But there was no B.A. Baracus, Hannibal Smith or Face in sight. Taiwan's A-Team isn't a bad 1980s TV series, it's a collection of bike companies which collaborate on R&D and 'just in time' production issues. The 5.9 quake which hit the island at the weekend didn't stop A-Team members from expounding on the future of the industry. But perhaps the biggest seismic shift was the one revealed by an Italian bike maker. As exclusively revealed by Bikebiz.com on March 1st the newest member of the A-Team is Colnago...

A-Team to the rescue in Taiwan quake

Ying-Ming Yang, chairman of the Kenda Industrial Group and president of the Taiwan Bicycle Exporters Association, told the China Post that the A-Team "probably saved" the Taiwan bicycle manufacturing industry.

"Last year 2004 Taiwan was able to export 4.38 million bikes; a 12.93 percent increase in the previous year. From $580m up to $720m, 26.33 percent in one year. The average price has also gone up, from $150 to $164," said Yang.

Part of the this growth is due to the A-Team, said Yang. "Now everyone has enjoyed a wonderful result," he said, despite the A-Team members being direct competitors

Such cooperation is "very unusual and maybe the first time in the entire Taiwanese industry," said Yang.

The success of the A-Team is apparent by the growth in membership. The newest member is Italian bike company, Colnago.

At a Saturday meeting of the A-Team members, within the confines of the Taipei trade show, Ernesto Colnago told the assembled manufacturers and journalists what BikeBiz.com had revealed on March 1st. Colnago would be sourcing its low-end bikes from Taiwan.

Colnago said: "Five years ago, it would have been unthinkable to have a partner in Taiwan. Now the time is right. Colnago wants to collaborate with the best Taiwanese companies in the clear light of day."

Colnago may be the first Italian member of the A-Team but it’s not the only non-Taiwanese company.

SRAM is now an influential member of the A-Team

SRAM president Stan Day spoke at Saturday’s open meeting of the group.

"The economies of Europe, the US, Japan, and China are growing, and (consumers there are) becoming more affluent. It’s possible that as countries become more developed, they are less inclined to buy bikes, but I think it is the reverse.

"One of the reasons why people ride bikes is transportation. Look at what’s going on in the automobile industry today in terms of environmental issues, traffic congestion, gas prices. I think there’s a very strong dynamic working that positions bikes for growth.

"Bikes are one of the few products that are fun, safe, healthy, and environmentally sound. They also represent freedom."

Yet even though cycling has many benefits, bicycle companies could be doing better at getting new people on bikes, a key concern of companies like Shimano and now A-Team companies as well

"As we look at the total sporting goods industry for the US and Europe, we came out with a total of $160bn," said Day."

"Only two percent [of that] goes to bike-spending. If we think about who buys those bikes and on what context they buy them, we can expand this pie beyond the sporting goods industry and even into the electronics sector.

"It’s not necessarily about selling more to those who already bought bikes. How do we double, even triple the industry?"

Part of the answer, said Day, was increased cooperation between bike companies, and especially between component suppliers and bike builders.

Day railed against some common ills, including distribution wastes.

"Wastes could mean too much or too little inventory, wrong colours, wrong sizes, wrong styles, early or late deliveries, and inappropriate designs. The bike industry’s distribution is incredibly intricate.

"Beyond the A-Team, there is really no effort out there to create alignment that eliminates waste or creates value," said Day.

"When you think about the waste (in the production process) and the effort that goes into it, that really trips up the momentum of what we are trying to achieve in the bike industry."

Pic by Steve, Ideal Cycles, Australia

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