Shanmei Yu, General Manager of Keeway Motor Barcelona: “Catalonia makes logistics operations with China easy”

24 Mar 2021

Business Investments · Automotive, Logistics & Smart Cities

The Chinese company Keeway Motor, established in Catalonia in 2005, imports motorcycles from the Qiangjiang Group, one of the largest motorcycle manufacturers in China, for their distribution in Spain. Keeway Motor distributes 200,000 units of light motorcycles globally, ranging from 125 to 750 cubic centimeters, 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 center here to develop new models.

What expansion plans does Keeway Motor have in Barcelona-Catalonia?

We will build our own 6,000 m² warehouses 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 will also have a new R&D laboratory for motorcycles where we hope to create new jobs.

We are very excited about this project and believe it will be operational in approximately a year and a half. Currently, there are 32 workers, and in 2019 and 2020, we invoiced about 16 million euros in Spain. There are many projects on the way.

“Barcelona has always been a pioneering city in the motorcycle sector. Regarding motorbikes, it has the second largest number on the streets in Europe”

Shanmei Yu, General Manager of Keeyway Motor Barcelona

Why did the company opt for Barcelona-Catalonia?

Barcelona has always been a pioneering city in the motorcycle sector. Regarding 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 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 compared to other European countries?

Initially, we focused on its size and volume to choose the market. 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.

Direct shipping companies are 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.

Regarding people's movement, 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. As people are wary of contact, we see that 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, which is very good for marketing the products and 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 does 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 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 in Europe. As it has always been an international city with many tourists, it has not been a price-competitive city.

We find a lot of creativity and a strong artistic side here. 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 people's new ideas, and look for something different than in other countries.

I joined Keeway Motor as an intern in 2006 while living in Barcelona. Before, I was in Dublin for two years, and then I was in Italy for two more years working with Keeway’s CEO. From my experience, I can say that Barcelona has always been my favorite.

What’s your assessment of the services and support given to you by Catalonia Trade & Investment?

Catalonia Trade & Investment has always been very supportive of all our projects. And since a consultant on the team speaks Chinese, it is even easier. The contact between us is very direct and fluid.

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