market dynamics
20 years ago, why did Chinese motorcycles "break down" Southeast Asia?
Release date:2024.03.28

Southeast Asia motorcycle market is huge, vast business opportunities, here has witnessed the brief glory of Chinese motorcycle companies "going out", but also left a deep regret and market lessons. In terms of geographical environment, Southeast Asia is mountainous, the roads are winding and narrow, and the economy limits the ability of many people to buy cars, and motorcycles become an indispensable means of transportation. Us Statista website estimates that Southeast Asian motorcycle sales will increase to 13.433 million units by 2028. From the current Southeast Asian motorcycle market brand share, Japan outshine, of which Honda a monopoly of 67.5%, Yamaha accounted for 22.8%, other brands accounted for less than 10%.

Before that, however, Chinese motorcycles swept Southeast Asia in the late 1990s and briefly pushed Japanese brands to the margins of the market. Statistics show that the market share of motorcycles in China at that time was as high as 90%, but now it is only about 1%.


Sorting out the process of Chinese motorcycle brands from glory to decline in Southeast Asia, "price war" is a key factor that cannot be ignored. Data show that in the late 1990s, the price of a Japanese motorcycle in the Southeast Asian market was about $2,000, but the price of Chinese motorcycles after entering the Southeast Asian market was only half or less of Japanese brands.

Take Vietnam as an example, in 1999, there are more than 20 Chinese motorcycle brands flocked to enter the Vietnamese market, at that time a 100CC (motorcycle displacement of 100 ml) Japanese brand motorcycle sold for 2,100 US dollars, the price of Chinese brands is generally 700-800 US dollars, some low-end products even as low as 500 US dollars. With price advantages, Chinese brands quickly seized 80 percent of the Vietnamese motorcycle market.

However, after the rapid occupation of the Southeast Asian market by Chinese brands, the "price war" has not stopped, but the price infighting between different Chinese brands has intensified, resulting in prices completely deviating from the cost and violating the law of the market. In Vietnam, for example, at the peak of the price war between Chinese brands, the average price of a motorcycle dropped by $70 a month, according to KrAsia, a research firm.

The quality of Chinese products has also begun to decline as prices have plummeted. First of all, the repair rate of Chinese motorcycles is very high, small failures are frequent, less than 3 years to overhaul, four or five years to scrap. In terms of fuel consumption, Chinese motorcycles are also less efficient than Japanese motorcycles.

At that time, some Chinese companies engaged in "one-shot trading" in Vietnam, dumping unsalable products in the Chinese domestic market at ultra-low prices to the local market, selling inventory and then withdrawing, completely ignoring after-sales service. Although this is the behavior of individual companies, it has tarnished the overall image of Chinese brands in overseas markets.

Early manufacturers entering the Southeast Asian market lacked brand awareness and long-term planning. By contrast, Japanese motorcycle brands have won the trust of consumers. When manufacturers such as Honda began to introduce low - and mid-priced products and introduced loans with 30% down payments, the local advantage of Chinese-made motorcycles was all but lost.

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