The call to Pedego Electric Bikes’ Fountain Valley headquarters came about a year ago.
“How can I help?”
Too bad the man wasn’t offering to ask the U.S. president for an exemption from tariffs on Chinese-made goods—25%—that were about to hit the electric-bike manufacturer.
But he was asking his friends at Pedego how he could do more to accelerate the growth of a company that had sped to No. 1 in U.S. e-bike sales in seven years, $20 million this year.
The Samaritan on the line was the icon-of-icons, actor-pitchman William Shatner.
“He’s not just a fan. He’s a raving fan,” said Pedego co-founder Terry Sherry.
Pedego’s biggest fan was already an influencer, producing and starring in videos on why he owns 15 of the pedal-assist bikes and routinely goes on Sunday cycling trips with four generations of his family.
“We were already close,” said Shatner, in town this month to keynote the annual Pedego dealers confab at the Hyatt Regency Newport Beach.
“The Sunday outings with the Pedegos have brought us even closer … perfect for doing something as a family.”
Tom Bock’s Huntington Beach store was the first of a growing fleet of more than 140 Pedego-branded shops in the world. He’s also a believer in the “Shatner effect.”
“He’s helped a lot,” Bock said. “We’ve seen a boost in our stores. Customers say, ‘I want the Platinum Edition that Shatner’s riding.’”
Captain Kirk’s latest offer of assistance was coming at an opportune time for Pedego.
Sherry and co-founder and Chief Executive Don DiCostanzo are successful serial entrepreneurs who’d been here before—suddenly confronted by the unexpected costs of doing business. They even sympathized with the goal of tariffs: protecting intellectual property.
“All President Trump’s trying to do is say, ‘Stop stealing our stuff,’” Sherry said.
But they didn’t feel electric bikes should be included as there’s “no intellectual property on bikes,” DiCostanzo testified before a committee of the U.S Trade Representative on Capitol Hill.
But the tariffs were levied on electric bikes in August, all bikes, in fact, as well as farm equipment, baby cribs, etc.
Pedego does final assembly here but says making the bikes from scratch in the U.S. would double the price. Now it faced a 25% spike in manufacturing costs and big decisions to make: Absorb? Raise prices? Or find a way to avoid the expense.
It chose the latter, moving production to factories in the tariff-free countries of Vietnam and Taiwan. It got a head start on the shift in the summer when the European Union slapped 83% tariffs on Chinese-made electric bikes.