Sat, Sep 27, 2014 - Page 14 News List

Bicycle industry cruising after years of headwinds

CHANGING GEARS:While the nation’s bicycle exports remain modest, a focus on higher-priced, quality bikes has made local companies more competitive globally

By Kevin Chen  /  Staff reporter

The total export value of Taiwan’s bicycles fell 2 percent year-on-year to US$906.2 million during the first seven months of this year, as declining shipments to Europe and Japan offset rising average prices of products, the latest government statistics showed.

The data also indicated that demand in China has been rising lately, but developed markets such as Europe, Japan and the US are still the bread and butter for Taiwanese bicycle makers, as they account for more than 80 percent of total exports.

Statistics compiled by the Ministry of Economic Affairs show bicycle shipments to Europe decreased 6.5 percent year-on-year during the period from January to July.

Europe was still the biggest export market for Taiwan’s bicycles during the first seven months of the year, despite bad weather and slow economic recovery in some eurozone countries.

The region bought US$412.7 million — or 45.5 percent — of Taiwanese bicycles in the seven-month period, the ministry said in a statement released on Thursday.

Among the major European markets, shipments to the Netherlands dropped 5.1 percent from a year ago to US$114.4 million, while those to the UK declined 0.7 percent to US$87 million during the same period, the data showed.

The ministry’s statistics indicated the export value of Taiwanese bicycles sold to Japan also declined 10.1 percent year-on-year to US$45.9 million in the first seven months, accounting for 5.1 percent of total bicycle exports, while those to China were down slightly by 0.5 percent to US$56 million, or 6.2 percent of overall exports.

However, the value of Taiwanese bikes shipped to the US in the seven-month period rose 2.7 percent to US$220.4 million from a year earlier, accounting for 24.3 percent of total exports, supported by a steady recovery in the US economy, the ministry said.

Taiwan was a global leader in bicycle exports in the 1970s and 1980s, but a sharp New Taiwan dollar appreciation in the 1990s eroded the Taiwanese exporters’ competitiveness, and production largely relocated to China in the early 2000s.

These factors led to Taiwan’s bicycle exports plunging from a peak of 10.74 million units in 1987 to 4.06 million units last year, according to the ministry’s tallies.

In the face of rising competition from low-priced bicycles from China and Southeast Asia, local makers such as Giant Manufacturing Co (巨大機械) and Merida Industry Co (美利達) have changed their focus to higher-priced, quality bicycles as well as developing their own brands and targeting developed markets.

Statistics compiled by the Taiwan Bicycle Exporters’ Association indicate the US, the Netherlands and the UK were the top three export markets for Taiwan’s bicycles by value last year, followed by Australia, Germany and Japan.

The ministry said Taiwanese manufacturers’ efforts to focus on mid and high-end bicycles have paid off, with the average selling price of products rising steadily since 2004.

The prices also increase after many manufacturers have turned to use lighter materials, such as carbon fiber, titanium, magnesium and aluminum, rather than steel in their bikes.

During the first seven months of the year, the average selling prices of Taiwan-made bicycles for overseas sales rose 7.4 percent from a year earlier to NT$13,400 (US$442) per bike, the data showed.

In addition, a large number of bicycle companies and component makers — totaling 658 companies, upstream (raw materials/components and parts), middle stream (assembler) as well as downstream firms (distributors and retailers) — have clustered in the Greater Taichung and Changhua areas, according to the Taiwan External Trade Development Council.

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