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by James Huang
February 23, 2016
Photography by James Huang
TECH NEWS BROUGHT TO YOU BY BIKEEXCHANGE
Amer Sports, the Finnish parent company of Mavic, Salomon, Suunto, Arc’teryx, and other outdoor brands, announced today that it has purchased US-based carbon fibre wheel and component specialist Enve Composites for US$50 million in an all-cash transaction.
While acquisitions and mergers are nothing new in the cycling industry, this one portends some particularly interesting possibilities in terms of product moving forward.
Despite softening numbers, Mavic is still a giant in bicycle wheels with over US$150 million in annual sales. However, its luster has tarnished a bit in recent years due to an aging product line marked by narrow rim profiles, a stubborn reluctance to offer tubeless compatibility, a dearth of carbon rims and disc-compatible models. To date, Mavic has yet to introduce carbon 27.5 or 29in mountain bike wheels.
In fairness, that tide has started to shift recently with Mavic’s latest offerings; still, the damage has been done. Few would characterize the 127-year-old French brand as progressive.
Enve is substantially smaller, with just US$30 million in stated annual global sales, but its brand perception could hardly be more different.
Whereas Mavic’s wheel catalog spans a broad range of price categories with a focus on aluminum rims, Enve has steadfastly concentrated at the premium end, using carbon fibre rims exclusively. An early partnership with aero guru Simon Smart also spawned the innovative ‘Smart SES’ range of road wheels, while off-road, Enve is still one of the only companies to successfully introduce composite rims to the downhill scene.
Despite the brand’s relatively short history, Enve has also managed to establish itself as one of the most sought-after brands for handlebars, stems, seatposts, and forks. Though it’s based in Ogden, Utah, Enve’s tagline, “Handmade in the USA” applies only to its rims; other components are produced overseas. Regardless, the Enve label is unquestionably viewed as one of the more desirable in the industry.
The purchase of Enve Composites will hopefully signal a departure from Mavic’s stubborn adherence to tradition. Photo: James Huang.
In terms of business, consumers will notice very little impact, at least in the short term. Enve will assume sales and distribution duties for Mavic in North America while gaining access to Mavic’s expansive global commercial resources — which, at the very least, could mean more Enve wheels and components as original spec on complete bikes, possibly by late-summer trade show season.
As for their respective products, both entities have naturally stated that they will continue to operate independently with consumers seeing little-to-no obvious changes.
“Of course there will be some collaboration and shared services, but we will remain two separate brands,” Mavic brand manager Chad Moore told CyclingTips. “So, for now, you’ll see no changes in the product lines.”
Enve’s marketing director, Jake Pantone, echoed Moore’s sentiments. “They [Amer Sports] don’t want to change who we are as a brand, and as such, it’s basically business as usual for us,” he said. “As for product, the two brands are going to act basically autonomous. We will share technologies where it makes sense, but each brand has some core competencies. The goal definitely isn’t to dilute either brand into something lukewarm.”
History has demonstrated time and again, however, that such arrangements don’t always end up as they’re initially projected. A few examples include Trek and Klein/LeMond/Gary Fisher, Serotta and Fat City Cycles, and Blue Competition Cycles and Mad Fiber.
There are, however, a few scenarios that are easy to imagine. Mavic could well look to leverage Enve’s considerable experience in composites engineering and aerodynamics to revamp its aero road wheel range. Mavic may finally incorporate carbon fibre into its languishing mountain bike collection. Mavic could launch a collection of branded aftermarket handlebars, stems, seatposts, and maybe even forks — all with the hope that some of Enve’s reputation will rub off.
What seems most logical in our view, however, is that Mavic will return to its roots and concentrate on aluminum rims and wheels, reestablishing itself as a juggernaut in the mid-range of the market. Despite perceptions, Mavic’s strengths have always revolved around aluminum rims and a remarkably in-depth understanding of what makes a good wheel. Combining those two with an updated view of what’s needed in the modern world would make for quite the compelling combination.
Meanwhile, Enve will (hopefully) retain its position as a premium brand exclusively, continuing to focus on composites. Major shakeups to its component range would be unlikely in this scenario, although changes in its wheel products would be almost inevitable. Mavic’s considerable knowledge base in terms of wheel stiffness, inertia, and durability would likely play into upcoming wheel designs. Being much larger, the French company might possibly inject some financial support for future Enve R&D projects, too.
One of the bigger questions in the near term is what hubs Enve will use since current suppliers DT Swiss and Chris King may not be eager to provide product to a direct competitor.
Only time will tell how this marriage will play out, but hopefully the cycling industry’s long and storied history of botched mergers and acquisitions won’t repeat itself yet again.