The organisers of the Taipei Interational Cycle Show, which finished yesterday, billed Yoshizo Shimano as the "emperor of cycling."
He is "the world’s leading person in bicycle parts. No one else is as responsible for defining cycling as this one CEO."
In his keynote speech, Shimano thanked the mountain bike for propelling his company to its current dominant position but said it was older consumers which would power the industry in the foreseable future.
In the US, Japan and Europe, it is the over 50s who have the money to buy the new breed of ‘comfort’ bikes which Yoshizo Shimano said would come to play a bigger part in the cycle industry.
Automatic shifting and electrification of one sort or another will become more and more important, said Shimano on Friday.
He gave an overview of the global bike supply market, with particular reference to Europe, the US and Japan. He then went on to list the ‘new challenges’ the industry faces with the prospect of consumers with "new values".
He said his company was committed to innovation, was for ever seeking to add ‘value’ to bicycles and that it would only be by adding of value that the bike trade could be ‘revitalised’.
He charted the ups, and then the downs of the mountain bike, and said the bike industry had to "create new exitement" in order to sell consumers up to higher-priced, better specced bikes. And the key demographic had to be the over-50s who have the disposable income, and the increased leisure time, to be able to afford and use what Shimano hopes will be a new breed of high-spec comfort bikes.
Of course, these consumers – many of them hesitant cyclists – will need safe places to ride their new bikes and campaigning for the provision of such routes is one of the key opportunity/threats facing the industry, said Shimano.
But he painted a less than rosy picture about how suppliers reach end-users. He said the IBD channel was getting weaker, and this posed a threat to suppliers.
He also warned suppliers about focussing all their efforts om making bikes cheaper. Such a goal was self-defeating as selling the same number of bikes, but at reduced prices obviously led to reduced profits. This, in turn, led to less money for R&D, a vicious circle that had to be broken by concentrating on his key message: adding value for consumers so they are willing to pay more for their bikes.