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Cannondale’s parent says the decision to end frame production in the U.S. was difficult

“The people of Bedford are the soul of Cannondale.”

By Steve Frothingham

Dorel Industries executives say it pained them to end U.S. production of Cannondale bicycles, but said the cost of domestic production made the decision “crystal clear” from an economic perspective.

Dorel, which bought Cannondale Sports Group last February, plans to end frame production at its Bedford, Pennsylvania, factory by the end of the year. Bedford’s staff will be reduced from about 300 to about 100. The company also announced it plans to expand its design and engineering center in Connecticut as it invests in product innovation for the Cannondale, Schwinn, GT and Mongoose brands.

“It was painful to make the decision we took today; the people in Bedford are the soul of Cannondale,” Jeff McGuane, president of Cannondale Sports Group’s North American division, told VeloNews Thursday. “We’ve got a bright future for Bedford, for the team that’s remaining and hopefully will expand in the future; but right now the economics around frame construction are just crystal clear.”

Bedford will continue to assemble Cannondale bikes using frames made in Asia. The facility also will manufacture and assemble some Cannondale suspension forks and cranks, produce prototype frames and conduct quality control testing.

Dorel is closing some of its relatively small product development centers in Longmont, Colorado, and Lake Forest, California. McGuane said at least some employees from those facilities are being offered jobs in Connecticut. Functions for some employees at the company’s Madison, Wisconsin, facility will move to Connecticut, also, as the Madison location is refocused on Dorel’s mass market brands, including Pacific Cycle.

“We are doing all we can do to maintain our talent base,” McGuane said.

Bethel, Connecticut, will become the hub of product development for all the company’s enthusiast-quality bike brands: Cannondale, GT, Schwinn and Mongoose.

The Bethel facility will be expanded and the company will invest in more testing and development equipment, McGuane said. The company recently launched two new internal engineering groups, one focused on materials, manufacturing and suspension, and the other focused on developing battery technology for power-assisted bikes, primarily sold under the Schwinn label.

“We will build, test, and collaborate in Bethel,” Robert Baird, the president of Dorel’s recreation and leisure division, told VeloNews on Thursday. “We are very focused on, how do we build the best innovative product that someday hopefully (are ridden by) most riders in the Giro or the Vuelta or the Tour de France,” he said.

The change to all-imported frame will start with the 2011 model year.

Cannondale’s “made in the USA” designation has long been a large part of the brand’s marketing, but Baird and McGuane said the investment in quality and innovation will determine the brand’s future success. “We are putting our money where our mouth is,” Baird said.

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