Harley Davidson also hurt by Chinese bike ban

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Harley Davidson also hurt by Chinese bike ban

Postby steamboat » Thu Jan 19, 2006 10:06 am

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/bus ... 96329.html
MILWAUKEE - For Ray Ma, freedom on the open road means riding his Harley-Davidson motorcycle behind two police cars through the Chinese countryside.

The 53-year-old Hong Kong dental surgeon and members of his 35-bike riding group had to pay $1,290 per bike in escort and paperwork fees last fall to make their trip to Guilin city a reality.

"We have to follow the rules in the place where they have the rules," Ma said.

But Ma said he yearns for the day when he can escape the cramped city for the Chinese mainland without the hassle.

"We really hope that we can ride through the border like anywhere else, like in the States or Canada or Europe," Ma said. "So that we can just plan a weekend trip, three days and two nights in China. That is really the best for a Hong Kong rider."

For years, iconic motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson has pushed hard to find ways to sell its motorcycles in China. Now, the Milwaukee-based company says it plans to announce before summer that it will open its first retail outlet in the country since at least World War II.

"Mao said that a thousand-mile journey begins with the first step," said Timothy Hoelter, Harley-Davidson's vice president of government affairs. "I guess we're taking some baby steps already."

The company says there are still major hurdles — some 170 Chinese cities limit or ban motorcycle use or ownership, largely because they are viewed as underpowered, cheap, polluting machines that clog traffic and endanger others.

After China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, import restrictions, quotas and tariffs dropped substantially against foreign motorcycle manufacturers, but municipal traffic ordinances have remained, Hoelter said.

Harley-Davidson estimates small Chinese manufacturers build some 17 million motorcycles a year, but most are small and used in rural areas, so they evade many of the limits on Harley-style heavyweight bikes.

Alan Tonelson, a research fellow at the U.S. Business and Industry Council, said all U.S. manufacturers still face formidable barriers to gaining access to the Chinese market.

Also, the company's products can exceed $20,000 retail, in a country where most Chinese make $1,000 a year
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