Interview BMC CEO David Zurcher: ‘It’s All About Performance’
GRENCHEN, Switzerland – BMC surprised many earlier this year and at Eurobike with the presentation of a range of e-MTB’s. This new line-up reflects more than BMC ‘going electric’. It also points to the company’s turnaround and its views on the (near) future, which includes a new strategy. CEO David Zurcher explains the new directions taken by BMC.
Bike Europe interviewed David Zurcher for its September 2017 print edition. The complete text is published here.
Can you say more on the current situation at BMC now that the divestment of Stromer and Bergamont has been finalised?
BMC Switzerland is an independent organization since I joined back in 2014. We’ve had no collaboration either with Bergamont or Stromer for as long as I am working for BMC Switzerland. The only link was the owner Andy Rihs who had decided back in 2013 to go back to independent companies due to the challenging results.
The BMC brand had again huge exposure at the Tour de France. What does it bring for BMC?
The Tour de France was building nicely for us and we are so glad that Richie Porte could walk away from it. His horrible crash was a scary moment for us. Overall, our presence in races like this brings value and momentum to the brand and the products, which have gained a lot of credibility thanks to our professional teams in Road, MTB, and Triathlon.
In all 3 categories we are either in the lead or second on the current World Team Ranking. The spirit is to challenge ourselves to win, not just to participate; this value certainly inspires us at BMC Switzerland particularly in our specific case as we are turning the company into a proper and profitable business, it is really all about our performance.
How does the near future look like for BMC; in particular regarding the illness of owner Andy Rihs?
Andy is strong. We wish him well. The company is more or less 18 years of age under Andy’s ownership. The child is growing and evolving, we are learning and strengthening day by day, and are planning for long-term success. Our adolescence certainly had some challenges but the organization is now stable, as we redefined where we want to go as a business, and as importantly, the improvements show in our financial performance.
How is the turnaround of BMC going?
In 2014, I was hired to lead the company into a successful future and execute the turnaround, the shoes are still big in my role, but we further developed internal leaders and implemented a solid management group of experienced industry people. For the last few years, I am happy to be able to look Andy in the eyes and tell him that we no longer need his help to pay for our invoices. We are a standalone business. This is what we are ultimately responsible for.
How is the business doing?
We have steadily been growing the top line in the last few years but have massively improved the bottom line, clearly our number one focus. For 2018, we are very impressed to see our business partners’ responses to the continuous improvements we have done step by step. The sales pre-orders are significantly up, comparing MY17 vs MY18. Thanks to all our business partners for the trust and support.
2017 marks the BMC start in e-bikes and in particular in e-MTB’s. Other ultra-high-end MTB brands do not want to get involved in electrics. What made you decide to enter this MTB market segment?
It is part of the new strategy to enlarge our product offering and today we are certainly more competitive with our value proposition. Thankfully e-bikes are no longer only for utility and/or elderly people, they have also become sport-oriented and they are now fun to ride. As a prestigious and performance-oriented brand, BMC Switzerland can play an interesting role, as our core competencies lie into the very technical aspect of the bicycle and this category is the fastest evolving category from a technical/technological point of view. The pace of innovation is very high. This is now a situation where we can excel, thanks to our people and our in-house Impec Lab, our playground for engineers.
What about electric road racers? How do you view this category and are BMC branded e-road bikes in the pipeline?
There are numerous possible applications for Electric Assist Technologies, some categories could be of interest for us, but we are still only watching at the moment. Our usual approach to new categories is not necessary to be the pioneer but we usually aim at ‘doing it better with more attention to details’ once the category is established.
What are your expectations on e-bikes; how will this market evolve in the next years?
This segment will continue to grow and diversify with specific product solutions that will be of interest to the bike riders in any category.
E-bikes are also expected to play a major role in mobility. Is it with this in view possible that BMC steps into City & Trekking high-end e-bikes?
Although we could use our performance recipe to these categories it is not where we need to focus our energy at this point in time for our company and our brand.
BMC stands for R&D in Switzerland. But what about Swiss (or European) production. Is that feasible as well as a necessity for increasing the speed to market ability of the brand?
The product diversification and micro-segmentation of our industry was and is a fantastic opportunity but has also brought enormous complexity for our businesses. However, the ability to respond to the rider needs in both finding geographical locations and how quickly we can respond anywhere in the World should be at the forefront of our decisions.
How do you view the omni-channel initiatives taking place now by lots of BMC competitors due to rapidly rising online sales? Will BMC step in this too?
In today’s environment and dynamic, probably any business has to be open to the market reality, be it the much more open market with the digital developments and your ability to respond to the rider needs and evolving purchasing behaviour. Our model is still very much traditional and we believe in our local business and service partners Worldwide, if anything this continues to grow for us, it is at least at the moment still a very clear trend for BMC Switzerland backed-up with a significant growth of our dealer base just in the last year.