D’Ieteren is going to sell and repair bikes
Car importer and services group D’Ieteren has advanced plans to build a network of bicycle shops across Belgium. The projects are part of a process in which the company is shifting its focus from a car company to a “mobility provider”, says spokesperson Jean-Marc Ponteville.
The official decision will be made in a few days. The plans are separate from the redundancies announced last week at the D’Ieteren Centers, the group’s garages.
According to the site Auto 55.be, the first bicycle shop should open its doors in March or April in an empty section of D’Ieteren Mail, the ground floor of the D’Ieteren headquarters in Ixelles’ chic Chatelain neighborhood. It should become one of the largest bicycles shops in Brussels. Plenty of space, of course, while the D’Ieteren Center Mail will have closed its doors at the end of the year.
Looking beyond the car
Early this year, D’Ieteren commissioned a study on mobility trends. It showed that the bicycle is the first alternative means of transport for many people after the car. “The car remains important, but more and more motorists are considering the purchase of a bicycle, preferably an electric one,” says Ponteville.
According to the study, by 2030, at least 15% of all journeys will be made by bicycle, and bicycles sales will rise from 522 000 in 2019 to almost 700 000 in 2030. By then, at least two-thirds of new bikes are expected to be equipped with a supporting electric motor, writes De Tijd.
The car company has already broadened its horizons to the entire mobility field to accommodate this growing interest. The start-up incubator lab Box develops start-ups and apps that respond to changing needs. These include the car-sharing service Poppy and Skipr, an app that bundles different modes of transport – from public transport to shared e-scooters – and that even allows you to buy individual transport tickets.
Brussels and Antwerp
In addition, D’Ieteren is now planning to roll out a nationwide network to sell and service bicycles. One location is already known: at the headquarters in Ixelles. Antwerp is also part of the plans. “We see that car brands today are increasingly moving away from city centers. So such city garages are ideal bicycle shops. There will be not only a large showroom but also room for an indoor test track, maintenance, and lots of storage space.”
For the further expansion of that network under Karl Lechat (former CEO of Skoda Imports), the listed D’Ieteren will not use the existing branches. “The bike shops usually have a more limited range,” says Karl Lechat to Auto55. “They are anchored locally but lack the online support. There are also online players, but they have no physical network or human touch. So we want to combine both aspects.” So whether any acquisitions planned? “Anything is possible.”
Just a week ago, the management of D’Ieteren Centers announced the closure of the Center Mail, located on the same site in Ixelles, along with body shop Wondercar in Drogenbos. With this closure, by the end of the year, 103 of the 386 jobs at the Centers are threatened.
According to La Dernière Heure, the trade unions are somewhat cautious about the announcement “learned in the press” and the possible consequences on employment of this conquest of the cycling market. “It surprises us a little. We are in the dark,” said trade union FGTB.
D’Ieteren Automotive is the principal subsidiary of the D’Ieteren group and distributes Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda, Bentley, Lamborghini, Bugatti, and Porsche in Belgium.
In July, D’Ieteren took a 40% stake in TVH Parts, a Waregem-based global, independent leader in aftermarket parts of forklifts, industrial construction, and agricultural equipment. In the same month, it announced that three new shareholders were coming on board at car glass repairer Belron, known for the Carglass brand, for an amount of €2,2 billion. D’Ieteren Group is the majority shareholder (50,01%) of Belron.