With lead-times of more than 6 months for essential components and demand continuing to escalate, the trend of close-to-market production has accelerated. Portugal has established itself as taking a leading role in this reshoring trend, but they are certainly not the only ones in Europe.
In October 2021, the Portuguese bicycle industry association ABIMOTA announced a major investment scheme of € 258 million as part of Portugal’s Recovery and Resilience Plan. It aims to strategically expand the domestic bicycle industry’s role as the leading bicycle manufacturing nation in Europe. Above all, Portugal wants to be seen as a genuine alternative to production in the Far East. Águeda and surrounding area are the heart of the Portuguese bicycle industry.
Portugal benefits during cycling boom
The Portugal Bike Value, created by ABIMOTA to exploit the country’s potential as production location for the EU market, has benefited tremendously from the cycling boom. In times of delivery and logistics problems from the Far East, European bicycle and e-bike brands are literally jostling in the factories in Portugal in their search for more close-to-market production capacity.
The importance of cooperation
According ABIMOTA consultant Sergio Ribeiro, “Portugal Bike Value aims to become a European reference for the global bicycle industry”. His colleague Sergio Gonçalves goes one step further: he talks about his vision to keep the production know-how in Portugal in the long term. “Research and development are key to solutions and technologies. That’s where we need to work together.”
“A key project within the Portugal Recovery and Resilience Plan is the foundation of a technology centre that is accessible for all producers,” underlines ABIMOTA Secretary General Gil Nadais. The creation of this so-called ‘Centro de Interface Technológico’ (CIT) in Águeda is in the pipeline. After all, Águeda and surrounding is the cradle of the nation’s metal industry. That’s one of the reasons why the local bicycle industry is also deeply rooted in this area.
“In the 80s and 90s, our bicycle industry declined. After the turn of the century, it slowly started to pick up again and in recent years the market opportunities are favourable. We want to leverage this momentum and transform the bicycle industry in Portugal. If everything goes as planned, we will soon have a strong and large bicycle sector in Portugal again,” explains ABIMOTA Secretary General Gil Nadais (pictured on the right). He also notes that the Corona pandemic served as a catalyst in the discussion about a close-to-market production in Europe.
French government to re-develop national bicycle industry
It is hard to imagine, but up until the 1980's, France had a flourishing bicycle industry. The country was hit hard by the production relocation to low wage countries since the 1990’s. The French government now wants to turn the tide. It has launched a series of initiatives to put the e-bike and bicycle industry back on the map.
Commissioned by Prime Minister Jean Castex, French Deputy Guillaume Gouffier-Cha delivered a 82-page study on the country’s bicycle industry. As member of the French Parliament he made numerous proposals to develop the use of bicycles but also to reindustrialise this sector again. It recently became known that Paris is already gauging interest among component and bicycle manufacturers in Taiwan and other Asian countries whether they are interested in relocating a part of their production to France.
The beginnings of a France Bicycle Valley?
Guillaume Gouffier-Cha also talks about the contribution of the French bicycle sector in structuring R&D projects to improve the industry’s competitiveness. He also suggests to support the creation of regional industry hubs as well as business incubators dedicated to cycling and product innovations. Further proposals include implementing a national strategy in order to convince certain Asian manufacturers to open factories in France for the production of bicycle parts or even the creation of a bicycle mission within the Ministry of Industry. “We must support the development and modernisation of our national production facilities as well as promote industrial employment, which objectives are specific to the reindustrialisation of our country. To achieve this objective, we need state-of-the-art factories equipped with the most modern tooling and production robots,” he concludes.
‘The Central and Eastern European bicycle production landscape has seen an amazing growth curve’
Big players choose CEE region
Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) is seeing an influx of big and mid-scale players entering the market. With an untapped workforce and attractive subsidies, the region could offer a potential longer-term logistical solution for close-to-market production.
“The Central and Eastern European (CEE) bicycle production landscape has seen an amazing growth curve,” explains Daniel Antal, founder of Ebikexperts (Marvelo Europe Ltd.), a consultancy firm operating in the region. “Part of this is related to Decathlon and the fact they have set up production prominently in Romania, but there has been a lot of production growth in Bulgaria, as well as in Hungary, Czech Republic and Poland”.