2009 Chinese Motorcycle Show - Part 2

The CIMA Motor Show showcases all the new products from China


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We recently delivered a general overview of China's motorcycle industry in the first part of this series. If you haven't yet read it, we recommend you check it out here. This week our focus gets zoomed in tighter to some of the biggest players in China, including profiles of more than a dozen companies.

We traveled to Chongqing, China, for the China International Motorcycle Trade Exhibition – the premier event for the motorcycle industry in China – to check out who the major players are and what they are doing to satisfy both the domestic market and the Western export market.

Most Chinese manufacturers offer a fairly simple a mix of small-displacement bikes and scooters, relying almost exclusively on four-stroke motors. Engine displacements above 250cc are still quite rare, as are liquid-cooling systems and four-valve cylinder heads. Single-cylinder motors are typical, while sub-300cc twin-cylinder engines reside in the high-end category. Powerplants with more than two cylinders are like the Yeti – talked about but never really seen.

The Chongqing Exhibition Center was the site of the 2009 CIMA Motor Show.

Standard upright nakeds – most looking quite vintage to Western eyes – are the most popular style, but newer development has gone into producing sportier models that border on sportbikes, albeit with unsophisticated and relatively timid powerplants. Small cruisers are ubiquitous, and it's typical to see dual-sport and supermoto versions of the same bike. China's contemporary-looking scooters seem to have the best chance of quickly assimilating into our streets.

While the technology and build quality still lag behind what we've grown accustomed to from the Japanese, European and American manufacturers, China is on the verge of developing and producing motorcycles that will inevitably find their way into our garages.

Independent and veracious production data is difficult to come by in China, but below is a list of the top 8 Chinese motorcycle manufacturers, according to one source. All on this list sold more than 1 million units in 2007. China is expected to produce nearly 30 million motorcycles and scooters in 2009. China South Industries Group (CSIG) is a government body representing three of the OEMs on this list; Jinan Qingqi Motorcycle Co. is another major manufacturer under the CSIG umbrella.

China's motorcycle industry is undergoing a transformation from small utility bikes to larger-displacement recreational cycles like this Jialing JH600 Duke and his translator took a spin on.

Top 8 Chinese Motorcycle Manufacturers
1. Haojue (Jiangmen Dachangjiang Group Co., Ltd). A.K.A. Grand River Group; partnership with Suzuki.
2. Loncin (Loncin Industries Group). Builds BMW G650 engines.
3. Lifan (Lifan Industry Co. Ltd). Also manufactures automobiles.
4. Jianshe (Chongqing Jianshe Motorcycle Co., Ltd). State-owned but stock-listed. Joint-venture with Yamaha. CSIG member.
5. Jialing (China Jialing Industrial Co. Ltd). State-owned but stock-listed. Honda partner. CSIG member.
6. Zongshen (Zongshen Industrial Group)
7. Dayang (Luoyang Northern Enterprises Group Co. Ltd). State-owned but stock-listed. CSIG member.
8. Qianjiang (Zhejiang Qianjiang Motorcycle Co. Ltd). Benelli parent.

But which companies are closest to delivering Chinese-made motorcycles we want to buy, and how quick will they arrive? In terms of technology, there is still a considerable gap to bridge, but China is already entering our markets with low-cost bikes that seem to offer unbeatable value.

Below are the first six in an alphabetical list of the most dynamic players in the Chinese motorcycle industry; stay tuned next week for profiles on the remaining Chinese OEMs we believe will the ones to watch. These are the companies you should store in your mental databank so you can keep track of them as they evolve into major players in the markets of the Western motorcycle world.

Bashan (Chongqing Astronautic Bashan Motorcycle Manufacturing Co.)

Although not yet a major-league player, Bashan cranks out a lot of product. It has the annual capability to produce 600,000 motorcycles and scooters, 100,000 ATVs, and 1,000,000 engines. The company claims its 2007 export value exceeded $100 million.

Like most manufacturers at the show, Bashan's lineup is limited to smaller machines. Its largest engine is a four-stroke 197cc air-cooled Single producing a claimed 14.2 horsepower at 8000 rpm. We liked the racy look of a supermoto that uses a beam-type frame called the Will, although it's powered by a modest air-cooled 125cc engine that is too small for widespread Western consumption.

Most appealing was the BS150-11, or MotoR, a fully faired sportbike boasting a perimeter beam (steel) frame and an inverted fork. At a glance, it looks up to date, but it's let down by an air-cooled 162cc engine producing just 11.5 hp and 8.7 lb-ft of torque. It's also available in a naked sportster form.

The BS150-11, or MotoR, is a fully faired sportbike boasting a perimeter beam frame and an inverted fork.

CFMoto (Zhejiang CFMoto Power Co.)

Established in 1989, CFMoto is a privately owned company producing a range of scooters, motorcycles, ATVs and UTVs. It stands apart from other Chinese brands by using liquid-cooled engines exclusively, ranging from 125cc to a 493cc Single, the latter fitted to its ATVs and making 32.2 horsepower. CFMoto products appear to use only CVT transmissions.

Some of CFMoto's products might be familiar to American eyes, as a few models have been sold here for several years. If you've seen the V3, you're not likely to forget it. It's an indelible amalgam of a scooter and sportbike and cruiser with an automatic CVT transmission that predates Honda's similar-in-concept DN-01 by several years. Leaning more to the cruiser side is the V5 which uses the same platform and powerplant, a liquid-cooled 244cc Single producing a claimed 14.9 hp at 7000 rpm and 13.0 ft-lbs of torque at 5500 rpm.

New to the CFMoto lineup are two scooters, the maxi-scooter Jet Max 250 and the sporty Glory platform in 125 and 150cc versions. Also new is the CF150 naked roadster with a bikini fairing. Power comes from a 145cc liquid-cooled Single producing 13.4 horsepower.

CFMoto V5 in the foreground. New CF150 in the background.

Haojue (Jiangmen Dachangjiang Group Co., Ltd./Grand River Group)

Established in 1992, Haojue lays claim to being the best-selling brand in the Chinese domestic market since 2003. It has a production capacity of 3 million engines and 3 million motorcycles/scooters per year, and its products are exported to 70 countries around the world. It employs more than 10,000 workers, and its 2008 sales topped 12.173 billion yuan RMB.

Most interesting is Haojue's partnership with Suzuki Motor Corporation that sees the Chinese factory  manufacturing 125cc and 150cc Suzuki motorcycles seen here. This has proved a fruitful joint venture, as it has helped Haojue earn China's number-one ranking in customer satisfaction for five consecutive years.

Despite all its domestic success, Haojue's lineup is bereft of products that would appeal to the American market. The most powerful engine it produces is a 250cc Single stuck inside a cruiser-styled Suzuki GN250J police bike. The most powerful civilian Haojues are stuck with an air-cooled 150cc Single as seen in the new HJ150-6.

The HJ150-6 may look semi-vintage, but it's actually a new model for Haojue.

Jialing (China Jialing Industrial Co)

This state-owned company has roots that stretch back to 1875, and for most of its life it was primarily focused on military production of all kinds. In 1979 Jialing became China's first motorcycle manufacturer. It has enjoyed technical cooperation with Honda since 1981, and Jialing now has the capacity to produce 2 million bikes and 2 million engines a year. It claims to have produced 18 million motorcycles over its history, amounting to one-sixth of China's bike inventory. Since 1992, Jialing has had marketing representation on our shores through Jialing Motorcycle America Corp, although I can't say I've ever seen one on the road.

Jialing offers a broad array of scooters, as well as a variety of motorcycles. Like its Chinese counterparts, Jialing's bikes cover the small-displacement dual-sport , cruiser and standard genres, but it stands apart with its JH600, an adventure-styled trailie. As the name implies, it uses a single-cylinder 600cc engine – likely the most power engine designed and produced in China. Not only is the motor relatively huge, it also uses up-to-date technology like liquid-cooling, a 4-valve cylinder head and an overhead camshaft. The Thumper is said to produce 40.2 horsepower.

Jialing's other high-end, relatively speaking, motorcycles include standards powered, at best, by a liquid-cooled 197cc OHV Single with 14.8 horsepower. Cruisers are available with an air-cooled 234cc OHC parallel-Twin outputting 16.8 horsepower.

The JH600 uses a liquid-cooled, SOHC, 4-valve Single that is claimed to produce 40.2 horsepower. This is likely the most powerful engine designed and built in China.

The Chinese Motorcycle Industry According to Jialing

Jialing's president, Gong Bing, spoke to the media and industry at a presentation during the China International Motorcycle Trade Exhibition. Here are a few of his observations I jotted down.

The economic crisis has drastically affected the industry.
Global motorcycle sales in 2008 were 50 million, with 40 million being sold in Asia.
China produced 27 million bikes in 2008.
Africa and South America are growing markets.
China has passed Japan as the number-one motorcycle maker.
Exports to North America and Africa are growing rapidly.
On product development: China is moving from a pricing model to product differentiation.
In Europe and America, motorcycles are used for recreation, entertainment and competition.
“We haven't understood the overseas market quite completely.”
“We (China) aren't gaining ground in influence.”

Jialing's JH125-99A boasts styling by Guigiaro Design of Italy. Also notable is the Showa-branded fork. Showa is a Japanese company, and the use of non-Chinese componentry is rare among Chinese OEMs, showing this bike's upmarket intent.

Jianshe (Chongqing Jianshe Motorcycle Co.)

Jianshe is a state-owned company with a history that reaches back to 1889. Once a gun factory, Jianshe now bills itself as “the biggest motorcycle and ATV manufacturer in China” and employs 11,000 workers. The company says it has sold more than 14 million motorcycles since 1980, a pivotal year when Jianshe entered a joint venture with Yamaha called Yamaha Jianshe Motor Shanghai Marketing Co. Its stock spiked in early 2008, then tanked in the fall once the recession hit.

Once again, Jianshe offers a similar small-displacement lineup of motorcycles and scooters, but it adds variety with a selection of ATVs that do well in the export markets. In fact, only ATVs and a slick 387cc dune buggy are currently sold in the U.S. by Jianshe America, a subsidiary founded in 2008.

All Jianshe engines are use old-school air cooling, but the company is upping the technology ante with the introduction of new fuel-injection systems for its 147cc Single in the JS150-3. This little flyscreen-equipped sports standard has a claimed 13.7 ponies to carry its 291 pounds in Euro III compliance.

Further up the burly scale, relatively speaking, is the JS200-GY dual-sport. A claimed 14.8 horsepower from a 197cc motor provides curb-hopping motivation for the 276-pounder. Braking is by disc up front and a drum on back. No sissy electric start- it’s kick only.

Jialing JS150-3A Plus is one of the few Chinese-produced motorcycles with electronic fuel injection.

Lifan (Lifan Industry Group Co., Ltd.)

For a private corporation established only 17 years ago, Lifan is a remarkably well-rounded enterprise with exports of nearly $600 million a year. A mix of scooters, motorcycles and ATVs were joined in 2003 by a range of automobiles seen here. Lifan is one of the largest privately-owned companies in China, and it has been ranked tops among Chongqing's private enterprises. According to the company, it ranks third in production of motorcycles in China with sales of 1.77 million.

This Lifan LF150-17 (with a 124cc liquid-cooled engine) demonstrates the utilitarian aspect of motorcycling in China, as it's shown here with an optional pump to help irrigate your fields.

Lifan's range of engines is likely the broadest in China, offering a mix of air-cooled and liquid-cooled mills in single-cylinder, parallel-Twin and V-Twin configurations in various displacements. An unusual powerplant is a 125cc parallel-Twin, the smallest twin-cylinder engine I can think of, which can also be had in a bored-out 142cc version. The company claims production of 3.36 million engines a year from among its 13,000-plus employees.

The largest V-Twin we saw at the show was housed in the LF400, Lifan's new 399c V-Twin cruiser with a dry weight of 386 pounds. The air-cooled motor is purported to produce 32.2 horsepower and 22.1 lb-ft of torque. The LF400 is styled like you'd expect from a chopper-ish cruiser, with spoked wheels, extended fork and a buckhorn handlebar.

Also in the cruiser genre is the LF250 platform. The LF250-B is a traditionally styled cruiser (335 lbs) with a buckhorn handlebar and a 249cc V-Twin using a radically undersquare bore and stroke. Maximum power is said to be 17.4 horses at 8000 rpm, while peak torque is 14.0 lb-ft. The LF250 (no B) is the same bike in more of a chopper style. Other Lifan cruisers are more stylistically challenged – for one of the most hideous cruisers we've ever seen, click here.

At the top end of the dual-sport range is the LF250GY-7 supermoto with a liquid-cooled 249cc Single boasting 17.7 horsepower. Lifan also offers a variety of standard-type motorcycles, including the LF150-17 which uses a 124cc liquid-cooled engine seen in the accompanying photo with an accessory pump to help irrigate your fields!

Like many Chinese brands, Lifan struggles with English translations in its product literature. The following statement from Lifan is emblematic of the Chinglish issues often encountered: “No Famous Brand, our motorcycles are just like a pile of scrap iron.”

Lifan cruisers, including the new LF400 (left) and LF250 (right).

That's all for now. Check back next week for the conclusion of our series about the Chinese motorcycle industry and more from the China International Motorcycle Trade Exhibition. Still to come are profiles of Benelli's Chinese parent, the OEM behind American Johnny Pag Motorcycles, China's leading dirtbike manufacturer, and a tour of the factory that assembles BMW's G650 powerplants.

Related Reading
2009 Chinese Motorcycle Show - Part 1
CIMA Motor Show Blog
Chinese Motor Show Babes Gallery
CIMA Motor Official Website
2009 Johnny Pag Motorcycles Review
2009 QLINK XF200 Review
2009 Honda CRF230M vs. 2009 QLINK XF200
2008 QLINK Legacy 250

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