August 1, 2020
VANMOOF, a bicycle manufacturer in the Netherlands, is known for its elegant designs and smart advertising. In a television commercial for its newest model, images of the evils of automobile culture – accidents, stalemate and pollution – are projected on the skin of a luxury car, which melts, becoming one of the company’s elegant e-bikes.
Electrically assisted bicycles are not about to replace cars. But they are growing, especially in Europe, where sales increased 23% in 2019, to 3 million units. Electric bikes are unlocking even saturated bike markets like the Netherlands, where the average person already owns 1.3 bikes. Last year, Deloitte, a consultancy, estimated the number of electronic bicycles worldwide at 200m and expected to reach 300m by 2023.
This may be an underestimate now that passengers wary of coronaviruses are avoiding public transport and cities are expanding bike lanes. Sales, which stalled in March and April due to fluctuations in the supply chain and closed stores, changed at a high speed when the blocks were lifted. In June, revenue for Accell, Europe’s largest bicycle maker, was 53% higher than a year ago, largely thanks to electronic bicycles.
Big companies like Accell and Giant in Taiwan compete with sports brands like American Cannondale and affordable city tours from QWIC. British manufacturer of sophisticated folding bikes, Brompton, invoices 10% of its annual sales of the electric type of US $ 56.5 million (US $ 56 million) and hopes to eventually increase that number to 40%. VanMoof, which raised $ 13.5 million from investors in May, calls itself Tesla for e-bikes. As the electric car maker, it designs its own parts, engines and software, rather than relying on ready-to-use parts and components. The result is a more transparent product, featuring Taco Carlier, a Dutch engineer who co-founded VanMoof with his brother in 2009.
Demand is growing faster than manufacturers can keep up with, leading to long delays and premium prices, which start at around $ 1,000. Giant says its gross margin on electronic bikes is around 25%, up from the average of 21%. VanMoof machines cost $ 2,000 per pop. Carlier may, however, have to rethink his company’s marketing strategy. Although its controversy against traffic jams evokes vague French nouvelle cinema, the ad was banned in June by French authorities for trying to “discredit the auto industry”.
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This article appeared in the Business section of the print edition, under the title “Electric shock”
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