Domestic Manufacturing and Manufacturing Overseas
A few weeks ago, we received an email from a potential yet undecided customer:“I was really excited to find this. I’ve been wanting to buy something like the High Roller for a long time. But I’m very disappointed that they are not being manufactured here in the USA.
I’m sure almost all the Kickstarter funding was by people here in the US. There is nothing on this trike that cant be made right here and made better. I’m sure it all comes down to profit like everything else. This is a whole bringing back of childhood memories and times that seemed a lot better than now. I don’t remember those times being made in China. I would really like to get one of these. But I think I’ll have to pass.”
We’ve got a lot of passion about this and have considered a lot of alternatives so here is my response. It’s worth noting that after this we got a solid paying customer.
Thanks for dropping us a line. I share your concern about being manufactured in the USA. I looked long and hard for a way to make this stateside, but came up short on several fronts. First was the manufacturing. The metal fabrication house I had do my prototypes was very interested in making the full production run for us, but their cost for just the frame was the same as the quotes I was getting for the entire product. As the owner put it, “Problem is, we’re a bunch of white guys with 401K’s.”
I then even looked for a domestic bicycle assembler, thinking that even if I had to import the components we could get is assembled here. Hunting through all the industry associations it appears that the last domestic bicycle assembler was in California and closed down around 2000.
I then tried to even keep it within NAFTA and tried to source bicycle manufacturing in Mexico. After several discussions with Mexican bicycle shop owners their consensus was there wasn’t any good bike manufacturing to be had in Mexico either.
The problem isn’t that there’s not any bike or component manufacturing in the US, it’s just that it’s very high end. I agree with your “made here and made better.” The US has got the brains for design, but we don’t have enough manufacturing anymore, everything would have to be hand crafted. We could get titanium frames right here in Colorado, as well as handmade cranks, brakes and other components, but the costs would be astronomical. I had a similar discussion with retired UAW worker who’s stated mantra to me was, “Live better, buy union-made.” (I think the premise was that the union provides great wages and therefore a great quality of life for its workers. But those wages come from somewhere.) He looked at the High Roller prototype and proudly stated, “We could make that for a thousand bucks.” For starters, that means I’d have to raise over $300,000 just to get the first production run started. Well doing some simple math, at $1000 cost I’d have to wholesale it for about $2500, then the retailers would keystone it and sell it for $5000. In a nutshell, I’d never sell a single High Roller, my investors would want their $300K back, I’d be homeless and none of the union workers would have a job either.
But here’s what has happened: Taiwan has established itself over the last decade as the premier bicycle manufacturer in the world. From automation, to design, to materials, they’ve invested heavily. The best bikes used to come from England, then Italy, then Japan, and now its Taiwan. And because of their advances, it’s become affordable for startups like us to come in with an idea and actually get it produced.
All that being said, we consider this “Phase 1.” Once we’re established and have reduced the risk, we’re hoping that some domestic manufacturing will step forward and want to help us out. Trust me, it would certainly make things easier.
I appreciate your comments and it’s got me thinking about ways we could nudge this in the direction we both want.
“It’s never too late for a happy childhood!”