Uh oh, does that mean Kestrels automatically become junk like the Fujis? And what will Bikesdirect.com call the Airfoil Pro in a few years when they rebadge it?Fuji's parent buys Kestrel new
Written by: Dan Empfield
Date: Mon Sep 24 2007
Advanced Sports, Inc., parent company of Fuji Bicycles, purchased the assets of the Kestrel brand. ASI's marketing manager, Karen Bliss, said her company bought, "the rights to the Kestrel brand name, its marketing assets and all tooling."
All the details of the purchase are not finalized, according to ASI president Pat Cunnane, but the assets purchased include the tradenames, patents and tooling.
News of Kestrel's impending sale to Fuji circulated at last month's Eurobike trade show, and the deal was essentially done last week, but for last minute details.
Since ASI is buying certain named assets of Sandpoint Design -- the company owned by several of the original employees of Kestrel -- what about the liabilities, specifically ongoing warranties? Cunnane said his company has not assumed these liabilities, which puts ASI in the tricky position of massaging customer satisfaction without becoming the responsible party for warranties. Assuming an unpalatable volume of warranty work that contractually belongs to the seller is bad business, but so is leaving customers on the hook. Warranties, “is a detail left to be worked out,” Cunnane said.
Sandpoint Design will sell the through its existing inventory throughout this year and perhaps into next. But, the Kestrels at Interbike this week will be shown at the ASI booth, and that booth will continue to sell models familiar to triathletes and road riders, including the Evoke, Airfoil Pro and the Talon and Talon SL. This means that for some period of time there will be two manufacturers selling the same Kestrel product: Sandpoint Design and ASI. But Sandpoint will have only the 07 product with this year’s graphics, and ASI’s product will carry next season’s 08 graphic treatments.
Also in question is whether Kestrel's attention to detail will remain a part of the brand. ASI says it, "will continue to invest in research in the materials, tooling and performance technology that have built the legacy of the Kestrel brand..." But without the engineer-owners who've run the company for the better part of 20 years, whom do you pay to move forward Kestrel's particular interpretation of industrial design?
“We bought the company because of what it has been over the past 20 years,” Cunnane said. “We’re committed to continuing that legacy.” Cunnane also said he’ll be talking to the Sandpoint employees, and did not rule out the possibility of some employee and designer continuity that survives the ownership change.
This year marks Kestrel's 20th anniversary, a history that includes a boom in the late 80s, followed soon after by a stumble that caused a necessary sale to Schwinn. The company was then sold to its first Asian contractor, Nippon Steel, and then to a group that included a private investor along with the employees. The company then migrated much of its manufacturing to Martec and closed its own plant near Monterey, California. This makes Fuji the fifth, or perhaps sixth, owner since its founding by Tom French and Bevil Hogg, who were two of Trek's founders.
ASI now has control of its second high-profile brand. It first acquired Fuji Bicycles in 1998, long a powerful name in Japanese-made bikes, and under ASI's husbanding a resurgent brand. Is there a pot of gold in its newly acquired headbadge?