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Harley-Davidson inks deal to build small motorcycles in China

It appears that the bikes will be specifically for the Asian market.

Here's a rendering of what to expect from Harley-Davidson's Chinese-market motorcycle.

At the end of May, reports surfaced and claimed that Harley-Davidson was working on a small, inexpensive motorcycle specifically to cater to Asian markets, a place where the bike manufacturer's foothold isn't exactly strong. Now, as June wraps up, Harley-Davidson has confirmed some of these details.

Harley-Davidson announced on Wednesday that it's established a collaboration with Qianjiang Motorcycle Company Limited to build a small, affordable bike. The bike, which will be for the Chinese market, is expected to go on sale by the end of 2020. It's unclear if there is any desire to sell this bike in the US, but it will likely head to other Asian markets eventually, like India.

While it doesn't yet have a name, Harley-Davidson promises that the bike will "embody a distinctive look, sound and feel." Both the bike and its engine will be built at a Qianjiang factory in China. This is a promising market for H-D, which saw its Chinese retail sales grow 27 percent in 2018 over the year before.

"Harley-Davidson has always been about inspiring riders around the world. Our More Roads plan is all about bringing our brand of freedom to more people, in more places, in more ways," said Matt Levatich, CEO of Harley-Davidson, in a statement. "We're excited about this opportunity to build more Harley riders in China, one of the world's largest motorcycle markets, by creating new pathways to our brand."

Harley-Davidson's had some frustrations of late. The company earned the president's ire after announcing its plans to move some of its production outside the US to get around tit-for-tat tariffs that saw H-D's European import tax rise from 6% to 31%. Instead of taking a $2,000-ish hit per bike, the manufacturer figured it would just ramp up production at one of its overseas facilities. 

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