Shanmei Yu, General Manager of Keeway Motor Barcelona: “Catalonia makes logistics operations with China easy”
The Chinese company Keeway Motor, established in Catalonia since 2005, imports motorcycles from the Qiangjiang Group, one of the largest motorcycle manufacturers in China, for their distribution in Spain. Keeway Motor distributes globally some 200,000 units of light motorcycles, ranging from 125 to 750 cubic centimetres, to more than 80 countries.
In Barcelona, the general manager of the Catalan branch, Shanmei Yu, assures us that she has found a pioneering city passionate about the world of motorcycles. Its advantages as a logistics hub are complemented by a deep knowledge of the sector, which is why the company is building a new R&D centre here for the development of new models.
What expansion plans does Keeway Motor have in Barcelona-Catalonia?
We are going to build our own 6,000 m² warehouse in Polinyà (Barcelona), where we have bought a plot of land to integrate our offices, a showroom and a warehouse for spare parts and motorcycles in the same building. We are also going to have a new R&D laboratory for motorcycles where we hope to create new jobs.
We are very excited about this project and we believe that it will be operational in approximately a year and a half. Currently there are 32 workers, and in 2019 and 2020 we have invoiced about 16 million euros in Spain. There are many projects on the way.
Why did the company opt for Barcelona-Catalonia?
Barcelona has always been a pioneering city in the motorcycle sector. In terms of motorbikes, it has the second largest number on the streets in Europe. It represents 25% of all sales in Spain. It’s an extremely important market for motorbikes.
There is a very mature motorcycle culture; thus, we also appreciate the R&D ability here. Due to this we are now collaborating with two R&D design companies for the new products on the way. We are developing and designing in Catalonia, then we will industrialize this design in China.
What are its advantages as a logistics hub in comparison to other European countries?
Initially, to choose the market, we focused on its size and volume. But then, once we set up here, we saw that Barcelona is very easy in terms of transport logistics. Not only for goods, but also for the mobility of people. It's very comfortable.
There are direct shipping companies from China to here and merchandise arrives in 26 days. In other cities you have to transfer and then it takes a little longer. For our stock and inventory planning I think it is a very positive point. The Port of Barcelona is a very good entry point.
As regards movement of people, Barcelona has always been a popular tourist city. Perhaps for this reason there are many airlines and direct flights. I think the combination is very good, since it makes it easier for us to have direct flights to China if we want to visit factories.
What are Keeway Motor’s growth forecasts in Catalonia?
It is hard to forecast due to the Covid-19 situation. We are seeing that, as people are wary of contact, they prefer individual transport modes such as the motorcycle. For this reason, in 2020 our company’s sales did not fall too much. Compared to 2019, we're only about 400 units below. I think that’s acceptable.
What kind of talent do you find in Catalonia?
We find people with a lot of experience in the motorcycle sector. Furthermore, most of our workers are very passionate about motorcycles and that is very good both for marketing the products and for providing information to China on R&D issues. I am extremely pleased with my colleagues in Catalonia. Here people work very well as a team, we coordinate and mix very well.
How is Keeway Motor Barcelona positioned within the mother company? ¿What assets dos it offer the group?
Actually, the Barcelona subsidiary has always been a benchmark for all the rest. Thanks to our long history in Spain and we are always growing, we frequently get commissions for more projects. And not only concerning motorcycles: when headquarters have a new project, they always ask us if we want to develop it and handle it out of Barcelona. They trust us.
Why do you think that a Chinese Company should consider Barcelona-Catalonia for setting up in Southern Europe?
I always recommend that if someone wants to set up their business in Europe, they should do so in Barcelona. I am very honest in this sense: in terms of cost Barcelona is not the cheapest place in all of Europe. As it has always been an international city, and there are many tourists, it has not been a price competitive city.
What we find here is a lot of creativity and a strong artistic side. It’s unlike China in that respect, where everything is highly planned. There is an air of creativity here and everything is very active. I like this way of doing things because the company can be more innovative, take advantage of the fact that people have many new ideas and look for something different than in other countries.
I joined Keeway Motor as an intern in 2006, when I was already living in Barcelona. Before, I was in Dublin for two years, and then I was in Italy for two more years working with the Keeway’s CEO. From my experience, I can say that Barcelona has always been my favourite.
What’s your assessment of the services and support given to you by Catalonia Trade & Investment?
Catalonia Trade & Investment has always been very supportive with all our projects. And since there is a consultant on the team who speaks Chinese, it is even easier. The contact between us is very direct and fluid.