Harley-Davidson executives met last month with two top-ranking Chinese diplomats as part of an ongoing effort to influence Chinese authorities to reduce restrictions regarding heavyweight motorcycles and thus make Harley-Davidson product more accessible to customers in China.
The Chinese contingent included Zhou Wenzhong, the ambassador of the People's Republic of China to the U.S., and Huang Ping, consul general of the People's Republic of China. They met with Jim Ziemer, H-D’s president and CEO, Rod Copes, H-D’s vice president and managing director, Asia-Pacific, and Tim Hoelter, H-D’s vice president, Government Affairs.
While U.S. retail sales of Harley-Davidson motorcycles in 2008 declined 13 percent compared to the prior year, international retail sales of Harley-Davidson motorcycles increased 10.3 percent for the full year 2008.
Boasting an annual market of about 20 million new units, China is the largest motorcycle market in the world. So, as Harley-Davidson looks to grow worldwide retail sales, selling motorcycles in China represents a significant long-term opportunity for the company.
However, most of the motorcycles sold in China are small displacement models used for basic transportation or utilitarian purposes and leisure riding is not yet a part of the culture. Plus, there are highly restrictive regulations that govern cycle use in densely populated areas. For example, 70 major cities are entirely closed to motorcycle traffic.
Harley-Davidson already supplies dealerships in Beijing, Shanghai and Qingdao. Yet, to open the market for increased sales to a growing upper class of leisure riders, the OEM’s quest is to have Chinese authorities ease riding restrictions.
"We are developing the relationships necessary to influence Chinese leaders to reduce these restrictions and support growing sales in a region with such significant sales opportunities," says Rod Copes, Vice President and Managing Director, Asia-Pacific.
"If you compare Harley-Davidson motorcycle riding to the motorcycle riding in China, the only similarity between the two experiences will be that both occur on two wheels – therefore, we must educate Chinese leaders about the benefits and possibilities of leisure riding in their country," says Tim Hoelter, VP, Government Affairs.
Read more about H-D’s quest for increased sales in Asia by clicking here and here.
- Submitted by Guido Ebert
Jim Ziemer hosts top-ranking Chinese leaders at H-D Museum.