Zombie Brand Update: QJ Motors Buys Morbidelli

The zombie brand trend continues; over the past 20 years, we’ve seen European brands in general, and especially Italian brands, fall to Chinese buyers. Now, one more Italian brand has seen a change to Chinese ownership, with QJ Motors buying up Morbidelli.

What, who? Morbidelli is not a household name in Canada, even among motorcyclists, but they were once a powerhouse in GP racing. One of the many Italian manufacturers that sprung up in the decades after World War II, Morbidelli won several 125-class titles in the 1970s, and also a 250 title. Its last MotoGP championship came in 1980.

By the 1990s, Morbidelli was done-ski, and over the past couple of decades we have heard nothing about the company. But, a re-organized version of the company exhibited machines at EICMA in 2022 under the name MBP Moto. This reborn version of the company is now owned by China.

QJ Motors is the buyer, through their subsidiary Keeway (itself a sort of zombie brand, originating in Hungary a generation back). This isn’t the first Italian moto company that QJ Motors bought—it also owns the Benelli motorcycle brand, one of the best-selling adventure bike brands in Europe.

Presumably QJ Motors hopes to replicate that success with Morbidelli, most likely in the realm of sportbikes, as Morbidelli is hardly a name associated with the Sahara Desert or the Dakar Rally. But then, neither was Benelli, and yet they’re selling a pile of the TRK-series machines…

QJ Motors is also reportedly interested in selling the Morbidelli brand in North America, although it’s hard to imagine that means sales in Canada anytime soon—we’re still waiting for Benelli to make a big entrance here. Unfortunately, our market is still very much a second-rate sideline for the big OEMs, due to our short riding season and a stunted moto culture thanks to industry attitudes and government apathy.

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