LACHINE, Quebec (BRAIN)—Canadian-based Damco has taken over all North America distribution for Kuota—the high-end Italian brand best known for its tri and road bikes.
Damco’s owner Denis D’Amour said his company officially took over two weeks ago, but the transition will take some time. He said Damco is taking care of all warranty and aftermarket service issues for dealers who purchased bikes with Kuota’s old North American distributor, Eurospek/Kuota North America, led by Patrice Lemieux for the last nine years. Kuota NA was a standalone company with no financial ties to Kuota Italy.
According to Kuota’s former U.S. sales manager Tino Chiappelli, it was in late 2010 when Eurospek (a private financer) opted to dissolve its partnership with Kuota North America. Chiappelli said that a brief partnership was created with a company outside of the industry, but that it quickly fell through before it had the chance to get off the ground.
“He takes on the line with some severe conditions to overcome,” Chiappelli said of D’Amour and Damco. “The 2011 bikes still have not been delivered to most of the dealers who wrote preseason orders for them. There is a backlog of warranty issues that must be cleared up immediately. Dealers’ confidence in the distributor’s ability to deliver the necessary products and services is at an all time low.
“New dealers who were anticipating bringing Kuota into their stores for the 2011 season have pulled out of their agreements due to the confusion surrounding the brand and its distribution woes,” Chiappelli added.
D’Amour said that he hasn’t had enough time to fully strategize Kuota’s new beginning in North America, but did say he will do things differently. Of utmost importance to D’Amour is making sure Kuota bikes get shipped to dealers in a timely manner. D’Amour said he’ll most likely try to sign on with one or two U.S. distributors to expedite shipping times to American dealers.
Kuota as a brand is doing well, according to D’Amour, and therein lies the frustrating part. “Everybody is looking for the bikes,” he said. But this transition phase is going to take some time to iron out all the kinks. “That’s just part of business.”
Chiappelli echoed D’Amour’s sentiments saying that the 2011 lineup is Kuota’s “best complete line the company has ever produced.
“The equity still exists in the brand,” Chiappelli added. “But it will be up to the new distribution company to work diligently to solve the problems that have plagued the brand for some time now and eliminate any worry that the dealers have in order to finally reclaim the position that Kuota held in 2006.”
Sales of Kuota bikes in 2010 in North America were the highest they had been since the 2006 season. And while many have seen Kuota as a “tri company,” sales of road bikes in 2010 made up approximately 80 percent of the company’s sales in this market.
Chiappelli said he hopes to still work with the brand in the U.S. In the meantime, he’s still answering calls and emails from sales reps, dealers and consumers.
“I'm a firm believer in the product and want to be involved as the brand begins to write a new chapter in its story here in the U.S.,” Chiappelli said.
(PHOTO: Kuota Kalibur 2.0)