Marzocchi is probably very happy that 2015 is behind them. Rumors of their troubles had been whispered for months beforehand, but when the announcement that the legendary Italian suspension company would be closing its doors
came in late July, pretty much everyone was shocked. After all, they've been around in one form or another since 1949 and have been involved in everything from Grand Prix motorcycle racing, the Dakar Rally, and even Formula One, all endeavors that sound much more ambitious than suspension for mountain bikes.
The news of the so-called closure raised all sorts of questions, and conflicting reports from different sources didn't exactly help matters. Marzocchi is done, we heard, and the employees have been let go to find new work; production has ceased; warranty claims on older products would be hard to resolve if they could be at all. That was all a bit pessimistic, though, as Tenneco, Marzocchi's parent company, was working to find a buyer for the mountain bike division of Marzocchi. And that's exactly what happened. In October of last year, Fox Racing Shox made the somewhat ambiguous announcement
that they had acquired ''certain specified assets of Marzocchi's mountain bike product lines,
" which sounded a lot like the lifeline that Marzocchi was looking for. Neither Fox or Marzocchi have explained exactly what was acquired, but it's now clear that the Marzocchi brand will continue to exist for the foreseeable future.
Marzocchi's continued survival, in whatever form it might be, and tie-up with FOX, brings up even more questions than the company's would-be demise did. Chiefly, what does this mean for Marzocchi's product range, and how will the relationship with Fox affect both suspension brands?
I chatted with Andrea Pierantoni, Director of Marzocchi Brand Management, about those very topics, and while he was certainly coy with his answers, there are some positive updates to be taken from his replies.
Interviewed: Marzocchi's Andrea Pierantoni Mike Levy: Where will Marzocchi be positioned in the marketplace? With Fox as its owner, will Marzocchi's focus be on a certain price point? Andrea Pierantoni:
By acquiring Marzocchi, Fox plans to offer riders a broader range of options while staying ahead of our competition. The product lines are complementary, and both brands will maintain their own images and products.Levy: The last few years have been very tumultuous for Marzocchi. What steps are being taken to ensure that things go more smoothly this time? Pierantoni:
Fox plans to leverage its marketing, engineering, distribution, and supply chain resources to help rejuvenate and reinvigorate the Marzocchi brand.
Levy: When will we see the new product hit the marketplace? Will 2016 be considered an 'off year' while things are geared back up? Pierantoni:
|We are excited to announce the agreement to acquire certain assets of the Marzocchi mountain bike product lines, which we believe is a significant opportunity for Fox to further expand the penetration of our bike suspension products across more price points. The Marzocchi team has a long history of performance suspension experience, and we believe that this highly complementary transaction will allow for the increased growth of the Marzocchi brand worldwide. We expect this transaction will bring together and strengthen two highly complementary product lines and allow for Fox to leverage its marketing, engineering, distribution, and supply chain resources to drive increased top-line growth and profitability. - Larry L. Enterline, Chief Executive Officer, FOX|
Actually, production never stopped. We’ll plan to continue producing our model year 2016 product line through model year 2017, with the potential of additional shocks and seat posts [production of the Espresso dropper post has been ''put on hold'' since this interview took place
] being added. To support this, we are currently augmenting our aftermarket and OEM sales programs.Levy: Will there be any major staffing changes? Were employees that were laid off be re-hired? Pierantoni:
I'm heading up the brand as the Director of Marzocchi Brand Management for FOX. One of my first priorities is to build an organization to support the brand.Levy: With access to all the facts and figures, what were the biggest factors behind Marzocchi's decline in the marketplace, and how do you intend to address them and take the brand forward? Pierantoni:
Now that Marzocchi is a Fox brand, I am focused on its future. We believe that with the full support of Fox and its resources, we will be able to take the brand forward.Levy: Will you look to launch a similar range of products under the Marzocchi umbrella as before, with a concise line or focus on key areas of the market where perhaps the Marzocchi brand - for consumers at least - is more synonymous than FOX? Pierantoni:
We plan to keep our current line the same through model year 2017. The Marzocchi product line, to a large degree, complements FOX's product line, allowing for a wider range of product offerings that stack up more effectively against our competitors. In future model years, we plan to continue to offer the features and qualities that riders appreciate from Marzocchi: a plush ride, durable products, and awesome downhill forks.Levy: Looking ahead, where will we see the Marzocchi brand in five-years time? Pierantoni:
We believe that over time the lines will continue to evolve and coexist more holistically, allowing us to offer more products and enhanced customer service.Levy: Fox already has a strong presence in all forms of mountain bike competition: its research and development resources are vast, and it is successful in every enthusiast-level segment of the market. What can Marzocchi bring to mountain bike riders that Fox cannot? Pierantoni:
The Marzocchi mountain bike product line expands and enhances the Fox portfolio, which opens up new sales opportunities. In addition, we are now working to streamline distribution and service worldwide for both brands by integrating the best service/distributors from each of Fox and Marzocchi as a part of the FOX/Marzocchi distributor and service network.Levy: Will R&D departments of Fox and Marzocchi be separate? And what about manufacturing? Pierantoni:
Our plan is that Marzocchi R&D will have some of its own dedicated resources and will be able to leverage FOX’s expertise. Manufacturing of Marzocchi products is planned to continue at its current Taiwan location as it has been.Levy: Where will Marzocchi's headquarters be located? Pierantoni:
Marzocchi is a now a brand of FOX, which is headquartered in Scotts Valley, CA, USA.Levy: Do you foresee Marzocchi taking advantage of any Fox technology? Pierantoni:
We see opportunities for synergies between Marzocchi and Fox patented technologies.
Levy: Will the distribution and service networks be shared? Pierantoni:
Images from Marzocchi's 2016 product range.
We are currently working on that, and it is a priority along with getting the organization set up. While details are still being worked out, we plan to keep some of the Marzocchi distributors and also use Fox distributors to support Marzocchi. In areas where Fox was not active, the Marzocchi distributors may support FOX.Levy: Looking in from the outside, it appears as though one of the big challenges for Marzocchi in recent years was moving away from production by Suntour. Will production continue where it is now, or will it be consolidated with FOX's facilities? Pierantoni:
Yes, our plan is to continue Marzocchi production where it is now.Levy: In the last few years, Marzocchi lost most, if not all, of its OE clients. Will you be working to re-start this side of the business or will you be focused on aftermarket products? Pierantoni:
The Marzocchi mountain bike product line expands the Fox portfolio, which opens up new sales opportunities. We intend to leverage these opportunities in both the aftermarket and by supplying to OEMs. The mountain bike market is still developing fast, and with riding styles continuing to evolve, customers are demanding new generations of capable products. It’s a great time to be part of that thriving industry and to work to give the riders the ability to take their riding to the next level.Levy: Marzocchi has been on life support at least three times now, and each recovery has produced a similar product range - a number of mediocre OEM products, punctuated by a few outstanding forks. Where is the heart transplant operation going to come from that will put Marzocchi back in the game instead of limping along for another three years while being fueled by optimistic fans? Pierantoni:
While we plan to continue with our current product lineup through model year 2017, development for new products is also planned, taking advantage of FOX's resources along with getting our distribution and service dialed in worldwide. If you recall, we had the 380 two years ago, last year was the 350, and this year we plan to launch the 320. Additionally, we have developed the Enduro 053 shock. So, you can see that we were ready to satisfy our fans, and we want to keep them and attract new ones!
So what does all that mean?
It's clear that Pierantoni is being fairly guarded with his words, but there are a few salient points to be taken from his answers regardless. When asked where Fox would position the Marzocchi brand in the marketplace, Pierantoni says that, ''By acquiring Marzocchi, Fox plans to offer riders a broader range of options while staying ahead of our competition,
'' which is a pretty solid clue that at least some of Marzocchi's next generation suspension will be priced lower than FOX's entry-level products. After all, Fox already offers some fairly high-end suspension, not to mention the new Live Valve electronic system
, and it makes zero sense for them to price Marzocchi's products even higher. So, when Pierantoni says ''broader range of options
,'' he is surely talking about less expensive alternatives. This is a very good move, especially if they can bring Marzocchi's quality control up to FOX's own standards.
Fox will also ensure that Marzocchi eventually receives considerably more original equipment spec than what they've had over the last handful of years, something that will grow the brand further by getting more riders on Marzocchi than would have otherwise ever ridden their products.
That growth will likely be backed up by many new hirings, and Fox just posted up a number of job opportunities on their website
, some of which look like what would be required to run an entirely new division. The list includes machine operators, aftermarket sales staff, customer service staff, patent managers, and more. Many of these positions are located at FOX's Scotts Valley, CA, headquarters, the same location their cycling division is based out of.
The final thing to keep in mind is that Fox and Marzocchi have always had very different products. Sure, they may be designed for the same application and have the same amount of travel, but they perform very differently. I don't see Fox doing much to change this fact as it makes far more sense business-wise for a single company to offer two different types of products that both compete with their competition. Fox will stay FOX, and Marzocchi will stay Marzocchi.
: @foxracingshox / @MarzocchiMTB