It’s no secret – we love getting media coverage! This time we were on TV1’s Fair Go, about an e-bike owner (not our customer) named Kaye who waited an entire year to get a Shimano Drive Unit (ebike motor) for her Scott electric bike. They wanted some perspective from an ‘electric bike guru’ – yours truly, around how long a drive unit should last and how hard it was to get spare parts for e-bikes in general, as well as in recent Covid-disrupted years.
Our take on the situation was that an e-bike drive unit/motor ought to outlast most people’s bikes, or certainly the first owner, but that they cannot last forever, as the mid-drive format contain a lot of moving parts, sensors and electronic equipment as well (the motor controllor is part of the drive unit too). My estimate was ‘tens of thousands of km’. Unfortunately they are generally not serviceable – as a rule, if something inside it breaks or wears out, the whole unit is replaced.
They also wanted to know what we thought was reasonable for Shimano to be able to do in these difficult times of manufacturing, supply/demand imbalances and logistics. My response was simple – Shimano has managed to manufacture drive units to sell to factories which in turn have brought in a lot of e-bikes and sold to consumers in the past 2 years. So there’s no excuse to not have also allocated warranty/spare parts stock during this period. Prioritising sales over support is short-sighted and is not what you’d expect from a global player with a dedicated support presence in Auckland. They need to bring in sufficient support stock and if they cannot, they need to take them off bikes themselves, not leave it to retailers to do it. Which brings me to the next point…
The question they didn’t ask is ‘what would have happened if Kay were an EBT customer?’. I can tell you she would not have waited a year. Likely we would have had more success getting a drive unit from Shimano more quickly, however even before that, we would have taken a motor from a showroom bike to keep her riding and then made it our problem to get the drive units from Shimano. In fact – exactly that happened quite recently. We had two Shimano drive units on a pair of Merida e-bikes fail. Shimano told us that delivery would be in August/September, 4-6 months after the reported failure. That is not at all an acceptable time to keep a customer waiting and we made that clear. We informed the customers that we would make it our problem to wait for the motors to arrive, either by cannibalising our showroom stock or through trading in to a new e-bike. They both chose a trade-in and now it’s our problem to get those motors, either from Merida or Shimano. We’ve also put drive units of each variety that we sell on backorder, so that next time we will have some ‘on the shelf’. We already do that with all other e-bike parts, from batteries to chargers to displays and bits you didn’t know exist – we hold them all in stock. However, we shouldn’t have to do that for a Drive Unit, as the only reason to buy one is after one fails and it’s Shimano’s responsibility to hold stock for that purpose in NZ. But given that they are failing to do so, we are stepping up to cover the gap until they can sort out their supply.