Electric-bicycle firm races to catch up with demand

The pandemic has been kind to Dutch electric-bicycle company VanMoof BV.

Over the past six months, orders have shot through the roof as more people switch from congested public transport to bicycles, aided by local governments clearing roads for cyclists to zip past cars stuck in traffic.

Production for the $1,998 S3 and X3 models, which neatly tuck their electric components into the frame tubes, doubled in the past few months. But with the surge came the pain typically afflicting companies that experience explosive growth. Customers bemoaned faulty or damaged parts, endless waiting lists and unreliable customer service.

VanMoof concedes that the past few months haven’t been without challenges, with founder Taco Carlier calling the experience the “perfect storm.” But he said it’s a normal transition for any business introducing cutting-edge hardware, and that the company is tackling the problems. There’s also a fresh round of funding that should help bankroll fixes.

Lockdown was a complicating factor because instructing new staff at home created its own set of challenges, Carlier said. Waiting lines to get a service member on the phone could sometimes stretch to an annoying 45 minutes, and some repairs were complicated by the fact that mechanics weren’t physically working together, the CEO said.

After doubling production in the summer, VanMoof now aims to make 50,000 bikes this year and reach 90,000 units in 2021. The company is also aggressively ramping up hiring, bolstering customer-support staff to about 50 from just 15 earlier this year.

Waiting times for a bike will be a month at most, from more than three at the peak of the rush earlier this year.

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