Over 50% of the world’s motorcycles are being manufactured in China, and if you can’t see riders driving Chinese motorcycles in your neighbourhood yet, in a couple of years you will be.
Right now, the Chinese motorcycle industry can often seem like the wild-west of worldwide motorcycle production. Copies, fakes, low-quality products? Which brand to is the best?
Unfortunately, for the most part, Chinese motorcycle manufacturers aren’t very good at connecting with their customers. Communication channels can be hard to find, especially if you live outside China, which can make anyone’s buying decision harder to make.
When I bought my first Chinese motorcycle, I had the same anxiety and frustration. There just wasn’t enough information available to make an effective decision.
Brand and quality reputation are two of the most important considerations a buyer should take into account when buying a motorcycle. Hopefully list this will help others looking at buying a Chinese motorcycle to get an indication of which Chinese brands are more reliable than the others.
Here are 5 top Chinese motorcycle manufacturers
Lifan started as a motorcycle repair shop in Chongqing in 1992 by former political dissident Yin Mingshan and 9 employees. The company has grown rapidly. In 2001, Lifan was the first Chinese motorcycle brand to be sold in Japan. In 2003 they started building buses and in 2005 they started to focus on automobile production. They have become the 3rd largest producer of motorcycles in China for 2012, producing just over 1.4 million units in 2012, and one of China’s top 500 companies.
Globally, Lifan is one of the more visible brands, preferring to brand the motorcycles with their own name and selling them to retailers, rather than branding for importers. They have expanded their production operations to countries such as Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam.
As Lifan has a strong presence in the markets of developing countries, they have their sights set on entering the markets of developed nations.
In 2011, Lifan started a strategic partnership with MV Augusta, which seems to be a move which will allow Lifan to improve QC issues and start producing larger displacement motorcycle engines.
Lifan management acknowledges that their first foray into the North American market was handled poorly. The manufacturer plans to re-enter the “strategically important” US market in 2014 with on-road compliant motorcycles, mentioning that acquiring or merging with an American company “is an effective method [to] tap the US market further”.
They also sponsor the Chongqing-based soccer team “Chongqing Lifan”.
A Lifan motorcycle to watch is the KPR150 street motorcycle.
For more information on Lifan and the models they produce, visit the Lifan company profile page.
Loncin was founded in 1993 in Chongqing. Loncin is the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) for some of BMW’s engines (the engine for the G650GS for example).
Loncin was the second largest producer of motorcycles in China for 2012, making over 1.5 million units. The manufacturer is the largest exporter, exporting 45% of its production, including more than 35,000 BMW engines.
An up and coming motorcycle from Loncin is the Loncin CR9 (also known as the LX650), which uses the licensed G650GS engine, unveiled at the CIMA exhibition in October 2012.
For more information about Loncin and the motorcycles they make, visit the Loncin company profile page.
Zuo Zongshen, once a “commoner” from a very modest background, is a well known name with Chongqing locals. Like Yin Mingshan of Lifan, Zuo started Zongshen as a motorcycle repair shop in 1992. Twenty years later, Zongshen Group produced over 1 million motorcycle units in 2012 and exports to over 70 countries. Zuo Zongshen is now one of the richest men in China.
The Zongshen Group has already set up factories in developing countries such as Thailand and Brazil, and is considering buying a developed motorcycle manufacturer in the United States in order to gain a strategic foothold before other Chinese manufacturers get the first mover advantage.
Like the other major motorcycle makers, Zongshen plans to make the production of higher value, larger displacement motorcycles a more prominent focus in their business strategy. It is currently in a number of strategic partnerships with international motor brands. Zongshen signed an agreement with Piaggio (2004), which has led to Zongshen producing a range of Piaggio products at their facilities. They have also signed a deal with Harley Davidson, offering their distribution and marketing network in China to help the American manufacturer gain a foothold in the Chinese market. There is also talk that Zongshen will enter the aviation industry as a manufacturer of private jets.
One motorcycle to look out for from Zongshen is the 250cc RX3 tourer, which takes design elements from the BMW 650GS and Suzuki V-Strom.
For more information on Zongshen and the motorcycles they produce, visit the Zongshen company profile page.
Looking for pics of the best Chinese motorcycles? Check out our list of best Chinese motorcycles in production.
Jialing is a the oldest motorcycle maker in China, based in Chongqing and owned by the state-owned body China South Industries Group. Established in 1875, Jialing began as a manufacturer of military hardware. This changed in 1975 with a pivot to producing civilian motorcycles and in 2012, Jialing produced almost 1 million motorcycles and exports its products to more than 90 countries
Jialing has been working with Honda since 1981, in the first international partnership signed by a Chinese motorcycle maker. Their 50/50 joint-venture has recently been solidified with the joint construction of a RMB 210 million (USD$35 million) new manufacturing plant in Chongqing which will add an additional production capacity of 900,000 units per year. They are keen to be seen as environmentally responsible, investing in ‘Green factory’ technology in their facilities (solar power, water recycling, reduced emissions) which is a nice touch.
Jialing is ahead of the trend towards production of larger displacement motorcycles. The JH600 range of motorcycles started mass production in 2007 and they have received a lot of market feedback.
Jinan Qingqi Motorycle Co. Ltd was originally started in the Shandong city of Ji’nan (济南) in 1956 and is a state-owned subsidiary of the China South Industries Group Corporation and produced well over 300,000 motorcycles in 2012.
In 1985 Qingqi was the first company in China to produce scooters from a partnership with Suzuki. In China, the name “Qingqi” came to be synonymous with the word “Scooter”, like the “Vespa” in western countries.
Qingqi is OEM for a number of international companies, including Suzuki, Mercury Marine and Peugot (started in 2006).
For more information on Qingqi and their products, visit the Qingqi company profile page.
Check out our quick video rundown of 5 of the top Chinese motorcycles available on the market:
List of Chinese motorcycle and motorcycle parts manufacturers
- Bashan Motorcycle Manufacturing Co.
- Chunfeng (CFMOTO)
- Foton Lovol
- Jincheng Group Co.
- Kymco (Headquartered in Taiwan, with production facilities in Mainland China)
- New Everest Tibet Motorcycle Co.
- Qianjiang Group Co. (makes Keeway and Benelli)
- Xinyuan (Shineray)
- Sundiro Honda
- SYM (Head-quartered in Taiwan, with production facilities in Mainland China)
- Tianma Motorcycle Co.
- Ugbest (E-vehicles)
- Wangjiang Motorcycle Manufacturing Co. (Wonjan)
- Wuyang Honda
- Xinri (E-vehicles)
- Yadea (E-vehicles)
- Yinxiang (Brands include Xianfeng, Kenbo, Jida and JLM)
- Zhongneng (ZNEN)
- Zengcheng Benma (SanLG)