Often times, acquisitions are made to either bring in technologies one company didn’t have, or quickly move into new markets. With Amer Sports’ (Mavic’s parent company) recent purchase of ENVE Composites, the reasoning was less clear from the outside. Both companies have strong wheel programs as their foundation, so our immediate concern was a future of Mavic branded ENVE rims or some other unnecessary mashup. Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to be on their roadmap.
I sat down with Mavic’s President of Cycling to discuss the deal…
“It’s about agility and stability,” Bernard Millaud told us. Until a few weeks ago, Millaud was president of Mavic, now he’s in charge of both brands under the new “President of Cycling” title.
“ENVE is now where Mavic was 10 or 11 years ago. They’re established but they’re still young and energetic. I feel that same energy and enthusiasm when I visit them that we had at Mavic a decade ago.”
Millaud shared that he enjoyed 10 years of solid growth when he first took over Mavic in 2002, but business has been up and down over the past few years. It’s no surprise – Mavic’s rims have remained narrower than is popular, and from the outside looking in, their innovation in the wheel segment hasn’t grabbed riders’ attention the way some newer brands (ahem, like ENVE) have.
But with such a long standing brand comes some legacy. And as they’ve grown (there are now about 200 employees, 16 of which are in carbon wheel development), things have been compartmentalized and regimented. Necessary evils with so many people and so many projects – they make helmets, clothes and shoes, too – but also potential roadblocks to aggressive innovation.
ENVE, by contrast, is a small company that’s quickly pumping out products to meet all the latest standards and trends. Think shallow lightweight cyclocross tubulars to deep aero triathlon, plus a four-deep collection of mountain bike wheels for various widths in various wheel sizes for various disciplines… many of which have come to market in just the last five years. Add in flat mount disc brake mounts and 12mm thru axles on their forks and you get the idea.
That’s one difference.
The other is less obvious but more tangible. Millaud says if you took their latest rim, a road carbon clincher that’ll be revealed soon, and asked ENVE to duplicate it, they couldn’t. There are major differences in the way each company makes their wheels. The processes are different, the designs are different. ENVE has a penchant for UD carbon fibers, Mavic likes the woven fabric (with some UD used in non-cosmetic sections to tune the ride, stiffness and strength).
Basically, each company has their own culture and their own way of doing things, and there are no plans to mess with that. So, what exactly are they going to do with ENVE?
Millaud says they’ll share ideas and technologies where it makes sense. Not everything will – for example, ENVE has a patent on molded spoke holes, which means they don’t need to drill the rim. They’ve also patented the bead and rim bed construction so there’s no need to machine the bead hook, leaving complete fibers intact for a stronger rim. Millaud says the former doesn’t allow for angled spoke holes, though, so it’s not something they’re going to use as-is because Mavic’s focus isn’t really on rims, it’s on complete wheel systems. And more recently wheel-and-tire systems. For the latter, Mavic might be working on a rim that achieves the same end goal as ENVE’s, but that doesn’t need ENVE’s patent.
It’s not like Mavic’s hurting for ideas. They’re in a sort of rebirth of their own, bringing several major redesigns and new wheels to market in 2016 that have been a few years in development, well before the ENVE deal was a twinkling in anyone’s eye. And we’ve seen a prototype project that solves some serious road pro peloton problems that is nothing short of brilliant and amazing…we just can’t talk about it yet. But it’s a great fit with ENVE’s product line.
So, in the short term (think six to eight months), it seems there aren’t immediate ways we’ll see the two sharing tech.
The more immediate benefits to each party could come on the sales and distribution side.
“ENVE has a strong brand in the U.S., but they struggle with sales internationally,” Millaud says. “And many European brands have a hard time in the U.S. So that’s one area where we think we can help each other quite a bit.”
Huge thanks to Mavic for bringing us over to see their new road wheels (that story coming early Tuesday AM) and giving us access to Millaud and his team!