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Lifan Motors: A Localized Overseas Brand


In Ethiopia, there is a quite enviable transnational marriage between a Chinese guy Ma Qun and an African girl Karlie. They got married after three-year lovers’ relationship and were endowed with a cute half-blooded little boy Mathew. As family use, they possessed a SUV and a sedan, both are from Lifan--the most well-known auto brand in Ethiopia. The love story of this family is also the sketch of Lifan Motors’go-global policy, endeavor and harvest.


As Mu Gang-- president of Lifan Industry (Group) Co. Ltd. once said:”Our first subsidiary company was established in 2009 in Ethiopia, and other factories and networks were established step by step. Over-seven-year endeavor is labor and patience demanding, and the thought of giving up rises not once only, while thanks to our persistence that Lifan got the great achievements finally.”

Nowadays, Lifan Motors ranks top among the import vehicles in Ethiopia, and it is also the first choice for local government and enterprise purchase. Mu Gang introduces that “ Lifan has got fully recognition in Ethiopia. We hold the top marketing share there, being the most famous and influential brand there, while it’s not our current aims. Our new direction in Ethiopia is to integrate into their original economic system so that Lifan will be the first coming into their mind for their future auto industry development, and Lifan Group will spare no efforts to assist the founding of their own auto brand as reliable as Lifan.”

The motorcycle of Lifan now sets sales companies mainly in Argentina, Mexico, Nigeria, Iran, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam, and manufacturing bases and sales centers mainly in Russia, Iran, Ethiopia and Uruguay.“Going global relies on products, technology, and capital; integration relies on the localization of brand; permanent surviving relies on finance, system and culture. “ Mu Gang said, the next step for Lifan is to go global while bringing Chinese model and innovative fruits such as intelligent network, AI, sharing economy, automobile finance and so on.

It is predicted by experts that the total capacity of Chinese vehicles until 2025 will be 50 million units, among which 40 million home and 10 million abroad. Lifan’s going global is to bring products, brand, service, technology and finance into the local investment area. Now, the mission of Lifan is not only to sell the latest products, but also to bring Chinese most advanced business model like environmental friendly cars, periodical and financial leasing to local markets, being able to add new economic model to local government.

“As for brand, Lifan permits differences among different markets, but there are three fresh methods generally: The first one is to cooperate with local government and media; the second is to participate in auto show and exhibition; the third is holding global news conference and inviting all the overseas marketing related persons together. Mu Gang stressed that “there are lots of new-media platform and media source besides traditional advertisements, and we should make them integrated and put into application. When all the other enterprises are still exporting vehicles equaling to those of Lifan 2.0, Lifan has already synchronized the newly-developed products of 4.0 to overseas markets, which increases real competitiveness. The same with brand communication, it has to combine with local markets, reaching to our target customers directly.”

It’s risky to enter overseas markets, so we need to be cautious when investing. In the mind of Mu Gang, Made in China still faces some challenges overseas.

Lifan has experienced bitter lessons from the risk of exchange rate, which helps us summarize some experience for avoiding it. Mu Gang expressed that “The exchange rate overseas is quite unstable, it changes every day, and the only way for us to avoid loss from it is to import in abundance.”Recently, Lifan has purchased parallel-import cars and woods in Russia directly by the sales revenue there, planning to purchase beef in United States and South America, then import them into China.

As for financing, the over-long industry chain makes a large demanding on capital for automobile enterprises which faces great pressure for lacking of satisfactory financing channel, and this is especially worse for those private enterprises desiring to go global. It’s not only a dilemma for us private companies but also the problem being necessary to take into consideration when we adjust company’s inner structure anytime.

The risky level differs every markets globally and every market faces totally different problems, for example, Southeastern Asian market is different to that of Africa and Middle Eastern countries defer to that of Southern America. Mu Gang expressed with a profound understanding that we have to insist on the four phases “trading-direct sales- investing-cultivating “when we implement the go-global policy, in other words, “exploring- surviving- immigrating-settling”.