Zongshen’s recent engine manufacture deal with Norton caused a lot of people to write to me asking “why couldn’t Zongshen develop their own engine?” I suppose this is a relevant question considering that Zongshen produces hundreds of thousands of its own engines every year and has recently spent millions of dollars on a new research and development centre. The truth is that the Chinese industry does still need help from outside (foreign) sources in certain areas but is also making great strides itself, often with financial help from local governments.
Local governments in China (often at provincial level) have acknowledged that the Chinese motorcycle industry is evolving in its effort to progress with regard to creating quality and technical standards on a par with the Japanese and Europeans. As a result governmental moves are being made in China’s 3 largest motorcycle manufacturing provinces/ areas (Chongqing, Guangdong, Zhejiang) to supply subsidies to aid the upgrading of motorcycle manufacturing facilities and the education of the next generation of research and development experts. Previously Qianjiang (producer of the Keeway brand and owner of Benelli) had declared that the provincial government of Zhejiang Province would implement “industrial technology innovation and comprehensive pilot work in order to accelerate the setting up of "enterprise-oriented, enterprise-leading, industrial technological innovation systems, closely integrated production, study, research and application, cultivation and support emerging motorcycle technologies.” The company later received in excess of 2 million dollars as a ‘support fund’ designed to improve the R&D of industrial production line robots.
One of the major considerations of the modern Chinese industry is to develop their ‘smart industry’ (integrating IT applications with industrialisation). China’s premier online motorcycle media i-motor reported that “the Chongqing Municipal Government has joined with the local motorcycle industry to create an intelligent programme for industrial transformation and to stimulate the potential power for industrial transformation and upgrading, forming new paths for the integration of IT application with industrialisation featuring intension, interaction, interconnection and innovation in the developing regions.”
Commenting on the effect of this programme Huang Chengcai, general manager of Chongqing Baisha Ltd. has seen the improvement of working efficiency. He stated “we started to implement the MES system (system for information-based management of enterprises’ production process), and now I can learn and understand the whole production process of the company on the telephone terminal. It is clear that developed independently in Chongqing, the MES system has now been successfully implemented and applied in over 50 manufacturing enterprises including Chongqing Sokon Industrial Group Co., Ltd., Shineray Chongqing Motorcycle Co., Ltd, South Air International Co., Ltd, and Chongqing Loncin General Purpose Engine Co., Ltd. It has be seen from the feedback of the enterprises that the application of this system improves the average production efficiency of enterprises by 25%, improves the product quality pass rate by 30%, decreases average energy consumption by 10%, and reduces the product cost by 20%, thus achieving an economic benefit of over RMB 100 million overall.”
In Chongqing, Lifan’s EFI development unit the ‘Chongqing Lifan Electronic Fuel Injection Company’ announced that their newly developed electronic fuel injection system has been successfully applied in various models and its self-developed ECU (electronic control unit) products have set a world record for the world’s smallest and most highly integrated ECU.
Also in Chongqing, last month 2 government funded bodies the ‘Department of Science Technology’ and the ‘Department of Science Technology (CSGC) conducted a site acceptance test on the “097 Plan” programme of CSGC -- the “Application Research on the Key Technologies of the New-type Four-valve Water-cooled Electronic Fuel Injection Small and Medium Displacement High-performance Engine”. This programme was led by the CSGC and included the participation of motorcycle industry giant and founder Jialing. Once the CSGC officially set up the programme they obtained governmental financial support of RMB 9 million. The main goal of this programme is to develop world-class small and medium displacement, four-valve, water-cooled, electronic fuel injection and high performance engines using Chinese technology.
It would seem that the motorcycle industry is taking a lead from its electric counterpart in terms of ground breaking product development and have shown that they can innovate and are no longer condemned to ‘cloning’ and also as a result are also becoming less reliant on foreign technology advisers. It’s fair to say that over the next 5 years you will see the Chinese industry leading the way in certain new technologies as they continue to receive funding for new research and development projects.