Harley Partners With Qianjiang For Small-Displacement Model

Milwaukee inks deal with Chinese giant to make bikes for Asian market.

Harley’s targeting China by way of a newly announced partnership with Qianjiang Motorcycle Company. Here’s a rendering of the proposed small-displacement model.Courtesy of Harley-Davidson

In its bid to expand its reach into a growing and increasingly diverse market overseas (and to sidestep harmful tariffs coming from all sides) Harley-Davidson has announced a partnership with Chinese manufacturing giant Qianjiang to produce a new small-displacement machine. The agreement is for Harley and Qianjiang Motorcycle Company Limited to develop a more accessible 338cc model (though we've also heard there might be two models, according to filings with the Shenzhen Stock Exchange) that will initially be sold in China and, later, other Asian markets.

It's all part of Harley's proposed "More Roads" growth strategy unveiled last July. From the start, a key component of the plan was to add an Asian partner to build new riders in that growing marketplace. The word “Qianjiang” might not easily roll off the tongue, but they are an acknowledged quantity in China, making several types of scooters and small- and middleweight-displacement bikes for the Asian market. For what it's worth, they also acquired former Italian marque Benelli back in 2005 and have produced several appealing designs under that name.

Besides the 338cc displacement and a fourth-quarter 2020 release date (at Harley-Davidson dealerships in China), no other details were given, though you can see in the rendering that the proposed model may get a trellis frame, swingarm, suspension, and a possibly a liquid-cooled engine, perhaps a parallel twin as seen on several Benellis. Of course it retains the familiar fuel tank shape and signature H-D orange and black livery.

Harley's retail sales in China grew 27 percent in 2018 compared to 2017, so you could argue its bets are paying off. The Motor Company's choice of Qianjiang as a partner is well considered too; the company is one of the few enterprises in the Chinese motorcycle industry with experience in developing high-end motorcycles of varying displacements, as well as having an established supply base. 2020 is shaping up to be full of surprises, both in Milwaukee as well as overseas.