Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Campagnolo - the future

 Where have you gone Joe Dimaggio..er..CAMPAGNOLO?

Remember the old "Mrs. Robinson" song? Look closely at the photo above. Zio ordered some "Original Parts" for his new Campagnolo EKAR-equipped e-gravel bike from a reliable and trusted online shop here in Italy so he doesn't think these are counterfeit.

WTF? As recently as here (claimed to have been updated less than 6 months ago) the folks in Vincenza were claiming “We’ve always stayed true to building things in the European Union and 100 percent in-house,” Riddle said. “Nothing’s offshore and nothing is outsourced. Everything apart from circuit boards and batteries for EPS is done in-house.”

Not anymore (or even then) it seems. The two designed-for-OEM groupsets mentioned in the story (Centaur** and Potenza) are gone now (and it was rather obvious their brakesets were Taiwanese*) despite working quite well and getting positive reviews but Zio can remember unboxing a set of cantilever brakes for a Campagnolo 'cross group a decade ago and reading "Made in Taiwan" (*seemingly by Tektro) on the package. He wasn't happy about it but figured it was just a few 'cross brakesets so did it really matter?

It matters and the marketing guy quoted in the piece is no longer there either as far as Zio can tell. Tullio Campagnolo's grandson seems to have taken over after some time at their wheel brand Fulcrum.

Campagnolo's market position seemed to be aiming at the high end of the market with the exception of their gravel EKAR groupset. But how long will people pay a premium price for "Designed in Italy Made in Taiwan"? EKAR costs more than a Shimano GRX groupset for example but how much of it is made in Asia like Shimano? 

Meanwhile, they just announced EKAR GT, a product of what Zio likes to call the "product cheapening department" (what do companies really call these?) with aluminum rather than carbon crank (something that would have been just fine with Zio!) and some other cost-saving changes, all to offer a gravel groupset at a slightly lower cost.

Zio remembers a carbon fork sold by Columbus back-in-the-day. A bike industry friend told him these forks were actually made in China, shipped to Columbus for stickers and a fancy box and then sold at a premium price to customers who assumed they were made by Columbus in Italy. This same friend said the guy who first told him this story arranged for the friend's company to buy the same forks but put his company's name on 'em instead of Columbus'. The friend stopped buying 'em from Columbus and instead got 'em directly from the maker through this "sales agent". Seems there are lots of these folks around, experts at getting stuff made cheaply in Asia with whatever branding you like on it.

Is Campagnolo destined to be come nothing more than a "designer name" like so many other "luxury goods" that are produced in Asian factories for pennies on the dollar only to end up commanding premium prices when it's time for the retail customer to cough up the cash? Do they care that most of these same products have counterfeit (though ya gotta wonder if they're perhaps cranked out by a midnight "third-shift" at the same sweatshop producing the originals, so how "counterfeit" are they?) versions hawked on side streets of most major cities?

At the same time some Asian companies are now offering super-cheap groupsets that have no famous "designer" name, so if you're gonna buy Made-in-Taiwan (or mainland China) stuff, would you pay more for an Italian name and "design"?

If Campagnolo's sales are decreasing, Zio would point to this as at least part of the cause. But are profits up since production costs are lower? Will Ferrari set up a factory in China next...or have they already? Would people buy "Designed in Maranello, made-in-China" cars?

It works for Pinarello I guess? Zio wonders if some confuse "adrenalina" (andrenalin) with "Made in ___"? He remembers a client one time insisting that Pinarello bikes were still 100% Made-in-Italy, so...?

** Centaur 11 is  back in the lineup though now only in black.

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