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Wheels from the Noodle Land: Chinese Motorcycle companies in India

Lately, China has been in the negative news frame for a couple of reasons. From Coronavirus to military activities along the Indian border has just scaled China as a serious threat especially for India. On one side the government has banned a number of Chinese apps which were pretty popular back in the day while on the other side many Indian people have started to boycott other commodities from phones, to appliances, electronics, electricals, etc.

Statistically, India imported $70.3 billion of goods from China while exporting only $16.7 billion of them until last year making it the widest trade deficit we have with any other country. Negative sentiment against China is not just evident in our country but has started taking a serious form at a global level.

The question is what about the automobile sector? Do we know what percentage of the market is actually Chinese? To give a much better understanding, last year $4.2 billion worth parts as per the report released by Auto Component Manufacturers’ Association of India (ACMA) come from the other side of Himalayas. But what about the two-wheeler industry specifically you ask? Just for information, the equation grew serious since 2016 when India overtook China to be the world’s largest two-wheeler market world over. So this should be an important question.

Well, we are here to help you with a run-down of the following:

  • Chinese motorcycle brands
  • Non-Chinese motorcycle brands employing Chinese parts
  • Indian manufactured motorcycles with Chinese parts

Several Chinese motorcycle companies cooperate in joint ventures with global motorcycle giants including Loncin (BMW), Zongshen (Piaggio), Qingqi (Suzuki, and Peugeot), and Qianjiang (owners of Benelli). These joint ventures are different in every case which ranges from research, development, and production ventures to distribution, sales, and marketing JVs. Chinese manufacturers have also partnered with European design houses to produce unique new models.

Today we will dwell into understanding how the amount of an influence China has in the Indian two-wheeler market with a hint about those specific Chinese names that are either under your seat hidden as a part or is wide-open basking in the glory of being bought by an Indian.

  1. Benelli

In India, Benelli has seen a good amount of success in the recent past. India has been one of the strongest performing markets for the manufacturer who offered everything from a basic 250cc to 1130cc. The strategy has recently been changed where the company has shaved off anything above the 600cc offerings (mid-range segment) it had earlier. The famed Italian manufacturer with a racing pedigree which is headquartered in Pesaro, Italy actually is fully owned by a Chinese group by the name of Qianjiang in Zhejiang. Since 2005 the group has been involved as a designer and is the manufacturer of the complete range of Benelli motorcycles.

India recently saw Benelli offering products such as the Imperiale 400 to challenge against the might of the Royal Enfield Bullet series and the Jawa Forty-Two specifically.

  • Qianjiang Motorcycle Group Co., Zhejiang

Zhejiang Qianjiang Motorcycle Group Co., usually known as Qianjiang Motorcycle (QJ), is a Chinese motorcycle manufacturer founded in 1985 with a registered office in Wiling (Zhejiang province). It is currently one of the largest volume manufacturers of 2-wheeler in China.

  1. CF Moto

CFMOTO is a Chinese motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle manufacturer. Established in 1989, CFMOTO has been said to develop around 100 models of vehicles and around 50 models of air-cooled and liquid cool IC engines. Most of these engines are single or parallel twin-cylinder engines which are usually housed in both quads and motorcycles. These are distributed through its 1900 companions worldwide. That being the global portfolio.

Its Indian debut last year had four models as an offering, one 300cc, and three 650cc motorcycles. The company has its indigenous R&D in China itself. For the Indian market, CF Moto has tied up with Anvita Auto Tech Works Pvt Ltd (formally known as AMW Motorcycles), a Bangalore-based private company, to assemble and sell motorcycles near Hyderabad. Meaning the motorcycle will be brought into India by the Completely Knocked Down (CKD) route and then will be assembled here. Though in late 2019, CF Moto did have plans to localize 50% of the motorcycle to lower costs for the Indian market the current scene of things has left a cloud of questions surrounding that it seems.

The four models launched by the company 300NK, 650NK, 650MT, and the 650GT seem to be excellent price-based propositions but the reliability aspect against the competitors is often questioned a bit.

But what if we told you that CF Moto has ties with a certain Austrian manufacturer that we love in India?

  1. KTM

Yes, the last question is in line with what is to come ahead. Who doesn’t recognize the Austrian Orange streak? KTM has been in India since 2008 and has been recognized to be the company that is usually seen working on an enthusiastic set of offerings. Before KTM, Yamaha was essentially noted to hold that place. As of today, Bajaj Auto Limited International Holdings B.V. holds a 47.99% stake of the Orange pie. It’s been doing very well in India with its line-up which includes 125 Duke, 200 Duke, 250 Duke, 390 Duke, 790 Duke, RC 125, RC 200, RC 390, and 390 Adventure. Though recent shuffle of cards such as the Triumph-Bajaj partnership and KTM’s research offering having eaten up a few KTM sales in the same segment. It has also been hinting at the tectonic shift in ties in the coming future.

  • CF Moto

CF Moto is one of the production partners of KTM in China for the 200cc and 390cc motorcycles. The costs had to be kept low for the Duke, RC, and Adventure series of motorcycles in China itself so this deal went underway. What is much concerning is the recent pact stating that this Chinese company will solely be making the 799cc parallel-twin LC8 motor that will power the 790 Duke 2020 onwards. The same is supposed to be installed in the already launched KTM 790 Duke and announced 790 Adventure. This joint venture will see taking effect initiating from the Hangzhou plant of CF Moto in China.

The move by KTM also undertook in order to free up existing space in its Mattighofen factory to concentrate on the plus 1-liter class of range. The Hangzhou manufacturing facility will be responsible for 2021 slated 890 Duke and the 890 Adventure which might also be manufactured in parts completely by CF Moto and then brought in the Pune plant via the CKD route for assembly.

It wasn’t long ago that KTM launched the much anticipated and hyped KTM 790 Duke in September 2019 at 8.64 lakhs (ex-showroom, Delhi). What this really also shows is that not a lot of companies, especially something as big as even KTM has the confidence in India to produce such offerings here itself. Such things are what ascend the cost at the end of the product.

  1. BMW Motorrad

Who doesn’t know the Bavarian German giant BMW? It has been in the Indian subcontinent and has given the enthusiasts some of the most premium motorcycles in the world. The current offerings only have the G310 series being produced in India itself at TVS’s Hosur Tamil Nadu, India plant. This 2013 alliance has actually helped BMW roll out around 50,000 310s to date, a majority of which are being exported. Other than this, all the other BMW Motorrad’s motorcycle production takes place at its plant in Berlin, Germany with engine manufacturing being done in Austria, China, and Taiwan.

Amongst the numerous offerings, one bike in particular the F650 GS is actually a point to focus on here. The F650 GS (the rebadged G650 GS) which started as one of the first BMWs in India was discontinued way back. What though is significant is the parallel-twin 798cc engine which was manufactured by a company in China and assembled in Berlin. The tradition though has continued for the succeeding F 750 GS (discontinued cause of BS-VI norms), F 850 GS (discontinued cause of BS-VI norms), F 900 R (latest launch), and F 900 XR (latest launch) which houses the same architecture but tweaked engine.

The bore and stroke characteristics have been reworked to bring up the displacement to 895cc in the latest entrants. The most important thing to notice is that again this engine is made by Loncin. The F 900 XR is currently listed to be rolled out of Indian showrooms at a cost starting from ₹10,50,000/- (before taxes) while the F 900 R is a shad cheaper at ₹9,90,000/- (before taxes).

  • Longxin Motorcycle Industry Co., Ltd (Loncin), Chongqing

The Longxin Motorcycle Industry Co., Ltd subsidiary produces motorcycles; motorcycle engines; universal gasoline engine; ATV all-terrain vehicles; and parts and components under the brand name “Loncin”. The company operates production, distribution, and marketing facilities in Chongqing, Zhejiang, and Guangdong in China. It annually produces around 25 lakh motorcycles, 30 lakh motorcycle engines, and 150,000 all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).

In 2005, Loncin entered into an agreement to make G650 GS motorcycle engines for German-based BMW Motorrad. The partnership has produced over 35,000 engines for BMW, and significant and technical benefits for Loncin, which Loncin uses to power their LX650 (also known as the CR9). This model is available only in markets specified by BMW under the agreement.

  1. SWM

SV.VM (Sironi Vergani Vimercate Milano) was an Italian motorcycle manufacturer founded in 1971 by Piero Sironi and Fausto Vergani. Based in Milan, Italy, SWM manufactured Observed Trials, Enduro, Motocross and off-road motorcycles in the 1970s and 1980s. They started with small capacity Sachs engined enduro bikes and began making Rotax engined trials bikes in 1977. SWM is back on the market by introducing six street and off-road bikes with an engine size between 300 and 650cc.

Funding for the SWM has come from China via the entity Shineray Group. SWM will keep manufacturing in Italy at Biandronno near Varese, in the old factory of Husqvarna closed from KTM. Apparently, some of its engines will be acquired from the old Husqvarna (engines replaced by KTM units following the acquisition by Peirer).

Shineray recently leased Husqvarna’s factory in Biandronno, Italy, and acquired the rights to produce several of their models under the resurrected SWM brand. Shineray will also use the leases to produce models under their SRM brand, which will be imported to China.

  • Chongqing Shineray Motorcycle Co., Ltd

CHONGQING SHINERAY Motorcycle Co., LTD. (Shenyang Brilliance Jinbei Automobile Co., Ltd. Chongqing Branch) – is a multinational company that produces both cars and motorcycles of Chinese origin. This is a joint association between the Brilliance Auto Group and Chongqing Eastern Shineray Holdings Co., which is also the manufacturing hub of Brilliance Auto in South China.

For the Super Dual 650 in India to keep the production costs low is done by sourcing 20-25% of the non-critical parts (like plastics, levers, seats, and engine cases) from China.

Future Potentials

  1. MV Agusta

In the coming future, MV Agusta seems to be in talks with a company by the name of Loncin in China to produce motorcycles between 350-500cc.  They do have something planned for the year 2021 but would any of the planned international models make it to the Indian shores in still to be defined. The aspect of them coming through China is another big verification. Now it is very much possible that those could be redirected to the Indian subcontinent as who won’t want a share in the world’s biggest two-wheeler market?

  1. Peugeot Motocycles

Another future proposition is Peugeot Motorcycles which are now 100% Mahindra & Mahindra owned. Peugeot is a famed brand globally when it comes to scooters and has been for years. The recent spy shots of the Pulsion were suggesting what Mahindra was working on pre-covid-19. Though it is early to comment that is the Pulsion really coming to India any time soon but if it does from its conventional plant which is Jinan, then it would be really disheartening. The same plant is amongst the two plants which produce the complete range of Peugeot products ranging from 50 to 500cc. The Chinese company which essentially makes parts for Peugeot is by the name Qingqi Motorcycle Co. Ltd.

  1. Harley Davidson

Harley Davidson has been looking to indict something elementary, something below the Street 750 for quite a while. It already has tied up with Qianjiang in Zhejiang. These are the same people who are the owners of Benelli. Both Harley Davidson and Benelli actually looking to share the same engine more or less produced by Qianjiang and manufacture their own body styles around it.  Harley’s move to do this is to grab its share in one of the most volumetric segments in Asia. Up till now, Harley had setup to bring any of its models through either the CKD (Completely Knocked Down) or CBU (Completely Build Unit) except the Street 750 and the Street Rod 750 which are manufactured in the same assembly plant in Bawal, Haryana.

It always had ties with a brand popular in China by the name of Zongshen too but saying that it’s unclear if any of the parts in the Indian Harleys do come from the China land.

Aftermath

As one can deduce, until recently China had almost no hugely successful brand in India when it comes to two-wheelers. In reality, China does have a fairlead in terms of producing electric and electronic components much better than anyone, which is why so many big smartphone manufacturers (including the likes of Apple) established their businesses there. This leads to the other worrying point which is just around the corner; Electric Vehicles.

The government with its initiative to convert the Internal combustion (Petrol/ Diesel run) vehicles is really an appreciable and ethical step. Though what needs to be scrutinized is that the source of the components used in an electric vehicle can potentially come from China. For instance, if China takes a lead in battery manufacturing and renders India dependent on imports from it again, then we will be back to square one. The battery is just one example, Want to know what amount of the EV market has Chinese share in it? Let us know in the comments below if you want us to prepare an article on this!

Disclaimer: This article was prepared or accomplished by it's author in their personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of Motorbikes India or it's owners.

The views and opinions expressed on this web site are soley those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Steve Gerweck, the GERWECK.NET staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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