The Bi­cy­cle Trans­form­ing the Fu­ture of Mo­bil­ity

Since 2012, Katayama Ko­gyo, a lead­ing au­to­mo­tive parts man­u­fac­turer, has been com­mer­cial­iz­ing a sur­pris­ing and in­no­va­tive cre­ation: The Walk­ing Bi­cy­cle. This next-gen­er­a­tion ve­hi­cle com­bin­ing health con­scious­ness, com­fort and en­vi­ron­men­tal care, is about

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Be­hind all of Ja­pan’s world-lead­ing car­mak­ers are the chukenki­gyo – strong medium sized firms that pro­duce and sup­ply them with high­qual­ity com­po­nents. One of these firms is Katayama Ko­gyo, which pro­vides au­to­mo­tive parts, and con­struc­tion ma­chin­ery and agri­cul­tural ma­chin­ery parts world­wide.

The com­pany was es­tab­lished in 1947 and in the U.S. has a pro­duc­tion base in Shel­byville, Ken­tucky, which pro­vides parts to au­to­mo­tive man­u­fac­tur­ers in Alabama, Ohio, Michi­gan, and Illi­nois. While the ma­jor­ity of the com­pany’s busi­ness is through Tier 1 re­la­tion­ships with these man­u­fac­tur­ers, it also has es­tab­lished Tier 2 re­la­tion­ships to ex­pand its foothold in the in­dus­try. Its cur­rent cus­tomer port­fo­lio cov­ers over 20 North Amer­i­can ve­hi­cle name­plates.

“Con­sumers do not know about Katayama Ko­gyo but we are rec­og­nized among the au­to­mo­bile car­mak­ers in the in­dus­try as we work with im­por­tant brands to pro­vide them with ev­ery au­to­mo­bile part they need,” says pres­i­dent, Masayuki Katayama.

“We pro­vide prod­ucts for some of the most rec­og­nized com­pa­nies in the in­dus­try, such as Gen­eral Mo­tors, Chrysler and Ford. These com­pa­nies visit the head­quar­ters of dif­fer­ent com­peti­tors in the in­dus­try to choose the best so­lu­tions for their cars. They visit au­to­mo­tive parts mak­ers not only in Ja­pan but also in com­peti­tor coun­tries like South Korea. The dif­fer­ence they find is that even if we might not be as com­pet­i­tive in terms of price, we of­fer added value for them.”

Now in its 71st year, Katayama Ko­gyo has been look­ing to di­ver­sify into new mar­kets and de­velop new prod­ucts and in­no­va­tions for the 21st cen­tury. Mr. Katayama points out that younger gen­er­a­tions to­day are less con­cerned about own­ing au­to­mo­biles and are open to other forms trans­port, par­tic­u­larly more en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly op­tions.

“As a con­se­quence, look­ing to the fu­ture, we won’t fo­cus just on the au­to­mo­tive busi­ness,” he says.

“In 2009 we came up with the idea of a new prod­uct, the Walk­ing Bi­cy­cle. We ded­i­cated a team of en­gi­neers and de­sign­ers to work ex­clu­sively on this prod­uct. They have been de­vel­op­ing new parts specif­i­cally con­ceived for this new prod­uct and in 2014 we started of­fer­ing the Wak­ing Bi­cy­cle to the pub­lic.”

Mr. Katayama re­calls that he came up with idea when a good friend asked him to de­velop a mo­bil­ity so­lu­tion for his fa­ther who was in his 80s and loved walk­ing around Tokyo. Af­ter they de­vel­oped the Walk­ing Bi­cy­cle with el­derly peo­ple in mind, the com­pany re­al­ized that it would be best mar­keted to younger peo­ple, as a healthy and eco-friendly trans­port al­ter­na­tive.

“With the Walk­ing Bi­cy­cle we want to pro­mote a healthy and ac­tive life­style. Au­to­matic driv­ing so­lu­tions and tech­nol­ogy are an al­ter­na­tive for us to use less en­ergy. The Walk­ing Bi­cy­cle is an al­ter­na­tive to that per­spec­tive,” ex­plains Mr. Katayama.

“In terms of tech­nol­ogy, the Walk­ing Bi­cy­cle is a tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced prod­uct fo­cused on pro­mot­ing the ba­sic func­tion of the hu­man body: walk­ing. We want to trans­mit the mes­sage that there is an al­ter­na­tive to tra­di­tional cars that al­lows you to re­main ac­tive. Be­sides that healthy per­spec­tive it is also a great al­ter­na­tive and en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly so­lu­tion for trans­port in cities.”

Car com­pa­nies like Gen­eral Mo­tors, Chrysler and Ford have trusted in Katayama’s high-qual­ity prod­ucts for years. But as Mr. Katayama has pointed out, the com­pany re­mains be­hind the scenes and un­known to the end con­sumer, like so many of Ja­pan’s chukenki­gyo. But the com­pany is com­ing out of the shad­ows with the Walk­ing Bi­cy­cle, a fine ex­am­ple of ‘Made in Ja­pan’ qual­ity and a prod­uct of the monozukuri phi­los­o­phy and at­ten­tion to de­tail. Each piece is metic­u­lously as­sem­bled and pol­ished by hand. By us­ing such things as pre­mium paint, the fa­mously high qual­ity of Ja­panese man­u­fac­tur­ing is ap­par­ent in ev­ery com­po­nent of the Walk­ing Bi­cy­cle.

“With the Walk­ing Bi­cy­cle we want to pro­mote a healthy and ac­tive life­style. Au­to­matic driv­ing so­lu­tions and tech­nol­ogy are an al­ter­na­tive for us to use less en­ergy. The Walk­ing Bi­cy­cle is an al­ter­na­tive to that per­spec­tive” Masayuki Katayama, Pres­i­dent, Katayama Ko­gyo

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