Currently I am considering getting a 'Mini' brand folding bike mail order, even though I have not seen one in a shop or in the street. This I am happy to do as it is a re-badged Dahon at a special price.

Being a niche product I can understand why bike racks are not filled up with 'Mini' folders, however, I don't know why it is that all other bikes by auto manufacturers seem to completely fail in the marketplace.

Peugeot did really well until mountain bikes came along so it is possible for an auto manufacturer to succeed at bikes. Other than the past efforts of Peugeot the only real-world evidence in the UK of the efforts of the auto manufacturers are a few bicycle-shaped-objects from mail order catalogues with tacky 'Land Rover' decals on them.

I would not mind a Mercedes road bike and a BMW mountain bike just so I could have running jokes, e.g. casually mentioning that 'I came in to the office with the beamer today', 'I parked my Mercedes in the car-park', etc. For joke-reasons alone I would have thought bikes-by-auto-companies would have enough kudos to sell. But they don't. Why is that? Do they sell well outside the UK?

In case you have not seen any bikes-by-auto-manufacturers, here is a small selection of them.

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    This could do with a few less pictures. – zenbike Aug 8 '11 at 2:37
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    I like the pictures. – ChrisW Aug 9 '11 at 11:45
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    I think all car manufacturers should prostitute their names to major bike manufacturers and retailers, but i digress. +1 for photo gallery – Moab Aug 9 '11 at 16:31
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    I would buy that yellow renault. Also, two years ago BMW showed a hybrid bike that folded into the space for the spare tire. but i can't find it now. – gcb Aug 10 '11 at 1:20
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    @zenbike: Agreed. Pictures made it too hard to find the answers. Pared down to a select representative few (with the Mini first because it's mentioned as what is being shopped for) with links to the rest of the images. – freiheit Aug 13 '11 at 22:05

The simple answer is market forces. Most bikes done by auto makers are built as an add on to a vehicles' sport package.

They are not manufactured or offered to bike shops at all. This tactic can be quite effective. Look at the VW Jetta Trek, or the Ford/Kona partnership.

The problem is that they are generally very basic bikes, offered at a much higher price than the value of the bike.

In the Ford/Kona case, it was a 500 US dollar bike offered as a 3000 dollar add on with the car. No reputable shop will do that.

The Jetta Trek was a very similar package, but it was a $5000 add on and included a Thule rack for the car.

Mercedes' offerings are a piss poor design, offered again at a ridiculously high price, although they at least have the excuse of a unique in house design and low production numbers to blame the price on, since they didn't just rebrand a cheap bike shop bike.

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  • I have seen a few "branded" bikes in bike shops. John Deere and Harley Davidson, at least, and I'm thinking one or two others over the years. Novelty bikes, priced maybe 30-50% higher than they ought to be, but a few people buy them for the name, or just to say they have them. – Daniel R Hicks Aug 8 '11 at 3:53
  • Yeah, that's pretty much it. Low volume = high price. And most bike shops can't work on that principle. – zenbike Aug 8 '11 at 4:56
  • But it's fairly cheap for a reasonable sized bike shop to put one or two such bikes on the floor and simply wait for someone to show interest. You couldn't make a business of it, though. – Daniel R Hicks Aug 8 '11 at 11:10
  • This is true. But if you sell these types of bikes, eventually you get a reputation for selling cheap bikes at high prices. – zenbike Sep 14 '11 at 8:40
  • Not if you only sell one or two. No different than selling a few of the $6000 fiber bikes that no one really needs but lots of people think they do. It's extra profit for the shop, and doesn't interfere with their real business. And in some cases it actually serves to "attract" traffic, or cause people to "step up" to something a hair more expensive than they had planned. – Daniel R Hicks Sep 14 '11 at 11:08

In a review of the Porsche RS bike in The Guardian the reviewer suggests that car manufacturers simply don't have credibility as bike manufacturers:

They're car makers and most Porsche owners I know would drive they're beloved cars into their own bedrooms if only they could. As for cyclists, they're just as brand obsessed, but the same brands don't have credibility in both spheres. MAMILS will gladly fork out £5,000 on a bike; it's just that it would be a Colnago or a Pinarello. Men in leather jackets and Clarkson jeans would clearly spend the five grand upgrading their PDK gearbox.

(MAMILS = middle-aged men in lycra)

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A point worth noting is that your only example of a success in this field, Peugeot, started making bicycles in 1882, some years before their first cars.

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It's a branding issue. Generally, it's a bad idea to dilute the brand image. Cars manufacturers like Mercedes don't want to weaken the brand image of their product by selling a bike. Even Lexus are careful not to associate their cars with Toyota although that's what they are. On the other hand, riding a Hummer bicycle is about as absurd as driving a Hummer.

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  • ...there are photos of Lexus, Mercedes and Toyota branded bikes above - they want to be seen to make bikes. But why don't they get them into the bike shops? – ʍǝɥʇɐɯ Aug 13 '11 at 11:41
  • The point being is an expensive manufacturer might produce a select number of bikes sold directly to their customers at premium prices. i.e. you get a BMW bike for about twice the price of the equivalent bike elsewhere. The bikes remain luxury exclusive items as the riffraff can't buy them, and they look much more expensive than they perform – Gazzer Aug 13 '11 at 17:39
  • I get it - they cannot control the brand if it is not in their own showrooms plus they can charge a premium, much like how expensive perfumes are not allowed by their manufacturers' to go into cheap chemist shops. – ʍǝɥʇɐɯ Aug 13 '11 at 18:57

For the most part, these "branded" bikes are just someone else's bike that the car company (or soft-drink company or beer company) paid to have their logo on. Essentially, an advertising gimmick. We can imagine that the corporation had nothing to do with the design or specifications of the bike other than where and how the logo will appear.

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    This is true in some cases, but BMW, Jeep, and Ferrari have all manufactured their own, or had someone produce their designs, at least. – zenbike Aug 14 '11 at 8:53
  • Not true. Have you seen the $5000 Ferrari mountain bike? Complete garbage, and the equivalent of a $800 full suspension. No way a high end car maker made that. Im shocked they even licensed it. Same goes for the Porsche bike really. – Matt Adams Feb 22 '12 at 19:34

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