CFMoto Australia: Setting the Standard
The dual-headwind of adverse economic conditions and perceptions of poor “Chinese-made” quality have made it hard for many Chinese brands to enter and grow within what may be the world’s toughest motorcycle market, Australia, where sales volumes are low and consumer expectations high. But despite the reputation left behind by years of lax manufacturer quality control and poor levels of after-sales service, a select few Chinese brands are bucking the trend in Australia. CFMoto has exploded onto the Australian motorcycle scene in the past couple of years and a couple of their models now occupy national top-10 sales spots for their classes.
To survive and thrive in this market, CFMoto has employed a three pronged, customer centric business strategy: value, reliability and customer support. This focus on the customer requires a sort of flexibility not often seen with Chinese manufacturers, and is a sign that things are changing for the better for motorcycle markets globally and especially in Australia. Their reputation is underscored by the recent announcement of a marketing and assembly Joint-Venture with KTM, widely recognised as one of the world’s premier on and off-road motorcycle producers.
By successfully weathering the hard economic times of the past couple of years, and by investing heavily in its brand, R&D and the Australian after-sales support network, CFMoto is setting the standard for other Chinese makers, and is sure to be here for the long haul.
Based in Hangzhou City, on the eastern coast of Mainland China, CFMoto produces 600,000 ATVs, scooters and motorcycles per year. While this makes them more of a mid-sized manufacturer, it’s their emphasis on differentiation and innovation that sets them apart. Rather than focusing on making and marketing low-end motorcycles like most Chinese makers, CFMoto is focusing on developing export-suitable product lines. A huge 25% of its workforce is dedicated to R&D.
Melbourne-based Mojo Motorcycles took on the distributorship of CFMoto products in Australia in 2006. Originally branded under “Mojo”, the distributors decided to sell all CFMoto products under the manufacturer’s name in 2010 when a revised collaboration agreement was announced. This was a smart move for both the Chinese manufacturer and the local distributor, making it easier to establish long-term brand and customer loyalty.
This kind of re-branding is likely to become more common with the better quality brands in the coming years, as other quality Chinese manufacturers also seek to build long-term brand loyalty. A common problem for global brand recognition among Chinese-made brands is the rebranding of manufacturers’ products into several hundred different brands in all regions of the world, making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get reliable information and the correct spare parts.
Hard Times for Some
The Global Financial Crisis (GFC) affected all businesses globally and motor vehicle sales figures, the kind of big-ticket items you think carefully about buying, took a big hit. “There was an increase in 2012 but we are just getting back to the numbers [of motorcycles sold] prior to the GFC” Craig MacIntyre, GM of Motorsport Importers Pty Ltd is quoted as saying.
However, the GFC has had a silver lining for the more sustainable Chinese motorcycle manufacturers. As world demand for motorcycles dropped over the past couple of years, Chinese motorcycle manufacturers and assemblers who relied on tiny profit margins and huge volumes to get by, the type of companies that don’t invest in product development or customer support, began to close down or change their business strategy. “The global financial crisis has pushed many [people] to reconsider their purchasing criteria for new vehicles with value for money becoming the priority.” Michael Poynton, Director of Mojo Motorcycles said when I asked him about how the global downturn has affected sales of CFMoto products in Australia. If anything, shallower pockets have helped CFMoto take market share from its higher-priced competitors as “[Customers] can see a proven product with a practical feature set being offered at an exceptionally competitive price point”.
Success from Finding a Market Fit
CFMoto’s export-focused product lines are having a significant impact on Australia’s motorcycle market. Two of their models, theLeader 150 street bike and the CF 500 ATV, have breached the top ten national sales numbers for their respective classes. It is now the ninth highest selling brand in Australia, ahead of well-known brands such as Ducati, BMW and Husqvarna.
Over 2500 CFMoto vehicles were sold in 2013, many of them ATVs and small-displacement motorcycles, reflecting the growing interest in using motorcycles as recreational and commuter vehicles in Australia. The recent release of the LAMS approved 650cc CFMoto CF650NK is seen by many as the first direct foray into the highly competitive middleweight market segment by a mainland Chinese manufacturer, and will expand CFMoto’s customer base in Australia.
KTM’s Vote of Confidence
During the CIMAmotor 2013 held in Chongqing last October, KTM and CFMoto announced a Joint-Venture between the two makers, joining other high profile motorcycle Joint-Venture agreements. The agreement will see CFMoto assembling imported KTM 200 Duke and the 390 Duke CKU (completely knocked-down units) for sale in China with the help of CFMoto’s dealer network. “[This is] confirmation that the CFMoto operations meet the standards and expectations of such an experienced manufacturer like KTM. There is obviously the scope for CFMoto to gain advanced capacity, expertise and access to greater resources like specialized staff and technology” Mr. Poyton said. This partnership will provide CFMoto with the support and access to resources enjoyed by the world’s cutting edge motorcycle makers, and we will surely see its impact on CFMoto’s product lines in the future.
Where to from Here?
After investing significantly in building reputable product lines and after-sales networks, and consolidating its branding under its own name, CFMoto is set to become a major contender in the Australian market. While their stated goal of becoming the world’s leading powersports supplier is ambitious, their current position and strategy certainly points the manufacturer in that direction. They are well on their way to threatening the positions of their more entrenched competitors in Australia. “We’ll be continuing to deliver our customers the same three things they enjoy now – great value for money, reliability and outstanding after-sales service [have] led us to great success so far and I’m certain that continuing to support our customers will lead to future success.” Mr Poynton said.
CFMoto Australia has grown from uncertain beginnings and weathered the Global Financial Crisis to become the leading Chinese motorcycle brand, and one of the major motorcycle brands, in Australia. They are well positioned to take advantage of their relationship with KTM to keep developing their product lines and build an innovative product line.
However, the true core of their success is where they have listened to their market. Their customer-centric key pillars of value, reliability and after-sales service will no doubt continue to support their stellar growth in Australia, and within other developed markets. CFMoto is setting the standard for other Chinese motorcycle manufacturers in Australia.