TAIPEI, Taiwan (BRAIN)—Taiwan’s new president, Ma Ying-jeou, opened the 22nd annual Taipei Cycle Show telling a packed room of international guests that Taiwan is now the world’s most important market for innovative and high-quality parts and bicycles.
Ying-jeou, a Harvard graduate and triathlete, has given Taiwan’s industry a major boost since his swearing in last May. He rides a bicycle and has publicly pushed the nation’s more than 23 million people to embrace the bicycle as a way to cut energy costs and improve health.
“The world is currently faced with shortages of energy and raw materials and Taiwan, which imports all its energy resources, faces even bigger challenges,” he said, even though the price of oil has declined from a high of more than $140 per barrel.
He then sparked a round of applause when he said the industry is “primed for stardom” because of the bicycle’s positive impact on energy consumption, the environment, health and fitness. In Taiwan, high gasoline prices have driven bicycle sales to new records as car owners switch from four wheels to two, he added.
Giant and Merida, Taiwan’s leading manufacturers, have opened dozens of retail outlets throughout the island, helping spur national interest in cycling for recreation and transportation.
This year’s show, the third largest bicycle expo in the world, has more than 762 suppliers filling the Nangang Exhibition Center, which opened last year. It replaces an old facility near the city’s center. Domestic and international suppliers occupy more than 2,888 booths and more than 55,000 visitors are expected to flood the halls over the next three days.
Despite the upbeat mood in public, suppliers are voicing concerns over inventory levels, delayed and canceled orders, and whether the industry could face shortages in some categories if consumers open their wallets later this spring. Company executives are keeping an eye on weather patterns as well as inventory levels.
Still, Taiwan is coming off a record year of production and sales. Ying-ming Yang, chairman of the Taiwan Bicycle Exporters Association, said Taiwan exported more than 5.4 million units last year with the industry building more than 15,000 bicycles a day on average. Exports totaled $1.4 billion at wholesale, up more than 31 percent from 2007. The average unit price also increased from $222 to more than $256, he said.
“These numbers not only show the strength in exports, but that Taiwanese makers are adding value with innovation and greater brand recognition,” Yang said.
While there is concern over the current international economic crisis, most industry experts are predicting that the bicycle sales worldwide will escape with only minor damage. And some are predicting that there could be a shortage in the U.S. market for bikes in the $1,200 to $2,000 price point range.