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Power sports get a grip on China's wealthy fun lovers

By Shi Jing  (China Daily)

13:52, August 07, 2012

The Can-Am Spyder motorcycle, produced by Bombardier Recreational Products Inc, costs about the same as a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. (Photo/China Daily)

Staying indoors and playing cards or mahjong are outdated now. Exploring the great outdoors is the new trend among China's new rich.

Bombardier Recreational Products Inc, a Canadian privately held company, has recognized the changing fashion and taken a step into the Chinese market by setting up its first Chinese office in downtown Shanghai.

"BRP is coming to deliver high technology, market-shaping products that are innovative and appealing to the Chinese power-sports community," said Jose Boisjoli, president and chief executive officer of the company.

As a world leader in the design, development, manufacturing, distribution and marketing of motorized recreational vehicles, BRP has a portfolio of brands and products including snowmobiles, watercraft, outboard engines, side-by-side (utility task) vehicles and all-terrain roadsters.

It distributes products in more than 100 countries and has an international headcount of more than 6,000.

"I was told that a group of 15 all-terrain vehicles and side-by-side vehicles left on July 11 for a safari that would take them as far as Inner Mongolia. This is a very exciting thing in such a vast country as China," said Boisjoli.

"In Canada, we know what this means: This is how we built the snowmobile industry 55 years ago."

The market share of Chinese outdoor sporting goods was only around 40 million yuan ($6.3 million) at the end of 2001 but the number soared to 2.6 billion yuan in 2006, with an average growth rate of more than 100 percent.

The sales grew to 8 billion yuan in 2010 and more than 10 billion yuan in 2011. That is why a large number of overseas companies have come to China to look for opportunities while the economy elsewhere is not as promising.

BRP tested the water in the Chinese market as early as 2001. But during the first several years here, there was little market for such power-sports manufacturers. It was not until the last three years that the company really started to take off. BRP has seen its market more than double this year.

Interestingly, the market boomed for BRP in China both at the time of the global financial crisis and again during the European debt crisis.

"The economy in China is aggressive. Meanwhile, we see a combination of a great economy and a very interesting consumer desire, that is, going and trying for new experiences. We think the good combination provides a good reason for us to have more presence. So for certain we see growth in the next five years to 10 years," said Chris Dawson, vice-president and general manager of the international division of BRP.

"For us it is very interesting to watch. There was no market 10 years ago. But now, people are really coming in, asking for the products and giving us ideas for how to make improvement in our products.

"That's when you really start to know that people are really using the products and are getting excited by that. And we start to see the real sense of momentum. When they start to give you feedback, you start to provide even better products," said Dawson.

The opening of BRP's Shanghai operation is the company's move to promote its watercraft, all-terrain and side-by-side vehicles.

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