I don't recall SC releasing a carbon frame before an AL before. The Bronson carbon and AL frames came out simultaneously.What is the typical transition time between a carbon model and the equivalent aluminum model?
Also, what do you guys speculate about price? Is under 2k for frame realistic?
The more carbon they do the cheaper carbon becomes.They may never release an Alloy one. Wasn't there talk a while back about Santa Cruz going carbon only and having a cheaper heavier carbon frame as their lower end models
I think the biggest expense is the molds, and the fact that each size of front triangle requires a separate mold. There's no real solution to that. I don't think labor cost really factors in to it. In fact, on a per-frame basis, it wouldn't surprise me if it actually requires less labor to make a carbon frame. Welding is hard! Fundamentally, though, the process of making a carbon frame is totally un-modular, unlike metal, where you can extrude a bunch of different tubes and weld them up however you like.The more carbon they do the cheaper carbon becomes.
We are around the corner from automated robotic carbon fabrication. The cost of the machines is high, but the cost to produce a frame would be low. The more volume you get through the machine the lower the per unit cost.
I think the biggest expense is the molds, and the fact that each size of front triangle requires a separate mold. There's no real solution to that. I don't think labor cost really factors in to it.
(Enjoying this convo by the way.)The difference in retail cost between an AL and SC carbon frame is ~$1000 at $1900 vs. $2900. So you'd need to cut 33% to match the AL price. The carbon price isn't reflective of only what it costs to make, but also what the market will accept as a price.
SC don't have to sell carbon bikes for $1900 to be successful. They just have to give people a value proposition they agree to in enough quantity to generate the revenue and profit they are after.
That could be achieved by selling fewer bikes at a bigger mark up and those bikes can be carbon to reduce the per unit cost of carbon frames.
Forget automation for a second. There are a bunch of savings you'd achieve by going to straight up carbon with current production methods.
Devinci is selling the Troy/Dixon carbon frames for $2400. So there is room to deliver a carbon option that eats significantly into the cost difference between AL and carbon in the SC line up.
You started this discussion off by saying molds were the biggest expense in making a carbon bike. So if you can make 3000 Nomad Mk3 Cs and 6000 Nomad Mk3 ALs over say a 4yr product cycle or say 6000 Nomad Mk3 Cs and zero ALs....losing 30% of your total sales would it make sense? [These are just wild ass numbers since SC isn't going to give us any sales projection data]So maybe to clarify, once you've got a bike designed... geo, pivot locations, having an aluminum frame made in volume is not an expensive proposition. It is even affordable on a one off basis, even with American labor. So I'm not sure why you wouldn't offer aluminum frames. I don't see what there is to lose.
Sadly, I believe that the "money is no object" boutique crowd is becoming the endpoint for SC. I think they will become a bigger version of Ibis dropping aluminum bikes all together or more likely drop all aluminum VPP designs in favor of single pivot versions of those bikes to satisfy their lower price point quotas.It makes sense to have an alu model of the nomad, just like the Bronson. I think it's especially relevant to demand the more gravity focused a bike gets.
I'm amazed there isn't a v10 alu. Unless you are a high level racer why would you want a carbon dh sled, unless money was no object?
It would be very interesting to see the economic pro/con to alu., I dig this discussion!
I appreciate your insight. I'm working mainly off of "conventional wisdom" and learning here. I'm nervous about the price of carbon frames, with SC settling around $3k, Yeti moving past that, and BMC going completely insane. The last thing I want to see is what has happened with road bikes (talk about too many options!), which I take to be pure price gouging. There's no way a Pinarello Dogma 2 costs twice as much to make as a high end mountain bike frame.You started this discussion off by saying molds were the biggest expense in making a carbon bike. So if you can make 3000 Nomad Mk3 Cs and 6000 Nomad Mk3 ALs over say a 4yr product cycle or say 6000 Nomad Mk3 Cs and zero ALs....losing 30% of your total sales would it make sense? [These are just wild ass numbers since SC isn't going to give us any sales projection data]
- you doubled your units per mold lowering that "biggest cost' by 50% per unit
- there will be other savings on scale if you increase volumes that much and that's a great case for investing in automation
- reduce engineering costs by ditching AL [pivot locations may have to change between materials and you still have to do the engineering/testing for that material to ensure it will work] and manage production in just one factory
- I would bet SC's margins on a carbon bike are higher than AL [as evidenced by Devinici selling a Troy/Dixon carbon for $2300CAD/$2150USD]
- you are making more profit
- SC can always consider lowering margins a bit to adjust sales levels to hit whatever targets they want
- SC can offer a lower cost layup for a pricepoint carbon option or a price point build kit that gets you into carbon at a good value
- dealing with fewer customers, but able to give each more time for the same CS staff or reduce staff to save $$
- easier/cheaper to inventory a SC
- fewer bikes for your dealers to inventory
- less effort to market one bike
- less choices for customer [remember the SP, APP, VPP issues of too many options?]
- kick up the brand/model image a notch into Ibis [we sell carbon only territory]
I'm working at a company that builds composite parts for the aerospace industry. We could build parts for other industries and increase production volume, but the margins aren't as good and it dilutes our focus so we end up making fewer parts, but more $$/part.
If your goal is to make $$ and be successful you don't need an AL option.
If your goal is to sell the most bikes you need an AL option and a carbon option.
I hear you and understand your concern.I appreciate your insight. I'm working mainly off of "conventional wisdom" and learning here. I'm nervous about the price of carbon frames, with SC settling around $3k, Yeti moving past that, and BMC going completely insane. The last thing I want to see is what has happened with road bikes (talk about too many options!), which I take to be pure price gouging. There's no way a Pinarello Dogma 2 costs twice as much to make as a high end mountain bike frame.
Since you've got some experience behind the scenes, what is your take on the "different layup" pricing structure that you see with road bikes?
Yeah there's seems to be a "stiff, really stiff, super ultra stiff" tiering of carbon road frames, with the price increasing by 50-100% at each jump. The issue with that in mountain biking is that we have more binary expectations. I expect a frame to be reasonably impact resistant and essentially impossible to break under normal use (i.e. not crashing). I also expect the frame to be exceptionally stiff with respect to rear wheel tracking. I'm less concerned about bottom-bracket stiffness and power transfer from pedaling, which I understand to be the main "stiffness" concern with road bikes. I simply would never buy a carbon mountain bike frame that didn't meet these criteria.I hear you and understand your concern.
If you are tied to one brand like SC you can end up with a serious cost escalation problem. If you are open to shopping around there should be some value options even in carbon. You might not get all the options you want, but you should be able to buy a quality bike that meets your needs.
In terms of different layups at different price points I think that's mostly a marketing thing to give the company a reason to charge different prices for their frames.
Not to say layups don't matter. They do - a lot, but the cost of materials is low compared to the cost of the molds and the labour to build the frame. So unless the higher priced layup is a whole different process that takes a lot more time you'd have to wonder why the cost is so different?
Sort of like the cost difference between XTR, XT and SLX - from a materials/fabrication stand point they are pretty similar, but people value the XTR much more than the SLX and Shimano is okay selling fewer XTR components at a higher mark up.
Will the higher cost layup perform better? Maybe...you'd have to look at each bike case by case. It's not something I would assume to be true.
If a company is using a whole different fabrication process for an expensive carbon frame the higher cost might be justified. In that case they should be able to explain what's different about process 1 vs process 2 beyond just using different layups.
I think we all appreciate that a $12K mountain bike doesn't perform 3 times better than a $4K MTB.
As long as there are relatively affordable high performance frames available then I think we can't get too upset that companies are offering ultra bling options. We don't need them to have an amazing ride so any financial damage we do is self-inflicted.