When Susanne Puello talks about bicycles and Pexco, much energy, zest for action and devotion resonates in her words. Pexco - Next Level eMobility is the name of the young company that wants to reach the next level of e-mobility together with the international bicycle branch. Mrs. Puello explains in our interview how exactly and why Pexco plays a central role in the global world of today and tomorrow.
ISPO.com: Pexco has developed into an established player in the bicycle market within a time window of only two years. How did that even work?
Susanne Puello: Blood, sweat and tears. My husband and I started with Pexco with almost 40 years of market experience as professionals. I in sales and marketing, he in product management and supply chain. We have received full trust and cover from our long-term partners and suppliers, which is not a matter of course. Then an incredibly strong team - as in the first company - consisting of full professionals who pulled along and new team members who contributed with high motivation and new ideas. To be inspired by something new, that's what I've been trying to do throughout the whole process. And last but not least: a strategic partner who wants e-mobility like us and who is also a very strong financial partner, so that we were able to accelerate from zero to one hundred. So one thing came after another and my husband and I are incredibly grateful for that.
Pexco has set itself the goal of reaching the next level of e-mobility together with the international bicycle trade. What do you mean by that?
For us, the "next level" is the epitome of questioning, tackling and changing things. This applies to all areas of the company, starting with our partnerships with specialist retailers. We are certainly all aware that the bicycle industry and the bicycle retail will have to change and reposition themselves in the medium term. In concrete terms: We must support the specialist retail more in order to keep the strength within our ranks. I really mean it. Because we all know that e-mobility, especially micromobility, is currently the overarching topic. Industries are emerging that no one expected five years ago. The bicycle industry as such must be strengthened, defended and preserved as a whole.
We are currently working on new digital projects, digital service app platforms for the workshop, which will shorten paths for the retailer, so he has more time for service and sales. We want to push forward direct leasing from the manufacturer in a changed form between the specialist trade and ourselves - service peddle leasing is becoming a big issue here. This means that we not only focus on our products, but also on how our environment is changing and how we, as a bicycle industry, are facing up to market changes in close, professional cooperation and close cooperation with the specialist retail.
And how is this claim reflected in the actual products?
On the product page I see the "next level" on a timeline. Due to our choice of name, many people expect the next level tomorrow. But new ideas take time.
Our goal is also to awaken new markets from the necessary, obvious target group addressing with suitable product solutions. With e-mobility, we are leaving the classic assembling situations of the bicycle industry behind us. Our premise: Analyse target groups precisely and serve them with perfectly tailored products. This means giving people something they don't yet know they need.
In terms of product portfolio, we have made another quantum leap in frame design and geometry for 2019/2020 with our R Raymon and Husqvarna Bicycles brands. Even as professionals, processes must first establish themselves with us. In 2017, we started from scratch with two brands that nobody knew about. At Husqvarna Bicycles in particular, it was important to set the tone right from the start - both in the field of innovations as well as in design. Both are expressed, for example, in our Skeleton Interface, which directs the viewer's attention to the heart of the e-bike, namely the drive unit.
On the product side, we still have great potential which we will have to exploit in the coming years with smart developments in order to live up to our "next level" philosophy. The next goal is to occupy the first target groups with an own product.
Are you already thinking of a specific target group?
I am referring in particular to a clientele that makes up 50 percent of cyclists: women. I sell at sales events partly myself, because I want to experience the customer and understand what moves him. Women drive completely different questions, they evaluate products according to different criteria and fixed points than men. Which is very positive. The product must become so self-explanatory that we are less concerned with pure technical attributes, but rather create a lifestyle and pleasure in the subject of e-bikes.
The constellation of us and our strategic partner brings unique opportunities and we keep it open for us to exploit them. We also do not exclude other forms of e-mobility, other than the classic pedelecs or e-bikes and even more than two wheels.
How does Pexco position itself internationally?
When we talk about a global player, we mean that too. The clear goal is to roll out internationally very quickly. Right from the start, we helped to build up Italy, France, Benelux, Austria and Switzerland, so we started with six countries at the same time. Thanks to our partner, we can act very quickly because certain structures are already in place. Europe is clearly set. We do not exclude other countries if they make sense.
Wherever you look, e-bikes are everywhere: in urban areas, in the mountains and in rural regions. The market is at a special point with seemingly endless opportunities. What does the e-bike market particularly need in this promising stage of development?
A good infrastructure. For me, this is one of the biggest decision-makers for the pros or cons of future e-mobility. If we really want to reach the cities, we need a) an innovation in the product but above all b) in the infrastructure. An example: Busses, E-scooters and vehicles with more than two passengers on one lane do not meet my requirements.
In addition, there is one point which is close to my heart: to appeal to mutual understanding between all parties involved in transport. Shared use of the infrastructure can only succeed if consideration and caution are shown. These are central points that need to be considered.
Where do you see the next development opportunity for the e-bike market?
With the concept of urban spaces you have already hit the nail on the head. We have to come up with new ideas for these spaces and focus on safety, just as the automotive industry does. We have to move away from numerous facts such as battery range and Nm towards a target-group-oriented approach to the topic.
We should try not to beat the product in its quality and equipment components with big price wars. That brings me back to the subject of safety. We must find solutions to ensure that safe e-bikes remain affordable. At present, there is almost no better model than the one offered by the state: namely service pedal leasing and the like. These models ensure price stability, which in turn can be used for product innovations. Of course, it will also be exciting to see which industry will continue to drive the topic of e-mobility in the medium term and determine it when other major players emerge. Five to ten years ago, for example, I was laughed at when I warned the car industry about this.
Digitalization - a big, diverse word. How and what does Pexco digitize?
For us, the fundamental question is where and to what extent digitalization makes sense. Equipping a display with an overwhelming amount of information, for example, is no added value for some e-bikers, but leads to uncertainty. Here, too, we are driven by the question: What does the consumer want? In that case, does he want much or little? The focus should be on practicability.
Starting with the product, we want to create a digital chain that includes the retailer, the product and the consumer holistically. Until the word digitalization in this form completely includes the e-bike, it will take some time. Digitalization is only good for me if a certain freedom of choice is possible here.
Sooner or later, industry will have to deal more intensively with the disposal of batteries. Do you have any concrete plans for this?
I answer honestly: There are no concrete plans yet. However, we are aware that this is a major and important issue. We need to create a system that is tangible, understandable, workable and really well thought out. Quick shots or half-finished systems are not effective in the long run and only postpone the problem. In principle, sustainability should not only be a debated term with a possible need for action, but should also be lived with the necessary awareness - by everyone inside and outside industry. In short: with sense and understanding.