Interview: CONEBI Chairman Erhard Büchel

Recalling the outbreak of COVID-19, the epidemic can be grasped as an intense ride with significant ups and downs. Many have had to learn to adjust their idea of normalcy as many businesses lost money. However, the demand for bicycles grew significantly, generating outstanding results amid a collapsing market. Wheel Giant reached out to Erhard Büchel, the chairman of the Confederation of the European Bicycle Industry to gauge his opinion on the current status of markets and the bicycle industry in Europe. 

Though the latest numbers on the European Union's sales and production will not be published until the beginning of July, Büchel says the statistics released on individual markets show that 2020 was a great year for the bike industry. Germany, France, and Spain sold a whopping €9.2 billion in bikes in 2020. Out of the 5 million sold in Germany, e-bikes accounted for almost half of sales. France saw a 33% increase in sales, with 2.7 million units of bicycles sold and e-bikes accounting for 515,000. Spain sold 1.56 million, their highest recorded number yet. Despite these increases in sales through the EU, the Netherlands reported e-bikes accounting for half of their 1.1 million bicycles sold. 

Büchel remarks “there is a strong momentum for cycling in Europe and globally as the bicycle has gained visibility at the political level.” Noting that the Pan-European Masterplan for Cycling Promotion was amended by 54 countries in April. Büchel believes this will increase cycling, improve and prolong cycling infrastructure, increase safety, and encourage implementation in national cycling policies. Büchel notes the EU is discussing the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy. CONEBI will continue to guarantee that both traditional and e-bikes play a prominent role in ensuring sustainable transportation that is “safe, accessible, inclusive, affordable, smart, resilient and emission-free.”

Büchel comments on the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility package worth €672.5 billion. The goal is to help countries lessen the impact of the pandemic. Though member states may choose how to spend the relief money, 37% will be spent on climate investment and reforms. Büchel believes proper cycling investments and corresponding projects would fully contribute to the National Recovery and Resilience Plan. With Belgium and Italy already taking the lead on investing in cycling infrastructure. 

Lastly, Büchel states that though there is an unprecedented sale of bikes, there has been a downfall. Due to COVID-19 resulting in a mandatory halt with production, Büchel believes Europe needs to invest in more local manufacturing of parts and accessories. Although Europe did produce a value of €3 billion in 2020, the generation of products was still lower than usual due to bicycle factories in Asian countries shutting down from the pandemic. However, despite recent downfalls, Büchel states the European Bike Industry is “going through an extraordinary moment.” With increased opportunities to continue expanding and innovating.