Many foreigners that live and work in China have been on at least one factory visit. Whether you work for an import/export company, are an entrepreneur looking to produce your product on the cheap, or any other number of professions, with China being “the factory of the world”, if you work here, there’s a good chance you’ve been on one.
As for myself however, having worked mostly in marketing and web design, I haven’t had much of an opportunity to visit any factories. That changed though when nearly two weeks ago now Amy and I went to Hangzhou to visit our potential (-Spoiler alert- and now actual) sponsor- CFMOTO.
Several weeks ago now, we had managed to meet with a friend of Amy’s family, a former co-worker of her step-dad, that had worked in the automotive industry most of his career. We met him for dinner near the center of Beijing, west of the Forbidden City, and before eating gave him our, by now well practiced, pitch about our trip.
Uncle Du, as we asked to call him, was extremely friendly and right then and there called up some people he knew in the motorcycle industry. Before we knew it we had a meeting with 春风动力 or CFMOTO the following Monday morning at their head offices in Hangzhou.
Going Down South to Hangzhou
It was a long wait leading up to our trip down to Hangzhou. Nearly a week before we would take the overnight train, 12 hours down south, and it was hard not to be anxious. Uncle Du seemed pretty comfortable that they would be happy giving us a motorcycle (it even sounded like they were ready to offer us 2!), but we still had to meet with them. More importantly we had to convince them that it would be worth it to provide full sponsorship of the trip. We had been saying we were going to leave whether we had financing or not, just see how far we could get on what we had, so this was going to be a pretty pivotal moment in the planning of “The Great Ride”.
It was a restless night’s sleep on the train, only getting about 5 hours before arriving in the morning. Amy’s mom and step dad also came on the train with us as they also had separate meetings in the city that day. Luckily they had the morning free though and could help us with the introductions. After that however we were on our own to get CFMOTO on board.
We were greeted at the train station by a driver from the company. We threw our luggage into his van and drove off to the outskirts of the city where the factory and headquarters were. After about an hour of driving (during which we mostly slept), we pulled into the parking lot, got out of the car, and were led to the upstairs of their general office where there was a cozy looking meeting room with large cushioned chairs arranged in a three-sided rectangle formation.
Meeting the President and Making our Pitch
Soon we were greeted by the friend of Uncle Du who turned out to be the President of the company followed soon after by the general manager who walked in in a full white engineer’s jumpsuit, indicating he must do a lot of “on the ground work”. After dispensing with the formalities, Amy’s step dad started to introduce a bit of what we wanted to do and how CFMOTO might be able to help. Amy and I filled in some details as well before we all got up from our seats to tour around a bit.
We took a look from above (we were on the second floor) of one of the factory floors before walking back downstairs where there was a motorcycle showroom. We got to take a look at the line of motorcycles and ATVs that they had, including the bike that they recommended we use on the trip. We snapped some pictures, I sat on the display model to see how it felt, and a few other people from the company joined us to weigh in on the project.
We were then led outside to be given a demonstration of the bike. It turns out that the company has a professional stunt rider and racer on staff to put on displays when necessary as well as test the bikes. He first took around a mini-bike, burning some rubber of the rear wheel, spinning around doing donuts, and generally fun to watch stunts. Then he came out with a version of the CFMOTO 650-TK that we were now going to be taking on our trip around China, raced up and down the strip of road they had popping a few wheelies and doing some more donuts.
The whole show was a lot of fun to watch but it was also getting REALLY hot. The sun was out, it was near mid-day, and the area of China we were in was considerably hotter than Beijing where we came from. So it was a relief when the stunt driver handed the helmet off to me so I could take the bike for a spin.
Pressure’s On- Making Our Pitch
It seemed they had agreed to offer us a motorcycle, but the real trick now was seeing if they wanted to be “The Official Partner of The Great Ride of China”. We went back up into the office and into a proper conference room where we could setup a powerpoint presentation. Before this, it hadn’t really sunk in that I was going to be pitching, in Chinese, to an international company, to try and ask for money. Now though, as I sat in front of the General Manager, the VP, a couple engineers, and the head of marketing, I had a bit of a knot growing in my stomach.
Once I got started though, it seemed to go pretty smoothly. After going through my presentation, a few people asked some questions but everyone seemed on the whole very positive about the whole thing and I was, for the moment, able to breath a sigh of relief.
We took a break for lunch and when we came back it was all about sorting out the nitty gritty. We started listing out all the support we would need in terms of parts, what our route would look like and what CFMOTO club activities we could participate in along the way. One of the most exciting ones was that our route seemed to coincide with the 12th Annual CIMA Motorcycle Exhibition in Chongqing and the largest moto expo in Asia in late October. Everyone seemed really excited to have us participate and invite media for the event as it would also be right after we drove through Tibet, Sichuan, and Yunnan, probably the hardest portion of the whole route.
Maintenance Training and Wrapping Up
After putting together a list of stops, equipment, timeline, and things we would need, we headed into town for the night before coming back again in the morning. With all the hard planning out of the way, our second day at CFMOTO headquarters was more laid back. I spent the morning going over the mechanics of the bike and what things I might need to know how to repair- where the spark plugs were, how to change the oil, how to understand specific problems the bike might be having. Overall useful though I hope I won’t need to put it into practice!
Afterwards we just waited around while the contract draft was finalized. Though we weren’t able to sign and confirm then and there, the contract was ultimately pretty good. It still took about a week of back and forth drafts but nothing too serious.
We spent one more night in Hangzhou before heading back to Beijing on the bullet train the next day feeling pretty good about our prospects for the trip. We had a bike, we had a sponsor, and it finally seemed like this crazy idea of riding a motorcycle around China for 4 months might actually happen!