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In Asia, Beware of Japanese Motorcycle Knock-Offs

MotorbikesofSaigonIf you ever visit China, Vietnam, Thailand or other Asian countries, you’re going to see a lot of motorcycles. At first glance, most of these will appear to be of Japanese manufactured. But don’t be fooled. Although most Asian motorcycles bear Japanese names, a good number of these are Chinese knock-offs.

The counterfeiting of popular products is nothing new, especially in Asia. After World War II, Japan was notorious for making cheap versions of American cameras, televisions, washing machines and other popular consumer products. A few decades later, Asian companies were counterfeiting everything from Rolex watches and Louis Vuitton handbags to designer jeans. Cheap labor costs made these knock-offs extremely popular — and profitable — around the world despite their often shoddy quality.

Now that Japan is a First World country with a solid economy, world-class manufacturers and high wages, it’s finding itself the victim of the same intellectual property theft it was accused of committing 60 years ago. Motorcycles are particularly popular targets. There are billions of people in Asia, and most of them cannot afford automobiles. But they can afford motorcycles. And they love Japanese brands. The roads of China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines are crowded with vehicles bearing the names Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha. A good number of these bikes are the genuine article. But a substantial portion are not. And others fall somewhere between: They don’t illegally bear trademarked names, but they do incorporate stolen Japanese designs.

Every sale of a knock-off bike is a loss for a Japanese motorcycle manufacturer. And Japanese companies are fighting back.

  • In 2001, the Indonesian division of Honda Motors took legal action against local dealers who were selling Chinese-made copies of the company’s 100cc Supra and Impresser models. The dealers were able to sell these cheaper bikes for 30 percent less than the Japanese originals.[1]
  • Also in 2001, Yamaha sued three Chinese companies for allegedly producing knock-offs of its 125cc and 50cc Futura motorcycles. The fakes actually bore the Yamaha brand name.[1]
  • In 2012, Japan’s Big 4 producers — Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda and Kawasaki — launched a Philippines-based public relations campaign to encourage local customers to buy only brand-name motorcycles and parts. Called “Original na Bida,” the campaign emphasizes the value and safety benefits of buying high-quality products from original manufacturers.[2]
  • In 2013, Honda issued a public warning against unsafe counterfeit bikes and parts being sold in the Philippines.[3]
  • In early 2014, China’s largest motor scooter manufacturer, Zhejiang Huatian, was fined $1.1 million for selling counterfeit bikes under the Yamaha brand name.[4]

Asia isn’t the only area suffering under the flood of cheap Chinese knock-off motorcycles. Recently, Africa has also been deluged with cheap Chinese-made bikes that purport to be Japanese. These counterfeits, often visually indistinguishable from the originals, are infamous for their poor performance and pattern of frequent mechanical breakdowns.[5]

How can the typical Asian or African consumer tell the difference between a genuine Japanese-made motorcycle and a Chinese counterfeit? As one expert explained, “If it says ‘Made in China’ on the bumper, it’s a fake. If it doesn’t, then it’s a good fake.”

A better strategy is to buy only products from authentic, licensed dealers.

Learn Asian Motorcycle Technology at WyoTech

If you’d like to work on genuine Asian motorcycles for a living, a great place to start is WyoTech. At WyoTech campuses in Daytona Beach, Fla. and Fremont, Calif., you can get first-hand experience working on bikes by Kawasaki, Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki. You’ll work in a well-equipped, modern workshop and you’ll be taught by industry professionals. The knowledge, skills and experience you acquire can then help you qualify for entry-level positions in motorcycle dealerships, service shops and customization facilities.

For complete information on WyoTech’s Motorcycle Technology program and the Asian Motorcycle Concentration, contact WyoTech today!

Financial aid is available for those who qualify.

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