Harley-Davidson partners with Chinese manufacturer to build 'smaller, more accessible' motorcycles

Harley-Davidson, Inc. is seeking new customers in Asia through a new collaboration to build motorcycles in China.

The company announced on Wednesday it is working with Qianjiang Motorcycle Company Limited to sell “smaller, more accessible” Harley-Davidson motorcycles in China beginning in 2020.

The motorcycles will include 338cc displacement engines, which are smaller than anything Harley-Davidson offers in the U.S. The company said the collaboration is part of an effort to grow its international business to 50 percent of its annual volume by 2027.

“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,” said Matt Levatich, president and CEO of Harley-Davidson.

The company said it will expand the smaller motorcycles to other Asian markets after China. They haven’t said how much the motorcycles will cost, but Craig Kennison, an analyst with brokerage firm Baird, told Reuters affordability has been an issue for first-time Harley riders.

“The international motorcycle market is huge, but Harley-Davidson has not been able to penetrate it with large/expensive bikes,” he said.

President Trump criticized Harley-Davidson last year after the company said it planned to move production to Europe in order to avoid tariffs. Trump threatened the company would be “taxed like never before." He later said he also supported plans to boycott the company if it moved its manufacturing overseas.

More recently, Trump has offered a different opinion on Harley-Davidson, tweeting in April that the company has struggled with European Union tariffs. He threatened to “reciprocate” against the EU. As of Wednesday afternoon, he has not yet responded to news of the expansion to China.

Harley Davidson said it chose Qianjiang based on the Chinese company’s experience “developing premium small displacement motorcycles, established supply base, proven capabilities in emerging markets and ability to meet consumer requirements.” The company said the new motorcycles will adhere to the same standards and testing processes followed for all of its products.


Dongshao Guo, the general manager of Qianjiang, said the company is “pleased to collaborate with Harley-Davidson.

“We have proven manufacturing capability and experience in China, and we are committed to improving the experience of motorcycling for riders in Asia,” he said.

Fox Business’ Brittany De Lea and Matthew Kazin and Reuters contributed to this report.