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The Czech Republic's Apache Bicycles looks to grow outside its native market

Published July 11, 2018

FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, Germany (BRAIN) — The 17-year-old Czech Republic brand, Apache Bicycles, made its first Eurobike appearance here this year, as the brand looks to expand outside its home market and offer its bike assembly services to companies looking to avoid potentially crippling anti-dumping duties on Chinese-assembled e-bikes.

Apache's branding shocked some visitors from the U.S., where American Indian-themed marketing has become increasingly unacceptable in recent years.

The Czech brand's booth featured a teepee meeting room, giant wall-mounted images of Native American leaders, and white-skinned models in Indian garb, face paint and feathered headdresses. A large sign outside the teepee welcomed potential clients to "be part of our tribe."

Bike model names include the Hawk, the Arrow, the Teepee and the top of the line e-MTB model, the Scalp. Yes: that happened.

Apache staffers donned paper feathers. Earlier in the show, white-skinned models wore full Indian garb and face paint.

Apache is not looking for U.S. distribution, and whether Western European dealers will accept the branding is unclear. Questionable theme aside, the company's marketing materials and bike designs and graphics are highly professional, and the bike quality and assembly location may be attractive to many.

Apache was launched in 2001 and gained national prominence through its early sponsorship of Jaroslav Kulhavy, who is now one of the most successful men's cross-country mountain bike racers of the last decade. Kulhavy, now sponsored by Specialized, rode an Apache when he won the junior world championships and junior European championships in 2003.

Apache began selling e-bikes in 2008, said Lukas Barta, CEO of BP Lumen, Apache's parent company.

"We were one of the first e-bike brands in the Czech Republic and we are still one of the largest," Barta told BRAIN.

The company currently does 90 to 95 percent of its business in its home country, with just a few export sales to Slovakia, Poland and Croatia. It came to Eurobike this year with the aim to expand its exports. Barta said that after the show, the company will decide whether to use distributors in European markets or open a central European facility.

Two years ago, Apache began assembling its e-bikes at its own facility in the Czech Republic instead of China.

"It gave us better control of quality and flexibility," Barta said. "And it was good to say in the Czech Republic that we are made there."

The move was well-timed as many European e-bike brands are now looking to move assembly out of China as fast as possible because of possible EU anti-dumping duties of as much as 189 percent.

"We have capacity to offer OE assembly to some customers, that's part of why we are here," Barta said. "There are a lot of companies looking for options."

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