In bankruptcy, VanMoof gives an uncertain outcome to its activities as well as to its customers, anxious to know if they will be able to maintain or continue to use their electric bicycles. We went to find out, and we take stock of the situation.
The VanMoof brand was declared bankrupt this Tuesday, July 17, 2023 in the court of Amsterdam (Netherlands), as can be read in this official communication from the brand. A disappointment in several stages for the manufacturer of connected electric bicycles, founded by the brothers Taco and Ties Carlier in 2009, having built a solid reputation in Europe.
The slow death throes of VanMoof e-bikes
The first signs of difficulties began in 2021, in view of the financial results for the financial year 2020 published by the Financieele Dagblad (FD). The company then lost 6.7 million euros. But many were keen to flaunt good form via the new S5 and A5, or contrast the massive €128m investment that took place in September 2021. A sum that swells the total money raised to €189.1m. euros, allows VanMoof to become the most attractive bicycle company in the world.
But at the start of 2022, the results are getting worse, with a net loss of 11.9 million euros, says the Dutch media. But it was above all in January 2023 that the alarm bell was sounded. VanMoof flirted with bankruptcy at that time, organizing an emergency investor round to bail out the coffers. Because we learned in the wake of the colossal debt of the company, publishing a deficit of 78 million euros for the year 2022, still according to the FD. An exorbitant figure for an electric bike manufacturer!
Winter and Spring 2023 toned it all down with the launch of new models, the S4 and X4. Fairytale dust as a president would say, since VanMoof stopped selling its bikes on June 29th. Hiding its situation behind a supposed technical problem, the brand suffered attacks from customers and investors. The latter thus demanded their return on investment, forcing VanMoof to request a payment deferral on July 12 at the Amsterdam court. It was on this date that shops and workshops closed their doors throughout Europe.
Bankruptcy in the Netherlands, but not elsewhere? And after ?
This same institution declared the bankruptcy of VanMoof Global Holding BV, VanMoof BV and VanMoof Global Support BV on July 17, signaling the end of activities. Management therefore falls to two administrators, “Mrs. Padberg and Mr. De Wit” communicates the brand to us, henceforth holding the reins.
These two people “examine the possibilities of restarting following the bankruptcy, meaning a resale to a third party, in order to continue the activities of VanMoof” continues the official press release. The bankruptcy therefore only affects the Netherlands, not France or Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan or the United States.
” We are still studying the impact of the failure of the Dutch entities on the other legal entities” specifies the firm, “our intention is to continue to operate these entities as usual”. But without the parent company, activities in France will be limited at best, if not suspended. sine die.
We must also worry about the future of the 700 employees of the brand, to whom the co-founders addressed themselves in an internal email to thank them, the vast majority of whom will leave the ship. “within six weeks”. The Carlier brothers clearly specified that “the current iteration of VanMoof ends today”, another can restart. If the takeover fails, Vanmoof risks pure liquidation.
I am already a customer, will I be able to start and use my bike?
We contacted the firm to understand the sequence of events for customers. A spokesperson told us “do not comment at this time”. Because owning a VanMoof electric bike is special, since you have to partly go through the application to start the connected electric bike. Also, various parameters and services go through the bike. Nevertheless, the new FAQ reassures as to the use:
No, your bike will remain functional and usable, as we aim to keep our app and servers online and secure ongoing services for the future. As unforeseen circumstances could arise, we advise you to create a backup unlock code so that you can unlock your bike via the buttons on your handlebars. You can find instructions on how to create/reset a backup unlock code in our knowledge base.
If there is a problem with your VanMoof app, and you don’t have an unlock code, the Bikey apps from Cowboy and Moofer are alternatives to start your bike.
Is it possible to have my VanMoof repaired or collected?
Maintenance and repair also happens in-house, since these pedelecs have specific components. If the tires and brakes can be repaired via a conventional repairer or workshop, the other components are to be taken care of by VanMoof, which has the expertise and spare parts. A VanMoof workshop was open in Paris, while other “certified” ones took care of the bikes in Bordeaux, Lyon and Strasbourg.
Remember that the battery is designed for VanMoof and integrated into the frame, and therefore less accessible than a conventional removable battery. This is precisely the case of a customer who entrusted his electric bike – because of a battery problem – the day before the closing of the VanMoof workshop in Paris. He has had no news since, and is worried about his fate. According to the updated FAQ, the situation is only clear in the Netherlands:
Yes, all repaired and unrepaired bikes owned by customers and currently located in one of the VanMoof repair shops in the Netherlands can be picked up by riders.
I ordered my Vanmoof bike but never received it. Will I be reimbursed?
For those who have ordered their future VanMoof bike and have not yet delivered, it’s foggy. Some customers have been waiting for weeks, months, even since last September! If the French branch would provide activities independent of the parent company in bankruptcy, it could perhaps proceed with the cancellation of orders and a full refund of the price of bicycles and any accessories. Hope is slim. Anyway, here is the official message about it:
Currently, outbound deliveries have ceased. Depending on the outcome of the sales process, it will be decided whether open orders can be executed.
Because today, everything is frozen. Another example, a customer told us about an order for a bicycle at the end of March (over 3,000 euros), scheduled for delivery in May and not honored. “At the end of May, I received an email telling me that the new delivery date would finally be the end of June”says Julie, “Since then, no news. However, I have, on several occasions, contacted the customer service of the shop in Paris, where I bought the bike, as well as the Dutch customer service. The only answers I got were vague, insisting that the wait is worth it”.
Frustrated, she wonders “if they were simply trying to get the most cash, without really knowing if a delivery was possible”. The customer has thus requested reimbursement of her bicycle since July 12, with confirmation of receipt and reimbursement indicated “within 14 working days”. For a possible refund, it is currently confused according to the FAQ:
The administrators are aware of the installments paid and the refunds requested. […] Regardless of customers’ own responsibility to safeguard and investigate their rights in relation to orders and payments made; for clients who wish to file these claims within the framework of the bankruptcy procedure, the administrators put in place specific procedures for this.
In other words, it is not impossible that these customers have lost their money and will never be reimbursed. Indeed, customers are not priority creditors unlike employees. Do not hesitate to let us know your situation in the comments, if you have communications with the brand and ample information, which can help other customers.
I rented my Vanmoof bike in LOA, can I still use it?
Since 2022, Vanmoof has offered the rental of its electric bikes. This was possible via employers, with subsidies of several hundred euros, and with a purchase option at the end of the contract (LOA). The Dutch brand had entered into an agreement with the three partners Azfalte, BeeToGreen and Zenride for its LOAs.
“Vanmoof’s difficulties have no consequences for riders who already have their bikes, and the service provided by Zenride continues” said the French company. It also cancels all pending orders and invites customers to choose other brands.
At this time, we have no information on the continuation of these rentals via the other two partners. We’ll be sure to update this article when we have more information.
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