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Mobilisation and motorization

In the fifties and sixties, an enormous mobilisation of the society took place. In the first post-war years there was a significant demand for bicycles. The total number of bicycles in Holland had fallen under two million during the war. The moped, which was introduced in 1948, became particularly popular in the fifties whereas in the sixties the car showed a remarkable boost in production figures: between 1960 en 1968 the number of cars driving in the Netherlands increased from half a million up to two million.

     Nevertheless, Dutch bicycle exports grew significantly through-out the sixties. Germany was an important destination, but Dutch companies also started exploring the American market. Because of the upcoming influence of the common EEC-market, foreign companies could enter the Dutch market more easily. However, for the time being at least, Dutch manufacturers managed to retain about three quarters of the home market.

     While turnover figures increased, the number of manufacturers and dealers declined. The trade journal "De Nederlandsche Rijwielhandel" wrote in the early sixties:

The problem of the Dutch bicycle industry is the relatively small scale of the companies which are therefore not able to compete on international markets.

The sixties became a period of increased expansion and competition, with a number of companies closing down while others merged or were taken over. In 1961 there were 45 companies which mounted self-built frames to bicycles or mopeds. This number declined to 42 companies in 1962, 39 in 1964, down to 36 companies in 1966. Some milestones of the concentration during the sixties:

1961 Phoenix takes over Fongers,
Pon acquires the Burgers brand
1962 Phoenix-Fongers takes over Germaan,
Primarius cycle works is closed
1965 merger of Simplex-Locomotief and Juncker
1966 Union starts cooperation with Kaptein
1967 Veeno closed after bankruptcy
1968 Gazelle takes over Juncker-Locomotief-Simplex,
Stokvis closes Nederlandse Kroon
1969 Batavus takes over Magneet
1970 Batavus takes over Phoenix-Fongers-Germaan

 

The changes in the quality of the bicycles between 1960 and 1970 are an indicator of what was going on in this industry. While cheaper production of bicycles was a pure necessity, buyers no longer required heavy, durable bicycles. This makes the sixties a cut-off period, whereafter thoroughly built, durable bicycles became scarce.

 

Boring seventies - roaring eighties

The 1970's represent a rather staid period in which little changed both technically and design wise. During the eighties cycling became more fashionable. With mountainbiking as initial trend, technical aspects of other types of bikes also improved. Buyers became willing to pay more money for their bicycle. But contemporary bicycles are still not meant to last for more than a limited number of years. And while the quality of bicycles of the upper section of the market increases, the quality of bicycles in the lower, bargain market continues to deteriorate.


Some figures

Nowadays there are just a few bicycle manufacturers left in Holland. Of the well-know old brands Gazelle, Batavus, Union and Sparta have managed to survive. Batavus now produces about 400,000 units per year. It outstripped Gazelle as the biggest selling bicycle manufacturer in Holland. Moreover, in october 1999 the Batavus group took over Sparta (annual production: 70,000 bicycles).

     The entire Dutch bicycle branch employs about 9,000 people, 1,250 of which are working with bicycle manufacturers. There are almost 3,000 recognised bicycle retailers left. In 1970 this number was 6,000 and in 1948 there were 12,000 of them.

     In Holland more than 1 million bicycles are sold per year, a little under half of which are imported. The main export destination is Germany. The total number of bicycles in Holland is now about 16 million.

 

 

Copyright by Herbert Kuner, 1999 ...
All rights reserved.

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Last update: 07/06/2002