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ITALY’S INTERNATIONAL “RIDE” AS A QUALITY BICYCLE PRODUCER
Riding is the essential factor for the 1 million 400 thousand foreign cyclists who opted to jump on the saddle of an Italian brand bicycle in 2011. “Riding”, albeit under a different aspect, is also the leit motive of Italian bicycle manufacturers. Theirs is a purely business “ride” towards the destination of brand consolidation around the world. The foreign policy adopted by the members of ANCMA, the association representing Italian bicycle manufacturers, is both ambitious and successful, and continues to produce significant sales results.
Foreign earned income for 2011 amounted to 130 million euros. In terms of units sold, this represents approximately 1 million 400 thousand bicycles, at an average cost of around €90 each. The recipe for this success is based on a few fundamental ingredients: quality and sectoring. Italy has become the reference country for racing bikes and children’s bicycles of up to 20 inches. It could be said that Italy has no competitors in these two areas. In Europe, rather than elsewhere: overall, the EU exports 80% of the bicycles marketed around the world. Broadening the perspective to markets beyond Europe, a significant proportion of Italian bicycles also goes to the USA and Japan. These are the two main countries for large-scale distribution. Returning to trade performance, 2011 was confirmed as a growth year. Despite the crisis in the financial markets, the sector managed to defend its market shares with a 1% increase in product value and a 3% increase in quantity compared with the previous year. The exuberance of the ANCMA president, Corrado Capelli, is justifiable: “Italy is a global leader in the niche and top-of-the-range cycling industry, particularly for racing bikes, and is still a key top-level player in Europe for bicycles for everyday use.”
The winning combination of quality and sectoring has held its own against the competition as well as new businesses, to the point of overcoming that traditional “flaw” the country still retains: “Italy,” adds Capelli, “lags behind the other main industrialised countries when it comes to the use of bicycles. In national terms, our bicycle compatibility index is 3%, compared with two figures indexes in other countries. The gamble is a drive towards countries with greater sustainable mobility”. The statistics, on the other hand, show that, lifestyles aside, Italian bicycle production is in excellent shape. Producers have pinned up the rankings that show Italy as the leading producer in Europe in terms of volume and turnover.
Racing bikes and children’s bicycles are the two outstanding points, but not the only areas in which national production excels. The attention of investors has also been drawn towards bicycle parts. Italian replacement parts command the “lion’s share” in Europe and growth values for 2011 have encouraged producers to pay close attention on this front. There are no changes to quality, which remains the main safeguard against the hazards of unfair competition. In the bicycle market, this is a factor that always poses a threat. ANCMA has also decided to seek countermeasures on this front, through implementation of the anti-dumping tariffs envisaged by the European Union. This is a necessary commercial response aimed at prevailing against increasingly aggressive and low-cost competition. Protective tariffs, therefore, are a solution, but brands are of particular importance. The “race” towards foreign markets has required Italian producers to rely on excellence, and at this level Italy remains in a commanding position, even if the “race” towards internationalisation can still be considered completely open.