Electric bikes have been grabbing the headlines for much of 2010...
BikeBiz spoke to Wisper co-founder David Miall for his thoughts on the market...
How’s business? And how robust is the electric sector?
As our business is seasonal this time of year is quieter than spring and summer, so we use the winter to prepare for the coming season. Recently Wisper has reached out across Europe and we are currently very busy preparing for our entrance into the German market with a new dealer, continuing to establish the brand in Switzerland and building relationships with dealers across the continent.
In the UK, it probably has to be said that business slowed down earlier than usual this season. However, we put this down to the general economic situation. Consumer spending has slowed down and this has affected the bicycle market overall too. However, we’re responding with marketing efforts, highlighting the cost benefits of electric bikes versus cars and other transport. At times like these a strong and established brand is vital and we continue to find that customers actively seek out Wisper for its durability and quality.
Wisper introduced the first carbon e-bike in 2009. Does Wisper aim to lead electric bike innovation?
Our prime objective remains to lead the way in terms of quality of product and service. Product innovation is very exciting, however, at times too much development can have a detrimental effect on product quality and also price.
Ultimately, dealers are looking for quality, reliability and value for money to be able to comfortably recommend our bikes to their customers. We have taken feedback from our dealers on board who preferred fewer product upgrades and changes. Our new 2011 range has therefore been streamlined and future-proofed to offer dealers a lasting product range that will remain in place for the next couple of years.
Where we do see ourselves on the forefront of e-bike innovation is in selecting the best state-of-the-arts materials and components to deliver a real ‘cycle’ feel with the added boost of an electric motor. Our DaaHub e-bike conversion kit takes this concept further to being able to convert virtually any bicycle make and type into an electric version. We position ourselves in the market as being leaders in the trend for electric pedal power by breaking down barriers to cycling, introducing e-cycling products to suit all cyclists’ lifestyles and budgets.
How has the trade reacted to the DaaHub e-bike kit?
The DaaHub has been very well received by our existing dealer base, online retailers and new dealers who would not normally consider adding e-bikes to their product offering. We describe the DaaHub as creating a new genre in cycling, because it takes e-cycling beyond road and commuter cycling. Even experts like Petra Wiltshire, the triple Masters World Downhill Champion who has tested the DaaHub, is hugely excited by the idea of adding the boost of an electric motor to an off-road bike and the new dimension this offers to off-road and downhill.
Dealers are continually looking for new income streams. The DaaHub is a perfect addition to the product range of dealers who sell both electric and traditional pedal-bikes, as well as dealers who do not wish to commit to a full electric bicycle inventory.
What's next for Wisper?
We’re holding our first ever Dealer Conference in January to introduce our 2011 products, demonstrate the DaaHub, share marketing and PR plans and to exchange knowledge. Our dealers are part of the Wisper community and as we develop, it’s vital to keep communicating.
We’ve also launched our new website as part of a brand update and we’ve sharpened up our logo to a distinctive black and white too. Our dealers report growing customer numbers visiting them who have done their research on the web. Customers often make buying decisions online, before seeking their nearest dealer. To continue to lead the market and bring new audiences to e-cycling, we need a strong web presence.
What has been your highlight of the year?
Without doubt the highlight was was the introduction of the DaaHub and the adoption of Wisper by several Police forces across the country. We recently delivered the first Wisper to the City of London Police’s Cycle Squad following their visit to our stand at the Cycle Show.
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