A couple of years ago I predicted that the winds of change would have to blow through the Chinese motorcycle industry for it to evolve. It was quite obvious that the industry was flagging and needed a large injection of new ideas to get it rolling again and it seems that Zongshen have taken the lead in pushing forward the reputation of the industry.
One of the serious problems facing the industry is the ‘Indian invasion’ on traditionally safe Chinese markets in Latin America and Africa. Zongshen’s reaction to this is to start a campaign which actively targets commuters in Europe and the USA. Over the next couple of years many marketing campaigns will be launched at EICMA Milan, EUROMOT Cologne and other venues which will see Zongshen changing their brand name to ‘Cyclone’ and producing high quality products for these regions.
The ‘Cyclone’ brand naming is a reaction to the Chinese industry trend of producing OEM and rebranding for just about every customer. On the European and American markets Cyclone will be the name of Zongshen’s products and there will be no rebadging much in the same was that QJiang promote their ‘Keeway’ brand in Europe.
Another boost to the Zongshen reputation comes from joint ventures and technical partnerships with international motorcycle manufacturers and parts factories. Zongshen have enjoyed a successful partnership with Piaggio for many years and share a scooter making factory in Foshan, Guangdong. In recent months Zongshen have stepped up their quest to produce better quality products as they are just about to dry the ink on an exciting new adventure which will see them collaborating with Norton to make bigger (in China 600cc is a big displacement engine) and better engines and perhaps eventually (according to Zongshen) produce a Norton motorcycle for the Asian market.
Zongshen Manager Thomas Fan stated “it’s a perfect partnership, we get to improve the quality of our bigger displacement engines and then we can help Norton to their rightful place as one of the world’s leading motorcycle manufacturers. We initially went to David McMullan to ask him if he could advise us on whom to approach with regard to evolving our engine technology and producing bigger engines for our new market targets. David put us together with Norton and after a very successful visit to the UK we have been negotiating the terms of our agreement to get the best win/win situation. Our partnership is starting carefully but there is no reason that it can’t expand and evolve to become one of the more famous working relationships in the global motorcycle industry.”
Zongshen also have a good working relationship with Fantic of Italy. Famous old 70’s off-road brand Fantic has enjoying a renaissance in recent times and has expanded their catalogue to include street bikes. Fantic and Zongshen have collaborated to produce an excellent engine and it won’t be long before they step up to the next level with full partnership as Zongshen look to increase their influence in Europe.
Zongshen are backing up their new market campaigns with the biggest and most expensive research and development centre in the Chinese motorcycle industry. Mr. Fan reports “Zongshen are one of the only factories who have actually increased their spending on research and development and I think we have made a decent statement to the world with our new 50 million dollar facility. No one else in China has anything like what we have developed with the possible exception of Haojue and they really do not concentrate on export motorcycles. With the new facility we can concentrate on trying to produce new types of products for different markets like snowmobiles. We feel now that we are starting to get everything in place to make a big push in to Europe and the United States. We have the technical partners and also the facility to make the best of them. What we really need now is to speak to the media in the countries we are targeting and make sure that everyone knows that Zongshen, and more to the point Cyclone, is looking to become one of the major players on western markets.”
To conclude I think it’s safe to say that if Zongshen do not succeed with this new venture it is certainly not for lack of trying. Industry experts have been advising the Chinese motorcycle industry to take these measures for years, especially the decision to launch their own brands which marketing wise should be a no-brainer! I think one of the major catalysts of Zongshen’s decision will be a domino effect which will see other Chinese motorcycle companies follow suit in trying to evolve into new markets and attract partners that can improve their technical quality and know-how.
Now let’s hope they get their marketing right!
by David McMullan