Cars will disappear in coming years, says the director of the world's largest bike manufacturer Giant Ibérica

Australian dollars in Sydney, Friday, Jan. 15, 2016. (AAP Image/Joel Carrett) NO ARCHIVING

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Giant is currently the world’s largest bicycle manufacturer. In 2020 they surpassed 6 million units produced and their turnover reached 2.5 billion dollars (around 2,066 million euros at the current exchange rate).

The company has 10 factories or manufacturing plants around the world, of which 2 are located in European territory and 8 in Asia, mainly in China and Taiwan, where the company originates from.

In 2020, Giant made one of its latest investments with the start-up of a plant in Hungary, as well as a logistics center for distribution in Europe that is located adjacent to its factory in the Netherlands.

The manufacturer also has 15,000 points of sale worldwide, operating in more than 60 countries. “In short, a global company in the bicycle world,” summarizes José Casla, director of Giant Ibérica, the company’s subsidiary for Spain, Portugal, and Andorra, in an interview for Business Insider Spain.

The company has more than 150 bicycle models in its catalog that encompass all activity centers, from mobility to fitness, through fun, sport, or competition at a professional level.

Casla explains that this offer has varied from its origin, in the 70s, where it focused on a more artisanal character, to the present, where it highlights a segment dedicated especially to bicycles that have some kind of technology applied to them.

Among the changes that have occurred are those related to materials since the most conventional bicycles were made of steel, the later ones of aluminum, which reduced weight, and, ultimately, of carbon, which resulted in an even lighter vehicle.

The executive advances that the next step that the bicycle world will see is related to connectivity with the outside world.

“Despite technological advances, the bicycle will still be 2-wheeled and will still have to be pedaled.”

Giant

The bikes now have operating modes that regulate the way you pedal to reduce battery consumption and make the drivetrain as efficient as possible. The next step, according to Casla, will have to do with connectivity with applications such as wayfinding to make pedaling more comfortable.

However, despite the advances, the expert is sure that this vehicle “will continue to have 2 wheels and will have to continue pedaling” because “it is the spirit of the bicycle”.

In fact, Casla insists that it is important to know that electric bicycles are actually pedal-assisted, since “otherwise we would be talking about electric motorcycles”, so they can help when pedaling, but always under the mandate that force must be transmitted to the wheel.

The appearance of this type of bicycle has also changed the distribution of the market, since, according to the director of Giant Ibérica, fewer bicycles are currently being produced, but more are being invoiced.

“With the emergence of the electric bicycle, all manufacturing processes have become more complicated and, although invoices are higher, there are fewer units because the average price is higher,” he explains.

Specifically, electric bicycles have prices that are set between 1,000 and 2,500 euros for a use focused on fitness or entertainment; from 2,000 to 3,500 for athletes and, from that figure up to 7,000 euros for professionals. These amounts contrast with the traditional one, which is usually between 400 and 800 euros.

The 10 best Spanish cities for cycling in Spain

The increase in demand for electric bikes has also been reflected in the weight they add to the business. “For us, they account for nearly 50% of our sales, whereas five years ago it was barely 5%,” says Casla.

This type of bicycle opens up the sport to all types of users. For example, the manager cites the case of people who did not see themselves getting on this vehicle for fear of not being able to reach steep slopes, but with the help of pedal-assist, they are encouraged to get started.

“It is, without a doubt, bringing the possibility of pedaling closer to people who had not considered it until now,” summarizes Casla.

In fact, the expert recognizes that in recent years there has been a change of profile in the type of people who access this vehicle and explains that more and more families and people who are not even athletes are going to the stores.

However, if there is something that has ended up boosting this type of displacement compared to others, it has been the change in the mobility paradigm that has occurred in recent years.

“Spectacular boom ” in cycling after COVID-19

Giant

This change has been reflected in political actions: “Finally, it seems that the bicycle is getting votes,” says Casla.

The executive explains that, until now, this type of vehicle seemed to detract support from the leaders, however, the importance that sustainability has gained has generated a change, in turn, in the institutions, which are increasingly betting more on “the integration of the city for the citizen”.

Examples of this new scenario include the appearance of bicycle lanes in cities, as well as the commitment of municipalities to shared-use bicycles.

Added to this is the increased use of this vehicle for commuting to and from work, as it is the most efficient way to move between 4 and 8 kilometers.

According to the expert, the French state even offers incentives in the form of tax deductions for each kilometer cycled to work.

How mobility has changed as a result of the coronavirus in Spain, according to data from Google

In this sense, many companies have implemented spaces for their employees to leave their bikes, charge them in the case of electric bikes, and even showers for them to wash up if the commute is longer.

In addition, this has been accompanied by an awareness of the other means of transport so that they stop penalizing bicycle commuting. The manager explains that a few years ago, both in trains and buses, it was prevented to ride with this type of vehicle, while today it is already admitted without problems.

“All this is going to give way to the bicycle being understood as an alternative means of transport, especially now, when we are at a time when all our concerns are to avoid becoming infected,” he says.

Regarding the situation with the COVID, he explains that, in the leisure or sports sector, they have seen a “spectacular boom in demand for bicycles for this purpose” due to the fact that, after lockdown, people are looking for “fresh air”. “The market has taken off,” he says.

“We’re a long way off, but that doesn’t mean we’re not making great strides.”

Giant

However, although Casla points out that this vehicle has already begun to occupy its own space, there is still a long way to go. The expert explains that the car continues to play a decisive role in the movement of cities.

Thus, the president of Giant Ibérica points out that, in his opinion, the key to equalize both vehicles is the limitation of interurban speeds to 30 kilometers per hour, which would generate “a friendly environment” for the bicycle.

Regarding the specific situation in Spain, the executive pointed out that we are still “very far” from reaching societies such as the Netherlands in the development of this type of vehicle, both in terms of awareness and education regarding mobility.

“We are still a long way off, but that does not mean that we are not making great strides. I’m optimistic,” he says.

Madrid, sixth European city in sustainable mobility according to Greenpeace

Asked for an even more future vision of mobility, Casla is clear: the car is going to disappear. The expert explains that this evolution will be progressive, first by reducing speed, then by eliminating this vehicle from the city center, and then by excluding it from the city altogether.

The director of Giant Ibérica points out that this transformation will be accompanied by the reinforcement of public services so that, in a period of more than 10 years, the car will eventually disappear in medium-sized cities such as San Sebastian.

Among the reasons, he cites the change in the mentality of the younger generations, who no longer see it as essential to get a driving license or own a car.

“I see it as unstoppable,” he says.

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