CIMA: Will China become top market for large-displacement motorcycles?

Publish Date: 
Oct 14, 2012
By Mike Vaughan

Editor's Note: Contributing editor Mike Vaughan is in China covering the 2013 CIMA exposition. Watch for his daily dispatches on new product and exhibitor news, and what it all means for the U.S. market.

CHONGQING, China - The first day the CIMA show was open to the public, I expected that the halls would be filled beyond bursting, but that wasn’t the case. There were very few attendees, a lot fewer than yesterday's pre-showing. But this worked out well as it enabled journalists to photograph displays and a few motorcycles without the competition from the multitude of cell phone photographers. CF Moto displayed a solid looking ATV and UTV, as well as an attractive 650 cc tourer complete with hard bags that I had missed while mired in the crowd on Day One.

A press conference presided by Mr. Wang Wei, CEO of CIMAMotor 2012, was held in the afternoon. Wang was very open about the problems with CIMA this year, and some of the problems confronting Chinese OEs in general. 

Speaking through a translator, Wang said exhibitor participation is down 22 percent from last year, and first day purchaser and vendor attendance also dropped, although a specific number wasn’t given. On the upside, there were more riders (read: consumers) present. But a trade show’s success depends on exhibitors and buyers, and the dealers and distributors were in short supply.

Wang attributed the reduction in visitors and exhibitors to the continuing slide of sales both domestically and overseas, along with the subsequent cutback in production. He did note that while many domestic OEs were missing in action, Moto Guzzi and Benelli were exhibiting for the first time, and Harley-Davidson had purchased more space. KTM was supposed to exhibit, but Wang said the company's products got caught up in some bureaucratic snafu and were unable to make it to the show.

Sales of small displacement motorcycles, 250cc and less (China’s main product category) have shrunk. Sales of large displacement motorcycles, those over 600cc, both foreign and domestic, had increased 120 percent in the past year – a total of 5,000 units (3,000 foreign motorcycles and 2,000 produced domestically). 

As China grows more affluent, the industry expects a shift in motorcycle style, from utilitarian to leisure/lifestyle. Wang noted that there are 300 million Chinese born in the 1980s and 1990s who have never purchased a motorcycle as their first vehicle. He anticipates that roughly 2 million of them will.

"Wang then predicted
that by 2015 China will
become the world’s biggest market for large displacement motorcycles, sustaining a 120 percent growth rate over a period of time

Although 2 million is a small portion of the total 12 million market, it’s encouraging, Wang said, because these new buyers will be making lifestyle purchases rather than utilitarian/transportation ones. This means that the price of a large displacement motorcycle, built to satisfy a buyer's "want" rather than "need," will be of a secondary consideration, with style and looks becoming the prominent factors in the buying decision. Wang then predicted that by 2015 China will become the world’s biggest market for large displacement motorcycles, sustaining a 120 percent growth rate over a period of time.

For now, China’s OEs will continue to put most of their efforts into supplying continuing demand for small displacement motorcycles for domestic and overseas sales. Wang cited Southeast Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Western Pacific as important markets, with none taking president over another. (continued)