Until now it has been widely assumed that construction equipment made by Chinese companies, and even equipment made in China by the leading foreign firms, was inferior in both quality and technology to gear produced in the foreign firms’ factories back home. These assumptions have been crushed by a new study from CLSA, a broker, which tested a range of Chinese-made diggers, and found them to be sturdy and high-performing. Leading Chinese brands like Sany, Zoomlion and LiuGong, whose products also have the advantage of being cheap, will soon be invading building sites across the globe.
As they have expanded, the best Chinese firms have rushed to upgrade their technology by buying, or entering joint ventures with, foreign competitors and suppliers. Sany Heavy bought two German firms, Putzmeister and Intermix, and entered a joint venture with Palfinger of Austria. Zoomlion bought CIFA of Italy. LiuGong and Xugong formed joint ventures with, respectively, America’s Cummins and South Korea’s Doosan, to improve their diesel engines.
CLSA’s researchers subjected Chinese-made diggers from six companies—Sany, Caterpillar, Hitachi and Doosan, as well as Komatsu and Kobelco of Japan—to two weeks of gruelling tests of their productivity, durability and fuel efficiency. They all came out well, but most striking was the performance of Sany’s machines. Though not quite as good as the best, made by Caterpillar, they outperformed their Japanese and Korean rivals. CLSA concluded that technology gaps between the best Chinese firms and their foreign rivals are now “almost non-existent”.