Pioneer status not lost in translation

CFMOTO Powersports becomes first OEM to host dealer meeting in China

The signs that greeted the dealers at the CFMOTO Powersports dealer meeting in Hangzhou, China, said it all: “One CFMOTO, One Family.”

Many of the more than 30 U.S. dealers in attendance for the November meeting — the first of its kind for U.S. dealers by any Chinese OEM — referenced the hospitality they received while making their maiden voyage to China. Some dealers logged more than 30 hours of one-way travel to Hangzhou, and others were tested by the fare.

Sea cucumbers, a delicacy meant for the discerning palate, gave dealers a topic of conversation over dinner. Duck tongue, too. But the immaculate factory and top-shelf treatment by their hosts, from line workers to the executive team, were the lasting memories that dealers took from the historic meeting. Many will remember using their iPhones as translation devices, and the farewell party highlighted by dealers dancing Gangnam style.

Dealers also brought back a more succinct idea of CFMOTO’s plans for growth in the U.S.

“It was an important step to bring our dealer partners to Hangzhou so they could see the factory, and get to know our employees and product better,” said Mr. Guogui Lai, president of Zhejiang CFMOTO Power Co., Ltd. “And they could experience our food and culture. In the end, it was a feeling of togetherness that we hope they will remember.”

After arriving in Hangzhou, dealers were treated to a view of the famously beautiful Hangzhou West Lake area. As for the meeting itself, over the next two days CFMOTO officials unveiled new products for 2013 and recognized the top five U.S. dealers by sales, with Leo’s South in Lakeville, Minn., taking top honors. Dealers were allowed to traverse any aspect of the 1.6 million square-foot factory that employs more than 1,200, and they were treated to demo rides of all products.

A group of more than 30 U.S. dealers attended the CFMOTO Powersports dealer meeting in Hangzhou, China. Due to the success of the four-day event, plans are already being considered for a similar event in 2013.

After a tour of Shanghai and the Shanghai World Financial Center, they hopped on a 200 mph bullet train to the airport for the journey home.

The factory, built in 2007, made an impact on the dealers, but so did the food and people. We checked in with a handful of dealers to learn more about their trip to China.

Les Caswell

Owner, Caswell Cycle, Mora, Minn.

“They really went out of their way to accommodate us. The factory was absolutely impressive, clean, spotless. My wife, Kaye, wasn’t really excited about the food, but I tried it all.

“I’ve gone on other trips before with dealers, but this was a total experience going to China. I jumped at it right away.

“Duck tongue? Let’s just say they have a lot of ducks over there that can’t quack! Sea cucumber was like eating a worm.

“I just started carrying the brand. The two Daves [Auringer and Danielson] from CFMOTO talked to me about it. I’ve know them since the 1970s and ‘80s, and those two guys are doing a bang-up job here in the U.S.

“Seeing the factory and how well the machines are put together — the fit and finish — was important for me to get a look at. It was impressive.

“I believe they’re going to get it done. The product has been great. We carry Can-Am at the high end, so why not give customers another choice? There are very few things that they need to change on the side-by-sides, and the profit is there.

“I ordered six. Then 12. I’ve already placed another order for this summer.

“I got my first shipment the day we left for China, and they’ve been pretty doggone good.”

Smokey Armstrong

General Manager, Hatfield McCoy Powersports, Belfry, Ky.

“It was excellent, I loved it. Meeting Mr. Lai and going through his operations was really a great experience. The factory was top-notch, first class. It was clean, organized from start to finish. The way everything came down the line, they way they tested the motors before they put them in the machines, they test one out of every seven on a dyno — that was what I wanted to see.

“I did fine the first two days with the food. After that, I was done. I was looking for fruit. I ate fruit, and the first Burger King I came to I sat down to a double Whopper with cheese and everything on it, with an orange soda. I was in hog heaven.

“We just started carrying CFMOTO at the first of the year. There’s margin and they make a good product. It’s a good relationship, like a marriage.”

Mike Ratz

Owner, Logan Motorcycle Sales, Logan, W. Va.

“Absolutely, no question about it, a fantastic meeting. It’s a well-run factory. Their’s is just as modern, efficient and organized as any I’ve been in. Their parts were also very well organized. To me, it’s a first-class operation.

“I was so impressed with all the people we met at CFMOTO in China. They were so polite and so nice to us.

“Something I could relate to is the setup they have in China goes back to me growing up in the coal fields. The coal companies had what we called mining camps. There was no housing here for the people who were working for them, so they built coal camps — three- or four-room houses — and put the miners in them. A lot of the people who work at CFMOTO live in those dorms on the site. We were with a lot of their young people, and they’re very good people, very intelligent.

“Their chief engineer and graphics manager visited the dealership two weeks after we came back from China. We took them out in the woods of West Virginia and went up on the hill behind the shop to they could see how we ride around here.

“I’ve seen them come a long way. When we first set up with them, they were a distributorship. Then Mr. Lai took over, and oh my god the change from the American side. With Dave Danielson and Dave Auringer up there, that company’s going to roll. I’m really high on the whole thing right now.

“I’ve always been a gut guy. If my gut tells me something’s good, I’m going to roll. My gut was telling me it was a good company. And unlike Smokey, my gut liked all the Chinese food. I ate everything they put in front of me. Sea cucumber? Black with horns on it. Like a big, well...

“I go back to the days when we were Honda and Yamaha, that 1961-64 era. I would put CFMOTO very similar to what I saw from Yamaha or Kawasaki in those early days. They’re going to have some growth problems, but I think they have the staff to handle it.”

Ed Staacks

Owner, Staacks Motorsports, Butte, Mont.

“My son, Brian, brings me a fax one day, and says he’s thrown it away three times already, and wanted to know what I thought. It’s from New York. They’re trying to sell some Chinese bikes. I didn’t know anything about them, hadn’t heard of them. So I went down to my banker and asked how to wire $6,000 to New York. So I did it and they sent me 10 or 15 of these little bikes, and we sold them for $400 apiece and put them in a vacant room. And we sold them all and then sold a bunch more. Pretty soon were doing huge amounts of these Chinese bikes, selling the heck out of them. They were CFMOTO. We went from auto mechanics with a fax machine to doing $6 million in business last year. And we started with their bikes.

“We were looking for a side-by-side for our Butte store. We deal with a lot of Chinese companies, and I hate to say it now, but I didn’t know the difference between one and the other. That wasn’t smart, now, looking back. Now, we know just about everybody that’s doing business in China.

“It was less than perfect when we first started selling CFMOTO, but it was not bad. We could fix it, and they had parts and they had a good attitude. We started selling more and more and it got me hoping that it wouldn’t be a typical Chinese company. They told us they were going to do this and that, and they did it. I started to see this huge increase in quality and parts and service and attitude. I was watching them getting better and better quickly.

“We started selling more and more and more of the Z6. We’re selling against Honda and Polaris down the street. That’s our competition for the RZR, and we give them a real good run for the money. They were good enough. I had the No. 2 VIN number off the assembly line. The first half dozen there were problems, but easy problems, nothing major, since we started in the repair business anyway. We stuck with them. They got over that first little hump, and I saw that every batch that came was better. I really like them. I’ve got a big investment in them and we treat them as a normal brand.”


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