Chinese Motorcycles – News
The wide scale distribution of Chinese motorcycles across the world would lead you to imagine, in some regards, that the bikes had been marketed well to get where they are today. The fact is that just isn’t the case and it’s more down to the mass production and attractive pricing that lands container after container of Chinese machines in every part of the world.
Decades ago part of the success of the Japanese manufacturers’ marketing was the ability to show their bikes for what they were; capable rides that proved their worth through events like the Dakar Rally and the Isle of Man Time Trials. With this kind of exposure the marques had no problem translating victories into sales.
Now step back from the mundane ads littered throughout internet sites and glossy mags and imagine what the producers of Chinese motorcycles could do given a bit of imagination and some drive to properly market their products to an international audience. Let’s take a look at what they have to off.
Did you know that within the last three years Chinese bike have scored at least three Guinness World Records (including the one attained by this writer) for long distance, endurance riding? An Anglo-American team on a 650 CF Moto street bike smashed a record for long distance touring without so much as a single mechanical hiccup, which was lucky, because between Buck, the pilot, and his partner Amy on the back, neither of them were proficient mechanics.
They claimed their place in history by doing over 30,000 kilometers in under four months through the wildest terrain the planet had to offer, and could you guess what bikes had set the previous distance for that record? A pair of BMW R1200GS motorcycles, which had numerous mechanical issues and at one point required parts shipped halfway around the world from Canada to get the bikes back on the road again.
How did CF Moto handle this amazing victory? They threw a small party and sat back with a grin, most likely. What they should have done is taken to the world stage with a banner the size of a small African nation and told the international community that one of their bikes had flawlessly gained a coveted place in the Guinness Book of World Records, beating out BMWs no less, and then simply waiting for the sales to roll in as the brand gets spoken about in the same breath as the noble Bavarian workshop.
A friend of CTW, Don Hampson, a long time tourer and race bike builder decided he’d have a crack at a World Record using a motorcycle and sidecar combination. The enthusiasm from Chinese manufacturers that Don encountered while seeking sponsorship was non-existent and he ended up buying the bike himself and building the sidecar too. Again, these companies missed out on a chance to have one of their vehicles top a world leader-board for the tiniest bit of input like lending out a bike. Don went on to do more than double the World Record distance claiming the glory all for himself.
Despite some companies not using the opportunities to show what their bikes are made of, or even taking advantage of having an all-conquering machine, a few Chinese companies are progressive and do see the benefits of marketing their success. I know this personally because I was sponsored and supported throughout an endurance tour that gained my team, the company and the bikes an official Guinness World Record.
Fuego (Motorhead) down in Chongqing saw the potential when I announced I would attempt a long distance record and offered mechanical and financial support. The bikes performed as well as any Honda or Yamaha and the company owner and chief of marketing, Ruby, was quick to seize upon the chance to promote her bikes that had decimated all before them, utilizing modern media outlets to show potential buyers what the motorcycles had achieved.
Chinese bike, in China at least, deal with incredible hardships from lugging a family of five around town to hauling several pigs to the market on the rear seat. They have tough lives, often ridden by inexperienced motorists who do little in the way of maintenance, even when it compromises their own safety.
Sure, they aren’t the nice looking, well styled models going out to an international market but they are made from the same core ingredients. So many adverts show untruths; what 110cc step-through cub is going to rocketing along the motorway with some leather-clad rider perched in the saddle? Exactly none. It is more likely, however, that one of those same cubs may be loaded up with 100km of fresh manure and un-expertly manhandled over rocky, mountainous terrain in the hands of goat-herd in Ecuador.
Sure, there are marques out their aiming their ads in the right place at the right audience, but it is so few of them that exist. Worse than not advertising to the right audience is out-right not advertising. They’re missing a crucial part of the business ethos – it takes money to make money. Being thrifty when it comes marketing is a simply a false economy. How well are you going to sell products if nobody knows they exist? Even when they are known about what makes anyone likely to buy them over the alternative if your product isn’t painted in the right light?
With the common process of re-branding for different markets some Chinese manufacturers are shooting themselves in the foot. Ask a rider to name a few Chinese brands and there’s a high chance any number of the brands that come up are known as something completely different in the neighboring countries. If the manufacturer itself doesn’t understand how to market its product, how are potential customers going to know they want it?
For the Chinese to have their bikes brought to a wider audience and talked about they need to use their successes to influence their marketing and give their product pedigree. What buyer wouldn’t want to be able to tell his friends down the pub that his new model has placed N podium finishes, won in class at the Dakar or sits on the pages of the record books?
By Sean Kerr and David McMullan