The link between the automotive and bicycle industry is obvious : using man-made technology to get you from A to B as fast as possible, or at least faster than by foot or on a horse ! Since then, numerous automotive brands issued bikes with more or less commitment, and here are some of these bikes :
Ferrari : one of the most prestigious car manufacturers teams up with the Italian Colnago for several years now, which undoubtfully makes sense, as opposed to some of the following bikes. This year’s bike CF7 which is presented on the video on the left once again demonstrates the craftmanship of Colnago (handmade in Italy) and the design and engineering skills of the Ferrari crew in Modena. Only 99 copies will exit Colango’s factories in 2009, at a price of USD 17,500 each (of course!).
The noble German car manufacturer Mercedez-Benz is back in bike business ! In collaboration with ADP Engineering (the company based in Dietzenbach that also engineers Rotwild bikes), the merchandising branch MB Accessories GmbH created this high-end full-suspension mountainbike, as well as road bikes and foldable bikes which look as awesome as this Trailblazer model. The bikes are limited editions and sold only in Mercedes-Benz venues around the world, asking some USD 4,000 for the mountainbike that you can see here. If you want to purchase one of the numerous bikes that the German offer, check this out !
Subaru also shows some interest in cycling. The japanese car brand owned by Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. will outsource the production of its XB steel hardtrail to a japanese company. The 99 available bikes can only be ordered and will cost about UDS 3.900, which I find quite expensive for a chromoly hardtrail. The guys from the Subaru-Gary Fisher MTB Team are cleverer using high-end Gary Fisher bikes for their races in America, as the French riders from the Subaru MTB Pro Team use Mondraker downhill machines !
Porsche doesn’t only produce cars, but also markets numerous other products like mobile phones, watches, luggage or fashion via the brand Porsche Design. The bikes are nowadays manufactured by Storck, since the former supplier Votec ran out of business. Porsche gives them the specifications and thanks to their famous know-how, Markus Storck and his team produces the over-priced but gorgeous bicycles.
Still on the top level of the range, the Brits from Land Rover make surprisingly good mountain bikes as well as urban and city bikes. Once again, production is entrusted an external supplier, in this case 2×2 Worldwide, official licensee for Land Rover on the bike business and known in the UK for distributing Vario mountain bikes from France. The official website shows how serious Land Rover takes the sidestep into the two-wheel industry, offering a range going from a beefy downhill competitor with internal shifting to a carbon XC racer called Vorbano.
Another example is given by Chrysler’s brand Jeep [web]. The bikes are low-priced and sold on the mass market (like the retailer giant Carrefour for France) and the product range doesn’t make much sense. I think they could have exploited their “offroad”-image in a better way to build up a strong brand image on the bicycle market, but the products are still acceptable. Jeep bikes are assembleded by the French company Planet Fun based in Périgny near La Rochelle (France) who acquired the rights for using the name directly at Jeep. As I said, Jeep bikes are sold in Carrefour supermarkets in France and the company specialized in cheap bike assembly, but they also assemble higher-priced bikes like Mongoose (license).
The French Peugeot makes bikes for real, and their track record in the bike industry is quite impressive. Since 1886, when the frenchman Armand Peugeot launched production of a bicycle in the factory of Beaulieu, Peugeot manufactures bikes as well as scooters. When facing difficulties in the 80’s, the bike business was sold to Cycleurope (Gitane, Raleigh, Bianchi etc.) but rapidly they brought back bike assembly to Mandeure, where Cycles Peugeot still assembles its bikes. Today, Peugeot bicycles are sold in the retailer network of the car manufacturer.
The first stupid licensing comes from the Italian Tonino Lamborghini. Like the example above, the bike is sold under the control of the merchandising company of the automotive brand. The merchandising branch Tonino Lamborghini was founded by the son of Ferruccio Lamborghini (founder of Automobili Lamborghini in 1963), and sells various products like fashion goods, tools and even an energy drink [see here]! This bike is sold on the mass market, if you live in the UK you just will have to run into the next Tesco store [webstore]. The “Toro” is available in an awful green and costs £240, and certainly isn’t “worthy of the Lamborghini brand” as Tesco says in the product description.
The “GMC Topkick Dual-Suspension” mountainbike is distributed by Kent Bicycles who seems to specialize in selling cheap bikes on the US market under prestigious names like GMC (General Motors Truck Company, currently selling SUV’s in America and the Middle-East), Cadillac or… Tonino Lamborghini.
I can’t finish this thread without talking about brands from the automotive industry sponsoring the bike business. When I think about cycling, I can’t avoid the commitment of Skoda in numerous road races (Tour de France since 2004, UCI Road World Championships etc.) and pro cycling teams (Euskadi-Euskaltel, Cervélo Test Team etc. or see [here]). According to the Czech brand owned by Audi AG (owned by the Volkswagen Group), the global partnership with cycling improves brand image, brand knowledge and of course in allows them to introduce new models. Furthermore, we can quote Nissan who sponsors many famous events[Nissan UCI Mountainbike World Cup worldwide, Nissan MTB in northern Europe etc.].
None of the automotive giants makes bikes from A to Z, but who does this anyway nowadays? We can see in these few examples that some of them make gorgeous bikes, allocating eingineering and marketing ressources to issue high-end products. As the cars, the bikes are status symbols which can be sold overpriced to wealthy customers. For the others, it seems to be all about selling a name to the next best company and walking away. As a bike enthousiast, I don’t really understand the strategy of the second group. Raising brand awareness or even brand loyalty can’t be their main intention, does it?