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Pro-Lite to Assemble Wheels in Germany

Published February 23, 2011

DRESDEN, Germany (BRAIN)—Taiwan wheel manufacturer Pro-Lite will begin hand building wheels in Germany to help jumpstart growth in the European market.

Through an agreement with a rim manufacturer near Dresden, Pro-Lite is shipping in hubs and spokes from its Taichung factory for assembly in Germany, said Steve Fenton, co-owner of Pro-Lite.

In doing so, Fenton can reduce costs by avoiding the expense of shipping complete wheels from Taiwan. That, combined with shorter lead times, will hopefully make Pro-Lite more attractive to European OEs looking for mid-end road and mountain spec, he said.

“There’s a substantial amount of business we can get our hands on if we eliminate that shipping cost,” Fenton said.

Carbon fiber wheel manufacturing and wheel building for markets outside Europe will remain at Pro-Lite’s headquarters in Taichung.

The lead time to import wheels from Taiwan is 90 days from order confirmation. Fenton expects that time to be cut in half because Pro-Lite now keeps a stock of hubs and spokes in Germany and produces the rims to order.

With high volume brands like Derby Cycle and Accell Group assembling bikes in Europe, there’s plenty of potential for new business, Fenton said.

Pro-Lite has struggled to attract European spec because high shipping costs made it difficult to remain price competitive. The cost of shipping a container to Europe is about $4,800 plus handling fees and a 5 percent import duty, Fenton said.

“When you ship wheels you ship a lot of air no matter how you stack them. So when you do the sums, you can have a wheel at a certain price point and then suddenly it is not economical to ship wheels below that price point as it will cost the same amount to ship the wheel as it did to buy it,” he said.

By having an operation in Europe, Pro-Lite won’t have to absorb any of the fees on wheels—typically about $450 per container, he said.

Pro-Lite also plans to open a sales and marketing office in Europe late this spring.

—Nicole Formosa

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