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Pierer, a growing e-bike powerhouse, buys Felt Bicycles

Published November 23, 2021

WELS, Austria (BRAIN) — Rossignol Groupe has sold Felt Bicycles to the Pierer Mobility, best known as the parent company of the KTM motorcycle brand, Pierer announced Tuesday.

Rossignol had acquired the Southern California-based bike brand in 2017

While Pierer has a long history in gas-powered bikes, it is moving aggressively into e-bikes and other low-voltage two-wheelers in recent years. In the U.S. the Austria-based company began selling sells its Husqvarna e-bikes in the U.S. and Canada, earlier this year, primarily through its motorsports dealerships.

Stefan Pierer, the CEO of Pierer Mobility, said, "The acquisition of Felt Bicycles fits perfectly with the overall strategy of Pierer E-Bikes – that of becoming a global player in the field of two-wheel mobility, with both electric and non-electric bikes, across all cycling categories. With FELT we are able to expand our bicycle portfolio and also strongly enter the North American market with an established, high-performance brand. The company is also heavily involved in competition, which brings an extra attraction for us."

The company bought the Felt brand assets and business assets in Europe and North America. Felt employees will be integrated with the Pierer E-BIkes Gmbh group.

Rossi's exit from a multi-brand bike strategy

The Felt sale follows Rossignol's offloading of its Time bike and Time pedal businesses earlier this and completes the French mega-brand's exit from a multi-brand strategy in cycling. Rossignol will continue to sell Rossignol-branded bikes.

After the purchase of Time in 2016 and Felt the following year, Rossignol had told investors it was making a strong push into counter-seasonal offerings as climate change made the ski business less reliable.

"The objective is to complement skiing with an outdoor activity that isn't tied to winter sports, to add a second pillar to the group so it doesn't depend only on snow," the company's chief executive, Bruno Cercley, said in 2015, as the company was negotiating to take over Time after the death of its founder, Roland Cattin.

"Cycling is a sector with strong potential and is very dynamic, which would be very complementary between winter and summer," Cercley added.

However, by 2020 the company found that Time's French-made frames couldn't match the price of Asian-made competitors and sales fell quickly and announced that it planned to close, restructure or sell the Time business

This spring it sold the Time bike and frame business to a new company founded by U.S. bike industry veteran Tony Karklins and a French partner. It sold Time's pedal and shoe business to SRAM, which recently resumed Time pedal production, in Portugal

Rossignol never publicly announced it was looking to sell off Felt, but after the Time sale it seemed inevitable.

In a statement Tuesday, part of which is translated below, Rossignol said it would relaunch its self-branded bike line in 2022. 

This sale of Felt and refocusing of our bike business on the Rossignol brand is fully in line with our strategy to deploy the Rossignol brand in multi-season mountain sports and lifestyle inspired by alpine life. 

It is with great enthusiasm and strong ambitions that we approach this new stage of development of our cycling activities. Cycling is a strategic axis for the Rossignol Group, which will now focus its resources and initiatives in the field of cycling on the Rossignol brand and the development of its mountain bike and electric mountain bike ranges. 

The Group will rely on its skills acquired since the acquisition of Felt in 2017, its new dedicated teams and its new organization to ensure the successful public launch of the new Rossignol Bikes range from March 2022. And we will continue to strongly develop these activities in the coming years in a period where cycling, especially in the mountains, is becoming increasingly popular. 

"We wish the Felt brand and its teams much success in this new stage of its development within the PIERER Mobility group, which is an ideal partner to ensure a bright future for Felt. Cycling, especially in the mountains, is booming. The bike activity under the Rossignol brand, enriches and completes our historical Winter identity and will allow the Group to exploit in the long term the significant potential of the Rossignol brand in the world of mountain sports and lifestyle in all seasons," said Vincent Wauters, President/CEO of the Rossignol Group.

Shared moto' roots

The sale brings Felt back to its motorcycle roots, in a sense: Company namesake and co-founder Jim Felt had his start in the motorcycle industry before (and after) he began welding custom triathlon frames in the late 1980s. He later partnered with Bill Duehring and Michael Müllmann to launch Felt as a complete bicycle brand in 2001. Jim Felt left the company in 2017, a few months after its sale to Rossignol and Duehring left a year later.

Globally, Pierer sold about 40,000 e-bikes in the first half of 2021 despite supply chain constraints.

Pierer Mobility was known as KTM Industries Group until 2019. The company has nearly 5,000 employees and recorded sales of 1.1 billion euros ($1.25 billion) in its most recent half fiscal year. It is traded on the Swiss stock exchange under the ticker symbol PMAG

The company sells motorized two-wheeled vehicles under the KTM, Husqvarna and GASGAS brands. It also sells e-bikes under the Husqvarna, R Raymon and GASGAS brands. CEO Stefan PiererStefan Pierer took over the company's motorbike business after KTM's insolvency in 1992.

(KTM bikes and e-bikes, rarely seen in the U.S., are manufactured and sold by KTM Fahrrad, another Austrian company with shared roots but which is not connected to Pierer. KTM Industries Group changed its name to Pierer Mobility Group in a bid to end confusion between the companies.)

E-mobility focus

Last year Pierer established an e-bike division headed by German e-bike pioneers Susanne and Felix Puello, the former managing directors of Accell Group's Winora Group. In March it announced a joint venture with battery cell maker Varta to develop low voltage lithium-ion battery systems. It also announced a 50-50 joint venture with Maxcom LTD, an OEM bike manufacturer, to expand its factory in Bulgaria, investing 40 million euros. A factory with capacity to make 350,000 e-bikes annually is expected to go online in 2023.

Globally, Pierer sold about 40,000 e-bikes in the first half of 2021 despite supply chain constraints.

Husqvarna E-Bicycles was launched in North America early in 2021. The brand now lists about 50 U.S. dealers — all powersport dealers — on its website. R Raymon and GASGAS e-bikes are not yet sold in the U.S.

Felt's future

What does this mean for Felt, which doesn't currently sell an e-bike?

One manager at Felt said there are more cultural connections between Felt and Pierer's two-wheeled brands than with Rossignol's winter-sliding focus.

"Skiing is great, but I think the two-wheeled alignment is fantastic," the manager said, noting that Pierer's brands are heavily involved in motorized racing around the world, much as Felt has a long history of supporting teams and athletes in cycling and triathlon. "They are all about optimizing products to go fast and be the world's best. That was music to my ears," the manager said.

Pierer offers e-bikes under four brands, including Husqvarna.

In recent years Felt removed mountain bikes, cruisers, and e-bikes from its line and put the focus on speed: drop bar road and gravel bikes, triathlon bikes, and a small selection of hybrid bikes.

Still, given Pierer's focus on motorized mobility, it wouldn't be surprising to see Felt get back into the e-bike market eventually, perhaps offering Felt e-bikes through IBDs while Husqvarna remains a motorsport dealer brand.

KTM recently began an expansion of its corporate campus in Murrieta, California, not too far from Felt's headquarters in Rancho Santa Margarita, California. The campus is adjacent to KTM's private motorsport facility that includes two supercross tracks, two extreme off-road courses, and a trial competition section.

Felt is expected to remain at its current headquarters for now.

Topics associated with this article: Electric bike, Mergers, Acquisitions & Investments

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