Bikes > Cycle

Toyota France to offer cargo bikes at dealerships

If the car company can’t compete with bicycles, it might as well sell them

Toyota isn't making bicycles, but at least it's giving its customers the option to purchase one. PHOTO FROM TOYOTA FRANCE

Well, would you look at that? Toyota’s France arm recently announced a partnership with Douze Bicycles to sell the French firm’s cargo bikes at its dealerships in the country. This isn’t the first time a major manufacturer has dipped its toes into pedal power; brands such as BMW and Ford have toyed with the idea of electric bicycles in the past.

However, in-house efforts from big car brands have rarely progressed beyond the concept stage. By inking a partnership with an already-existing French company whose products have made it to market, Toyota France is showing seriousness about competing in the world of low-emission two-wheelers.

This isn't some half-hearted operation attempt at making profits either. PHOTO FROM TOYOTA FRANCE

Some context is important here. It’s easy to assign motivations of altruism to this move. After all, putting more people on bicycles for everyday travel has myriad benefits for society’s health, safety, and mobility. But the writing, as they say, is on the wall.

The EU already announced a general deadline of 2035 to phase out fossil-fuel vehicle sales, a signal to new consumers to look for other options. Beyond that, cities such as Paris have begun to fully embrace principles of sustainable mobility, and have prioritized walking, cycling, and public transportation in their street design.

Here are a few of Douze's odd-ball offerings. PHOTO FROM DOUZE

So, even if electric cars were cost-competitive alternatives to internal-combustion carswhich isn’t quite the case yetnew buyers may think of something like an e-cargo bike as they think of a household vehicle. And when you look at the French-made offerings from a brand like Douze, the prospect of ditching the car for a cargo bike is certainly appealing.

Europeans are big when it comes to the utility and convenience that a cargo bike offers. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

In France as in most of Europe, it’s becoming clear that electric bikesboth cargo- and non-cargo varietiesare proving tough competition for cars. A prospective buyer may walk into a showroom and leave without buying a car, finding that a cargo bike fits his or her lifestyle and budget a bit better.

If I’m a car dealer, the smart thing would be to get in on that action, and make sure they buy the cargo bikes from you and not from someone else. That’s what Toyota France seems to have figured out. In any case, French consumers will certainly be thrilled to find that more (and more sustainable) options than ever are available when they check out their nearest showrooms.

You can actually buy the Tern Short Haul locally. PHOTO FROM TERN

How far off are we from seeing this in the Philippines? Well, the cargo-bike craze hasn’t quite made its way here from Europe yet. Big cargo bike makers such as Douze, Bullitt, and Urban Arrow don’t have local dealerships yet.

Even bike brands with local dealers (such as Tern) are reluctant to bring in the electrified cargo offerings because of the high pricealthough Tern’s local dealer has tried this space by bringing in its nonelectric cargo model, the Short Haul with an SRP of P54,750.

Some good news is on the horizon, though: With the recently passed Electric Vehicle Industry Development Act (or EVIDA Law), as well as the Department of Transportation’s continuing push for active transportation, we may be closer to the e-cargo bike revolution than we think. The next time high gas prices or intractable traffic weighs you down, think about it: Wouldn’t it be nice to have an e-cargo bike to haul it all away?

R. Anthony Siy

Robert is a transportation expert. As in he has a degree in Transport Economics. So yes, you can trust his thoughts on public conveyance. He believes that smarter policy and planning can make cities better for motorists and nonmotorists alike. He pens the ‘Passenger’ column.