“A leasing option is more important than a government incentive”
Driven by the slogan “the new car is a bike” speed pedelec and e-bike maker Stromer tries to persuade employees and fleet managers to embrace a more sustainable but not necessarily slower mobility approach. We talk to co-CEO Tommi Viiala about Stromer’s success in the fleet market, its leasing potential and how their customers survive commuting harsh winters.
For more than ten years, Stromer has tried to substitute company cars with bikes. So where does the brand stand today?
We see big regional differences. For fleet, big companies in Switzerland found their way to Stromer quite easily and quickly. In the Netherlands, for example, it is much more difficult. Belgium is picking up, thanks to leasing. In the beginning, we hovered around 10% in fleet, than the numbers went down and these days we’re back up to 20%. But the potential is huge. We’re only scratching the surface right now in the professional market. But, in general, it has become easier than five years ago.
Are companies a turnkey solution to make speed pedelecs happen as an alternative to cars?
They do. Take Philip Morris in Switzerland as an example. They decided not to invest in cars anymore for employees living in a perimeter of 20 kilometres of the head office, except for the sales reps. Instead, they transformed the parking lot into bike stations with chargers. Big companies like this understand that with cars, they can only partially meet their CO2 reduction goals. E-bikes, which are much cheaper, are well suited to please those living closer to the office.
You mentioned it, a European exemplar for company electric bikes is Belgium. How do you explain that?
One is the B2B leasing - which we are now introducing in other markets. Next to that, Belgium has attractive fiscal benefits for speed pedelecs which are 100% tax deductible, same for the dressing rooms, showers and so on that a company needs to accommodate. Speed pedelecs are also exempted from benefit-in-kind, and due to a favourable cycling allowance, these employees earn a net salary from commuting with their bikes.
Are these governmental incentives crucial for speed pedelec adoption?
Not always. They help, but if you take the case of Switzerland, it proves that even without governmental support, e-bikes and speed pedelecs can be a success. The leasing options are more important than the official incentives because companies don’t want to buy and are only interested in outsourcing service and maintenance, not having to worry about the insurance and the lot.
How much time does a commuter gain switching from a car to a speed pedelec?
Good question, but difficult to answer because of the variables. I commute 20 kilometres, living just outside of Bern. My time is the same as with a car on a typical day. However, in heavy traffic, I am ten to fifteen minutes faster.
A benefit of a company car is that the driver doesn’t catch a cold in adverse weather. Do Stromer customers sneeze more?
I see where you’re getting at. We made a study on that with 5,000 people involved. These were business people who have discovered the benefits of a bike, not athletes in need of an exercise. We concluded that 67% of our commuters use their speed pedelecs all year irrespective of the weather. But ask yourself: how many bad weather days are there in a year? I tell you, the number is very low. But, nevertheless, we’re working on a subscription model, where customers can have a speed pedelec for seven months substituted by a car during winter time.
Do you have advice for fleet managers on how they can motivate employees for speed pedelecs?
Fleet managers themselves also need persuasion because they tend to be very e-car oriented. A demo drive, also for employees, does wonders in that case. As for objective arguments, speed pedelec riders are healthier thanks to an improved immune system. It also helps the focus levels of employees. And punctuality. With a high-speed bike, you don’t need to check Google Maps, your estimated time of arrival is guaranteed. My daily commute is always 30 minutes - always. That sort of predictability results in more quality of life.
Every Stromer has a sim card built-in and is continuously tracked. How does this comply with the privacy ruling?
Every customer is given a choice and needs to give consent so that we follow the privacy laws. But they approve since refusal leads to the loss of interesting benefits like GPS location and anti-theft. We have fewer than three to four people yearly asking not to be tracked. In that case, we take the card away. Except for the service department, nobody in our company has access to these data, which are secured in a cloud.
Together with the share of speed pedelecs, safety concerns are also growing. Can technology do something?
Safety has always been a core value for Stromer. For example, we were the first bike manufacturer to incorporate ABS braking. For the future, we can learn from the automotive industry and adopt the warning sensors you see on cars these days to help with possible distractions or avoid upcoming obstacles.
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