Harley partnering with Qianjiang to make smaller motorcycle in China

Last updated on June 27th, 2019 at 01:19 pm

Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson Inc. will partner with Qianjiang Motorcycle Co. Ltd. to launch a 338cc motorcycle in China by the end of 2020.

Most of the motorcycles sold globally by Harley have larger engines above 600cc, but the company announced last year that it planned to launch a smaller model between 250 and 500cc targeting Asian markets.

Harley says the new model “will embody a distinctive look, sound and feel” associated with its brand. The motorcycles and engines will be produced in a Qianjiang facility in China. Founded in 1985, Qianjiang is a subsidiary of Geely Technnology Group and acquired Italian motorcycle maker Benelli in 2005. Qianjiang has led the Chinese market for the last seven years.

Harley says it selected Qianjiang based on its experience developing small displacement motorcycles, established supply base, capabilities in emerging markets and ability to meet consumer requirements.

“Harley-Davidson has always been about inspiring riders around the world. Our More Roads plan is all about bringing our brand of freedom to more people, in more places, in more ways,” said Matt Levatich, president and chief executive officer, Harley-Davidson. “We’re excited about this opportunity to build more Harley riders in China, one of the world’s largest motorcycle markets, by creating new pathways to our brand.”

Harley’s 10-year strategic plan calls for growing international sales to 50% of annual volume by 2027. Last year, international motorcycle shipments represented 40% of the company’s total, up from 36% in 2013 and 32% in 2008.

In China specifically, Harley has invested in marketing, expanding its dealer network, ecommerce and product availability. Sales in the country grew 27% last year. The company also built an assembly facility in Thailand intended to ship Harley’s traditional models into China and other countries while avoiding high tariffs.

A rendering of the planned 338cc Harley model for China

When Harley announced its More Roads to Freedom strategy – a five-year plan intended to accelerate the company’s growth toward longer term goals – the company said it would launch a smaller displacement model in India within two years and into other emerging markets over time.

“This new product and broader distribution is intended to fuel Harley-Davidson’s customer access and growth in India, one of the largest, fastest growing markets in the world, and other Asia markets,” a company press release said.

Asked if the company had changed its strategy by entering into the smaller market in China first, Harley spokeswoman Patricia Sweeney said the plan was always to explore ways to enter emerging Asian markets.

“We have to tap the opportunities that come before us,” she said, noting Qianjiang is a strong company with an established presence in China.

“India is still a key market for us,” she added.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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