Production at Fritz Jou Bikes Europe Picks Up Speed
TAIPEI, Taiwan – Fritz Jou Mfg. Co. Ltd was among the first overseas companies who announced to invest in a production facility in the Bike Value Portugal. Bike Europe had the opportunity to talk exclusively with Fritz Jou Mfg. Co, Ltd founder and President Fritz Jou about his European ambitions. “The factory is already operational and by the end of 2019, we expect everything to be ready. Then our annual capacity is 300,000 units,” said Fritz Jou.
Located at the industrial zone Parque Empresarial do Casarão near Borralha in Portugal, the construction of a production facility of Fritz Jou Bikes Europe took off in 2017. The company advertises with ‘bicycle production close to the European market’, thanks to its situation at the heart of the Bike Value Portugal. The Bike Value Portugal is located about three kilometres south of Agueda, home of the Portuguese bicycle industry.
The positioning of assembler Fritz Jou Bike Europe next door to aluminium frame producer Triangle’s Cycling Equipments SA is certainly no coincidence. Started at the end of 2016, Triangle’s is a joint-venture of the Portuguese company’s trio Ciclo Fabril, Miranda and Rodi and focuses on fully automatic frame production. The joint venture received an EU subsidy of around 15 million euro. With an aluminium frame production next door, you might assume that Fritz Jou Bikes Europe will source its frames at Triangles. Is that already the case? To date, little has been communicated officially. At Taipei Cycle Show last March Fritz Jou gave an update on the situation in Portugal.
We concentrate on smaller production batches of high-quality products
According to Fritz Jou, “We received a lot of help from local and European authorities to set up the production facility. They fully supported us at an early stage. We are very grateful for this. Three years ago, we gave the go-ahead with the acquisition of the land and built the production plant. Since the beginning of 2018 we are assembling mainly e-bikes for OEM-customers from Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.” Although brand names are not mentioned, Fritz Jou states that “a large part is accounted for by customers with direct sales business.”
As far as any synergies with neighbour Triangle’s are concerned, Fritz Jou points out: “we concentrate on smaller production batches of high-quality products. In the future, Triangle’s will certainly be our frame partner.” At the moment, aluminium hardtail- and of e-bike aluminium-frames are produced there. Fritz Jou Bikes Europe currently sources all its aluminium frames in Asia while the carbon frames are all made in Taiwan. Today the e-bike accounts for approximately 40 percent of the production. “We expect this segment to continue to grow as the e-bike market is booming in Europe. We suppose to increase the e-bike’s production share to expand to 50 percent soon.”
According to Fritz Jou, “We invested a total of 10 million euro in our European project to date. And we are continuing to invest. Our paint shop has just been completed. In addition to assembly, we also build our own wheels.” All in all, 70 percent of the plant is now ready. “By the end of 2019, we expect everything to be ready and the factory fully operational. Then our annual capacity is 300,000 units. From then on, we will certainly source more aluminium frames from Triangle’s, by which we will also be able to deliver according to our claim ‘Made in Europe’.”
Close to market production
What was the main driver for Fritz Jou to invest in European production? “We see a lot of potential in Bike Value Portugal. The Portuguese have a lot of technical know-how and we can finally produce where the market is, reduce the time to market and improve our flexibility. We regard it a long-term investment as we consider it a waste of time to shift production location due to rising wage costs only.” Fritz Jou Bikes Europe’s presence is one of the reasons why the concept of Bike Value Portugal is flourishing. The more manufacturers and suppliers who settle here, the more opportunity the European bicycle will have to face the tough global competition. According to the Taiwanese, Rodi and Triangle’s are currently negotiating with a suspension supplier who expressed interest in settling in Bike Value Portugal as well.
Fritz Jou Mfg. Co, Ltd. currently employs around 500 people worldwide. The company generates an annual turnover of USD 170 million (151 million euro). Fritz Jou Bikes Europe has 120 employees, including a team of 11 to 14 people from Taiwan. Besides the facility in Taiwan, Fritz Jou Mfg. Co, Ltd. also used to operate the subsidiaries Banson International and the Rex Sports Group in China. Painting specialist Banson International was already closed in 2013 while the Tianjin based Rex Sports Group was shut down in October 2018 when the subsidiary Fritz Jou Bikes Europe increased its production step by step.