Lifan sees Africa as gateway to world
Updated: 2013-06-18 07:24
By Hu Haiyan (China Daily)
After being on the road for more than 20 years, car and motorcycle maker is heading for the top, reports Hu Haiyan.
For Yin Minshan, president of Chongqing Lifan Group, Africa offers one of the most fertile land for Chinese private companies' global development.
"I want Lifan to be the best automobile and motorcycle company in the world," Yin said about Lifan, one of the largest motorcycle and car makers in China.
"To realize this goal, we will first enter less developed overseas markets, such as Africa. Brand operating costs are lower there compared with in the United States and the European Union, and that offers us a strong foothold to develop into a global giant."
Yin, 75, said that after gaining brand recognition, the group will venture into developed markets such as the US and the EU.
With nine employees, Yin set up Lifan Group in Chongqing, in 1992 with registered capital of 200,000 yuan (around $36,000 at the time). Now, Lifan is one of the largest motorcycle and car makers in China, with revenue of around of 20 billion yuan ($3.3 billion) last year. The group's listed unit, Lifan Industry (Group) Co Ltd, reported revenue of 8.7 billion yuan last year, little different from the previous year.
The group's African business began when it started selling motorcycles to Nigeria in 1998. Last year, its turnover was $70 million from about 80,000 motorcycles sold to the region. Turnover for cars sold to Africa was $30 million, and around 1,000 have been sold on the continent. Exports to Africa were worth $100 million last year, about a sixth of the group's exports, Yin said.
Those kinds of figures would satisfy many business people, but Yin is preparing for bigger things. He expects Lifan's sales in Africa will keep growing 10 percent annually until 2015.
"Although the increase is not that high, profit is bigger than in most of our overseas markets, such as Southeast Asia."
Lifan works with more than 140 dealers in more than 160 countries and regions in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. The group has set up five factories in Thailand, Turkey, Ethiopia, Uruguay and Vietnam, and plans to open one in Russia this year.
The group's auto factory in Ethiopia, which has 150 employees, has an annual production capacity of 2,000 cars, and the group plans to expand capacity there by building another factory by the end of November, Yin said.
"It's expected that production capacity of our Ethiopian factory will be up to about 10,000 cars a year then, and our sales in Africa will certainly increase based on that expansion."