thing about cubs is that they are easy to ride yet retain the functions of a motorcycle although the advent of fully-automatic cubs has brought them more in to basic user scooter territory.”

As times and trends change, domestic consumer groups’ demands for motorcycles also change. The changing demands necessitate the evolution and development of the entire industry. In the 1980s, owning a motorcycle in China was a status symbol. In the 1990s, economic practicality, and fuel-efficiency became keywords. At the present time, characteristics such as sports, leisure, and youthfulness are sweeping the entire Chinese motorcycle industry. However, how will domestic motorcycle products develop in 2015 and affect the export market? Winston Guo takes up the story.

“When scooters and cubs develop rapidly for similar markets the two distinct product types start merging with each other. Chinese motorcycle enterprises are trying to bring differentiation in to their product fields to break with traditional models. New motorcycle types which integrate the advantages of both scooters and cubs have begun to emerge on the market. These types are called scooter cub vehicles (SCV) or cub scooter vehicle (CSV). There are now examples of these products on the domestic market, examples which should have an effect on the future of the export industry. What we will see here is that there will be a bigger concentration of producing these vehicles with EURO 4 a main consideration/”

One of the factors in the successful cub industry is the booming joint-venture cooperative enterprises enjoyed by the likes of Qinqi (Jinan Suzuki), Wuyang (Wuyang Honda) and Sundiro (Sundiro Honda) who regularly post yearly increases in their cub sales.

Rio Wang from Fuego Power says “the Japanese influence on Chinese cub production has been predictably very positive. The companies that are in cooperation agreements with the Japanese have been able to improve the standard of cubs through the technological ‘trickle down’ affect and they’ve influenced the rest of the cub producing companies (which is pretty much every Chinese motorcycle manufacturer).”