News Article

European Union 2012: Is Cycling Becoming ‘Hot’ Again in Europe?

Sales & Trends

AMSTERDAM, the Netherlands – In 2011, the bicycle sector in the European countries faced rainy summer conditions for the second year in a row. At the same time, consumer confidence in the sluggish euro zone economy declined. Nevertheless, the market volume for bicycles in Europe increased, which looks like a remarkable contradiction.

European Union 2012: Is Cycling Becoming ‘Hot’ Again in Europe?

However, bicycles are top of mind in new (electric) mobility concepts throughout Europe. A growing number of Europeans are re-discovering cycling; in particular with pedal assisted e-cycling. while the many Vélib style public bike share systems are also helping. Is cycling really becoming ‘hot’ again in Europe?

According to the data from COLIBI and COLIPED (the EU industry associations for bicycle and bike parts makers) the number of bikes sold in the EU-27 rose 6.5% in 2011, compared to 2010. The total remained just under the 20 million mark, with 19,768,000 units, an increase of 1,212,000 bicycles over 2010 totals.

Import
In contrast to an increase in market volume stands a declining import total. Overstock at the end of 2010 contributed to the fact that the number of imported bikes into the 27 member states of the EU dropped by 8.5% (880,828 units) on a total import volume of 8,505,715 in 2011. The top three exporting countries to the EU-27 – Taiwan, Thailand, and Sri Lanka, together lost nearly 20% of their export volume.

This represents a total of more than 1.1 million units. That number was partially taken over by other countries such as Indonesia (+11%), Tunisia (+25%), and China (+6%), but above all by Vietnam. Since the European Union dropped the anti-dumping duty for Vietnam-made bicycles, the country has been preparing its return to the international bike market. As a result Europe’s imports from Vietnam took off – from zero in 2009, to 13,034 bicycles in 2010, and 226,346 last year. Next to an overview on the main bike supplying countries, this report also offers the import statistics per EU country, together with the average values per imported bike in 2010 and 2011.

When comparing these figures with those from the top ten EU bike-supplying countries one notes that there are differences in the total numbers. These differences are caused by the fact that Eurostat figures are regularly updated. One should ‘read’ the statistics keeping in mind that they are not per single unit ‘correct’. Looking at the import statistics per EU country and in particular at the average value per imported bike in 2010 and 2011; it shows that the average value dropped significantly. By 13.2% to be precise, to an average value per imported unit of € 97.81.

Average Value of by Country Imported Bikes in EU

Country

2012

Jan-Jun

2011

Jan-Jun

+/- ‘12 vs. ‘11

Jan-Jun

Taiwan € 246.78 € 206.51 +19,5%
Cambodia € 190.94 € 142.46 +34,0%
Turkey € 134.88 € 122.21 +10.4%
Indonesia € 90.43 € 78.46 +15.3%
Bangladesh € 85.63 € 76.43 +12.0%
Thailand € 70.11 € 110.94 -36.8%
Tunisia € 66.12 € 63.54 +4.1%
Sri Lanka € 46.31 € 42.87 +8,0%
Philippines € 44.17 € 39.26 +12.5%
China € 35.08 € 109.78 -68.0%

Source Eurostat

Production

The sluggish market situation in 2010 and the incapacity of the bicycle industry to respond quickly to changing market conditions resulted in high inventories at the end of 2010. As said, it affected imports in 2011. But at the same time, the European OEMs saw their production grow slightly. According to the COLIBI data, EU bike production increased by 1.6% or 186,000 units, to 11,822,000 units in 2011. The production increase took place at only a few countries.

In particular Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria saw the biggest growth in bicycle output. It’s the result of the industry’s search for cheaper labor in combination with a closer-to-market production. Will this be the new trend for higher priced (electric) bikes in the next years? More production within the European Union and not in the Far East? One thing is sure; the need for flexibility rises with demand getting more unpredictable, as well as with dealers that winter-order less and stock ever fewer bikes.

The big three, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands, managed to keep their production at the same level as in 2010. For Germany and the Netherlands that could be the result of the growing market for e-bikes, although an increasing number of companies import e-bikes in both countries, to obtain a share of this profitable market segment. In Germany the number of e-bikes boomed from 200,000 in 2010 to 310,000 in 2011. At the same time the Dutch e-bike market expanded from 166,000 to 181,000. COLIBI´s production statistics also show a relatively big production increase in the UK. In volume however, the output is still very small, after the industry was wiped out in beginning of this century.

Automobile industry
In 2011 the European bike sector saw the entry of a big player from the automotive industry. Dutch Pon Holdings acquired the leading bike maker in The Netherlands – Gazelle, in June. Pon is one of largest family-owned companies in the Netherlands and an international trade and service organization. The Gazelle takeover was only Pon’s first step in the bike sector. In mid-September Pon and the German Derby Cycle AG signed a Business Combination Agreement. Pon Holding made a public offer to all shareholders of Derby Cycle and finally took over the shares.

To finalize the foundation of the Pon Bicycles Business Group, the company took over the Canadian high-end brand Cervélo. It gave Pon a global reach and exposure in the bicycle industry. Within one year, Pon not only entered the bicycle market, but also created a strong foothold in this sector, with three companies that fit Pon’s growth strategy as a trendsetting mobility provider. Pon is not the only one from the car sector attempting to get a foothold in bikes. Almost all the big names from the automotive industry launched electric bikes in 2011.

E-bikes in Europe
The biggest market in Europe for electric bicycles in 2011, with 310,000 units sold, was Germany. The market made a major jump from 200,000 units in 2010 and this market is expected to grow even further. In second place was the Netherlands, with 181,000 units sold; up 9% from the 166,000 sold in 2010. E-bikes had a 15.1% market share in all 2011 bicycle sales in Holland.

It appeared that the Dutch e-bike market might have become saturated, but the first indications of e-bike sales in 2012 show the opposite, as sales continues to grow. Average purchase prices declined though, E-bikes sold at DIY stores, supermarkets, and at IBDs at an average price of €1,827. This is down 1.3%, mainly as a result of a growing number of imported brands who are all trying to get their share of the attractive Dutch market. In 2011 the share of e-bikes in the total turnover for bicycles at IBDs grew to a huge 44%! A 2% rise in the average retail price for an e-bike at IBD’s, to a record-breaking €2,138, contributed to the jump.

The third biggest market in Europe for electric bicycles in 2011 was Switzerland. Last year sales once again rose sharply, though ‘only’ by 25%, or 10,500 units, to nearly 50,000. After Switzerland there are a number of European countries where the e-bike trend is still in its early days. In France an interesting development took place last year. The low-priced hypermarket models disappeared from the market, probably caused by the need for after sale service, which such distribution channels are not able to provide. It affected sales a bit. 2011 e-bike sales in France stood at 37,000 units, compared to 38,000 in 2010. The French market for electric bikes is repositioning itself however and finding a home in specialist stores. IBDs now account for more than 64% of all e-bike sales.

In Italy the e-bike started to become important in 2009. Industry association ANCMA estimates some 40,000 e-bikes were sold in 2010, a similar amount to the total from 2009. Italians appear to be willing to pay around €1,200 for e-bikes and expect a high-quality product for that price. The next growth market for e-bikes is Austria. Sales skyrocketed, from approximately 20,000 in 2010, to around 32,000 units last year.

According to Austrian Two-Wheeler Association ‘Arge Zweirad’ general secretary Karin Munk, “2011 was the year of the breakthrough for the latest e-bike generation. This trend will definitely continue in 2012. According to industry forecasts 2014 sales will come close to approximately 50,000 units.” As said, in other EU countries the e-bike boom still has to start. But, only a few industry insiders doubt the fact that the rest of the 27 member states will follow the trend.

First Forecast for 2012
Contrary to 2011, this year’s bike sales throughout Europe probably won’t improve a great deal on the 2011 results. Weather conditions are again having a major impact. As in 2011, the bad winter took its toll once again. Luckily an early spring turned out quite well for a lot of European countries, but bike sales did not really take off after spring.

Then the rains started again, just like in 2011 and didn’t stop until early August. Again the exports from Taiwan, the number one supplier for the EU-27 market, took a heavy blow. Taiwan saw its exports decrease by more than 16% to 1.3 million units during the first half of 2012. The new rising star is Cambodia. As a production location for several large customers in Europe, such as the Germany organization ZEG, the country is now ranking second after Taiwan as an EU bike supplier, providing more than half a million units between January and June 2012.

Cambodia is definitely not a production location for ‘cheap’ bicycles, as the average value per unit is €190.94 – much more than the average value of imported bikes from almost all other countries except Taiwan. What strikes most in the comparison of 2011 and 2012 is the crash of the average value of China made bicycles: -68%. In fact China and Thailand were the only two top ten countries who saw a decline in average value, all others were up.

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