China makes its presence felt at Vancouver motorcycle show

Updated: 2011-01-22 14:41


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VANCOUVER - In a simultaneous launch with New York, the Vancouver Motorcycle Show was at the center of the biking world Friday as legendary manufacturer Harley-Davidson debuted its FX Blackline bike, a stripped-down machine designed to appeal today's younger riders.

At the 34th annual motorcycle show being held in Abbotsford, about one hour east of Vancouver, Malcolm Hunter, president and CEO of Deeley Harley-Davidson Canada, said the introduction of new models would go a long way to help a motorcycle industry hit by the 2007 recession.

"In Canada, the industry has obviously suffered a bit of downsizing in the most recent recession. The industry has been off some 35 percent. When we talk about the industry we're talking about 650cc (engine size) motorcycles and above that we compete in," he said.

With 185 exhibitors displaying all kinds of motorcycles -- more than 300 models in all -- as well as four wheel all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), scooters, snowmobiles and motorcycle apparel and footwear, it's evident at the show, which is expected to draw about 40,000 people over its four-day run, that Canadian love their motorcycles.

While models by Harley-Davidson, Italy's Ducati and the Japanese brands of Kawasaki, Honda and Yamaha were at the top of the price range being exhibited in Vancouver, the low price point of the Chinese-made Saga brand was also drawing interest among many of those in attendance.

The line, produced by Zhejiang-based Benzhou Group, has been selling motorcycles and ATVs in Canada for the past five years. With scooters starting at less than C$1,000 with engine displacements ranging from 50cc to 250cc, Dan Laybourn of Saga Canada said the reception to the brand was continually growing. The company also sells ATVs that are about one-third of the price of their Japanese counterparts, as well as motorcycles.

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This year, the company expects to sell about 500 to 600 bikes and focus on expanding its network of dealers across Canada.

"The quality of Chinese products is getting better very, very fast," Laybourn said. "The Chinese manufacturers have been able to learn from the existing name brand manufacturers and are doing exactly the same things. And in some cases they are even better."

He added for Chinese-made motorcycles to get up to the level of recognition enjoyed by Kawasaki, Yamaha and Honda worldwide, brands such as Saga had to show the same consistency, parts and service support and for the factory to listen to the input of its dealers, similar to what the "name-brand guys did in the 1960s and 1970s".

"The Japanese bikes are assembled in China by the same work force, the price of a lot of Japanese bikes have come down a bit. But it's the price on the Chinese bikes that have exposed the actual profits the Japanese products were making. We've found that we can be realistic in price and dealers can still make a good margin and the customer is happy," Laybourn said.

"All the Saga bikes come with a two-year parts and labor warranty, and with these four-stroke products many people are telling us they find the scooters to be a life-changing experience."


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