This is not the place for an intelligent discussion of the benefits or otherwise of an activist industrial strategy, but this document does make you think.
Here are some of my, ill-informed and rather random, thoughts:
- On the technology side...
- This case study contains a wealth of technical information about the MAVIC Zap and MAVIC Mektronic systems. It is difficult to find much of this information elsewhere.
- Some of the technical information is a bit hard to stomach. The MAVIC Zap is criticised for its unreliability and its short (6 months) battery life. The MAVIC Mektronic is lauded for solving the reliability problem and for its 24 month battery life. I don't have any hard data, but that's the opposite of the gossip that I remember at the time.
- If you have spent more than 30 seconds working in a bike shop you will know that high-end bike consumers are extremely fickle but very conservative, utterly un-scientific but obsessed with the technical, driven by status but rabidly price conscious and clearly very able to handle rampant internal contradictions. As you would expect, none of these, very important, attributes are discussed in this cool, dry, clinical, analysis!
- Like many technology business proposals this document largely ignores the realities of breaking into established markets. It would be hard to find anyone in the business side of the cycle industry who thought that MAVIC would just swan into the high-end transmission market and take 5% to 10% of the OEM market and 15% to 20% of the after-sales market after just 3 years. Possible, yes, likely, no. You don't take market share from Shimano without having to repel the-mother-of-all-counter-offensives. The real figures? My, uneducated, guess would be <1% and <1% for OEM and after-market respectively. Outside of trade shows, you almost never saw them.
- Financially, the development of the MAVIC Mektronic is described as having a 10 month payback period and a Return On Investment (ROI) of 350% in 2001. Based on no hard information, I would guess that the MAVIC Mektronic programme actually lost a shed-load of money, giving a beyond-infinite payback period and an ROI that was well-negative. But you don't want to allow financial reality to spoil a good 'case study'.
The MAVIC Mektronic was a fantastic, laudable and stylish expression of a truly creative impulse. But those of us who live outside the Alice in Wonderland world of the European Commission should not pretend it was anything other than a heroic failure.