Any doubts that Chinese manufacturers are taking aim at the U.S. material handling market were dispelled at the recent ProMat 2011 Show in Chicago. Chinese lift-truck makers were out in force at the March event. Some had understated, sparsely furnished booths staffed by serious-looking salesmen in conservative suits. Others tried to generate more buzz; one booth, for example, featured a gigantic video screen with continuous showings of promo films, including one featuring skimpily dressed models prancing around forklifts.
Now, another Chinese lift truck maker is jumping into game. LiuGong Machinery Corp., whose primary business is construction equipment, has announced that it will soon begin selling forklifts—including diesel, electric, and LPG-fueled machines—in North America and Western Europe. The launch will feature 11 core models, and more are in development, say company executives.
LiuGong Forklift Americas, based in Katy, Texas, says it's different from other Chinese manufacturers. First, it's backed by a parent company with global reach in both sales and manufacturing. The parent company does business in nearly 80 countries worldwide and has nearly 15 percent of the world's wheel-loader market. Currently, it sells forklifts in Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America.
Other features that distinguish the newcomer from the rest of the pack include a focus on quality (through a Six Sigma program and adherence to ISO 9000 standards) and a policy of entering new markets with a sales and dealer network already in place, company executives say.
Although LiuGong Forklift Americas is new to the North American market, its leadership is no stranger to the area. President David O'Dell formerly was a top executive at NACCO Material Handling, which owns the Yale and Hyster brands of forklifts.