Benelli goes Chinese

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This is the new Benelli BN600. It’s also the Keeway RK600. Designed and manufactured in China, for its domestic market, by the QianJiang Group. Once the proud maker of unreliable Italian motorcycles, Benelli is now just an exercise in selling rebranded Chinese bikes in Europe.

It’s not that the RK600 is a bad bike. Well, it’s not a terribly good one either, but there’s not much wrong with ripping off the motor from a pre-2005 R6 then sticking it in a Steel Trellis/Cast Aluminum pivot plate frame ripped off from an Aprilia Shiver 750. 80bhp and 485lbs is a recipe for a worthy naked commuter, if a relatively uninspiring one. Housing all that in plastic that’s simultaneously hideous and bland doesn’t do it any favors.

If you lived in Rome and your local megadealer was knocking out Keeways for 4,000 Euro, you wouldn’t be too mad at it. But, if you live in Pesaro, you’re going to be livid that this crappy bike is wearing a Benelli badge.

There’s also a shitty 250 dubbed the “Uno.” Its roots are a little more transparent simply because it’s blatantly a piece of.

And that’s the crux of the mistake being made here. The Benelli name doesn’t mean much these days to many people. Already bastardized by years of crappy scooters, very few people would shout “Benelli” if you said “exciting motorcycles” in a game of word association, but to those who would, this whole re-badged Keeway thing is going to be akin to heresy. So no real value in one hand, extreme negativity in the other? Exactly what does QianJiang stand to gain here? To our minds, it’d be a stronger play to invest the time and effort into building Keeway (or some other brand) up as a maker of high-value bikes than it will be tearing Benelli down.

It’s troubling too that the Chinese origin of these bikes is essentially being hidden. Nowhere in the press materials is QianJiang, Keeway or China mentioned. In this age of the Internet, why do companies still think they can hide things from consumers? If the Chinese connection was embraced, at least QianJiang would be leading the conversation around its bikes rather than hiding from it. This just isn’t going to work.

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  • filly-fuzz

    Sigh, oh how the mighty have fallen

  • Gene

    Yep, this is just like the crap being sold under the “Bell & Howell” name. Nothing but “badge engineering”

    On the other hand, I wonder when the Chinese are going to turn around and get their shit together like the Japanese did?

    When/what is the Chinese “CB750 Four” going to be like?

    I wonder if it’s going to wipe out the Italians like what happened to the British?

    • http://rider49er.blogspot.com Mark D [EX500]

      Give them some time; China right now is like Japan in 1960. They just need their own Soichiro Honda!

      • Ben

        Oh they have a Soichuro san, He’s just imprisoned in an iPhone factory somewhere.

  • Glenngineer

    Kind of cool looking for what it is, but I think all the brand recognition Benelli has in the states is in guns at this point.

  • BigRooster

    The 600 is actually kind of cool looking IMO. Better looking than the China sourced CCW bikes – as far as my taste goes. Before you crybabies get your panties wadded – that’s not a indictment of CCW, just an personal aesthetic preference.

    If I could get that 600 for less than $7K, I’d think it a decent compromise.

    • robotribe

      Agreed. However, this is one FAAAAAAAT 600, albeit a good-looking one.

  • Coreyvwc

    Lets be honest, this STILL looks much better than the Transeformer x mt. dew inspired naked bikes that kawasaki is putting out…

  • Charles

    Anyone else think the frame looks a lot like an Aprilia oShiver’s?

    • Charles

      Yeah apparently the article’s writer thought that too. Anyone else think I should read the article before posting?

  • Scott-jay

    What a load of xenophobic crap, Wes.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      This isn’t about xenophobia, it’s about being dishonest with consumers and destroying any value the Benelli brand holds in the process.

      • Scott-jay

        Wasn’t what I read: Chinese mfg = bad motorcycle.

        Did Bennelli brand EVER present high quality components, or design in production motorcycles … the Honda clones?
        Why selective hoots to global out-sourcing quality with ‘proper’ specs and design?

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          Shitty rebadged Keeway = bad motorcycle. Trying to hide country of origin in 2012 = bad idea.

          • Scott-jay

            Dude, why didn’t you tell me?
            Why are Keeways held in such low esteem?

            Country of origin stereotypes are trending down.

  • roccopeterbilt

    The problem with embracing their Chinese connection is that they don’t want people to stop and say “Is the Benelli badging worth the extra 2,000 Euro?”
    I’m sure the drivers of the VW minivan would prefer not to know they paid a premium to get the peoples car emblem on the front of their Dodge.