BENELLI GO LARGE ‘We be­lieve that we can match the Ja­panese when it comes to qual­ity’

ALL-NEW RANGE His­toric Ital­ian brand set to re­turn to the big league thanks to China

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - By Jon Urry

Benelli is about to blast back into the big time with an im­pres­sive range of bikes from 125cc to 750cc. Eleven years ago, Ital­ian man­u­fac­turer Benelli was bought by the Chi­nese Qian­jiang group af­ter suf­fer­ing fi­nan­cial is­sues. Since that point the firm has re­mained rel­a­tively quiet as be­hind the scenes Qian­jiang worked on sta­bil­is­ing the com­pany and build­ing small­er­ca­pac­ity bikes un­der the Benelli brand. Now, with things back on an even keel, Qian­jiang are ready to launch a flurry of big­ger bikes.

“We have re­ally big plans for Benelli in 2017 to ex­pand our range to ap­peal to Euro­pean tastes,” con­firmed Haimei Yan, Benelli’s Gen­eral Man­ager. “We cur­rently only have the 302, the new 251 and the 600 so we can’t say we have the range at the mo­ment to ap­peal to the Euro­pean mar­ket. But at the end of the year we will show a far more com­plete range go­ing from 125cc to 750cc. This will in­clude the 500, a new 600 model and also a new par­al­lel-twin 750cc, aimed di­rectly at Europe. We are also work­ing on giv­ing new life to the three cylin­der 899 and 1200 en­gines.”

While this may sound am­bi­tious, Qian­jiang is one of the big­gest mo­tor­cy­cle builders in China, pro­duc­ing over one mil­lion bikes a year – of which around 50,000 are cur­rently Benelli branded with only 5000 ex­ported to Europe. The group has sev­eral other brands for the do­mes­tic mar­ket and a com­plete port­fo­lio of prod­ucts that can eas­ily be rebranded Benelli.

“Qian­jiang has a very dif­fer­ent re­source to Euro­pean mo­tor­cy­cle man­u­fac­tur­ers,” con­firms Yan. “If you look at them they only have larger bikes, no scoot­ers and few smaller-ca­pac­ity ma­chines. Pi­ag­gio have scoot­ers, but it splits its brands. Qian­jiang has all the re­sources and makes scoot­ers and mo­tor­cy­cles, it has a com­plete range from 125cc to 1200cc to ap­peal to a world­wide mar­ket. Only re­ally Honda and Yamaha have a sim­i­lar range and we are the only Chi­nese man­u­fac­turer who builds this va­ri­ety of bikes. We have scoot­ers, a 125cc and 250c sin­gle, 300cc and 500cc par­al­lel twins, 600cc in­line four, a new 750cc par­al­lel twin and the 899 and 1200 triples.”

But with the vast ma­jor­ity of its bikes be­ing built in China, can Benelli re­ally still be viewed as an Ital­ian brand?

“Benelli’s her­itage is very im­por­tant to us and it is still an Ital­ian brand,” says Yan. “We do all the re­search, de­sign and devel­op­ment in Italy and the Chi­nese man­u­fac­ture the prod­uct, although the three cylin­der Benel­lis will still be built in Italy. All the new mo­tor­cy­cle tech­nol­ogy is com­ing from Europe, es­pe­cially Italy, and they have more cre­ativ­ity than the Chi­nese, but the Chi­nese are very good at man­u­fac­tur­ing. That’s why Benelli works so well. We also be­lieve that we can match the Ja­panese when it comes to qual­ity.”

With Benelli’s her­itage so firmly set in the sports­bike world, is it pos­si­ble we will see a new Benelli sports­bike in the fu­ture?

“The sports­bike mar­ket is re­duc­ing, so you can’t bet your life on it. We want to make a 1200cc three-cylin­der en­gine suit­able for all uses, just mak­ing a fo­cused sports­bike is too small a mar­ket at the mo­ment,” said Yan. “But when the mo­ment is right, I think Benelli will be on a race track again.”

Benelli boss Haimei Yan is plan­ning a ma­jor revival for the brand and the par­ent com­pany has the cre­den­tials to de­liver Benelli’s BN600GT is yours from £5999

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