My Other Bicycle Is A Chevrolet... Wait, What??
While American cars are a tough sell in Japan, American bicycles are practically flying off the shelves. No matter that these sporty bikes emblazoned with Chevy's name, bowtie logo and “An American Revolution” slogan are actually made in China, this bizarre branding exercise is all about style, not substance.
Chevrolet bicycles have been hot sellers for about a decade. The idea was conceived by Katsuyoshi Ikeda, president of bike distributor GIC Co., who founded the company in 2002.
Ikeda's “Global Innovation Company” aimed to exploit a perceived market niche between the frumpy, basket-equipped bikes used by housewives on short shopping expeditions and serious enthusiastic two-wheelers costing in the low four figures.
In order to give his sturdy but stylish bikes a little extra cachet, GIC struck a licensing agreement with some of Japan's automakers and embellished their imported bikes with car-nameplate decals. To GIC's dismay, the market greeted the bikes with a collective “meh”.
“There are just too many Japanese brand cars on the road (here),” explained Ikeda, “so there's nothing special about them at all. It's the American or European brands that dominate, at least when it comes to bikes.”
Ikeda then met with members of General Motors' regional marketing department, who at the time were seeking ways to boost their brand identity. One imagines the GM rep closing the meeting by saying “Katsuyoshi, I think this is a beginning of a beautiful friendship...” and business relationship, as it happens.
So, how's that whole brand identity thing working out these days? While GM still isn't setting the Japanese car market on fire, their branded bicycles are doing quite well thank you very much: they're sold at around 3,000 retailers in Japan.
GM itself is putting a brave face on the exercise. “It has been a very successful business venture for us,” said a company spokesperson via a prepared statement. “Longevity in the licensing business is the true test of brand equity and the power of the brand.” (via WSJ, Jonelle Patrick, and iNDi Bikes)
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