MARS Industries SA came into being sometime around 2002, based in the old Maillard hometown of Incheville, France. I have seen it claimed that MARS stands for ‘Metalical Accessories Remote Systems’, whatever that may mean.
The creation of MARS was the end of a long and tortuous story, capturing the very essence of the decline of European manufacturing.
- For many decades Huret was a giant of the derailleur world manufacturing many millions of units. However by the end of the 1970s it was in serious decline and mired in financial strife.
- In 1980 Fichtel & Sachs bought a controlling interest in Huret, and gradually changed the ‘Huret’ brand into ‘Sachs-Huret’.
- Then in 1987 Mannesmann, a giant German engineering conglomerate, bought the Fichtel & Sachs group and restructured it, rebranding the products ‘Sachs’.
- In 1997, SRAM bought the Sachs Bicycle Components unit of the old Fichtel und Sachs company from Mannesmann. SRAM dropped the ‘Sachs’ brand from 1999, but continued with some of Sachs’ derailleur designs under the ‘SRAM’ brand name.
- In 1999 a company called IRCOS, formed by a management buy-out, acquired SRAM’s collection of aging french factories, including the old Huret factories in Chepy. These factories continued to produce products for SRAM.
- In 2001 SRAM terminated its contracts with IRCOS, possibly because of supply problems. As a result it decided to discontinue the old Sachs designs. Shortly after this IRCOS went bankrupt.
- A set of local Incheville worthies, led by Phillippe Maillard, (of the famous hub and freewheel company - which was also purchased by Fichtel & Sachs and then SRAM) stepped forward to try to ‘save’ bicycle component manufacturing in France, and formed (or co-opted) MARS Industries to do it.
- And finally... cynical French cyclists, of a cryptographic bent, inevitably noticed that 'MARS' is 'SRAM' spelled backwards.
The result of all these corporate shenanigans was exactly as disastrous as you would expect, and, possibly as soon as 2002, MARS Industries declared itself insolvent.
As you might also have guessed, the MARS derailleurs were heavily derivative of Sachs designs.