GMs bike business is old hat, er, helmet
The connection between bicycles and car companies is nothing new. Mercedes-Benz, Lotus, Morgan, Jeep, Hummer and several other brands have lent their names and even some technology to high-end bicycles. But General Motors announcement this month that it plans to market a line of electric bikes marks a return to an industry where the company was once a major player.
Not only did a GM division — New Departure — dominate the bicycle hub business in the golden years of the bicycle industry, the balloon tire era from the early 1930s to the late 1950s, but two GM brands, LaSalle and Cadillac, offered superdeluxe bicycles built by Schwinn in Chicago.
The story goes that in order to generate showroom traffic for Cadillac and LaSalle in the middle of the Great Depression, GM inked a deal with Schwinn to create luxury versions of its most deluxe bicycles. The dad would get the Cadillac or LaSalle car, and the kid could get the bike of the same name.
LaSalle- and Cadillac-badged bicycles typically featured Schwinns most expensive equipment, such as a leather saddle, a front-fender-mounted headlight, brushed aluminum fenders, a big motorcycle "pancake" horn and, of course, GMs New Departure front and rear hubs. Today, Cadillac and LaSalle bicycles are extremely rare.
GM hasnt yet named its new bicycle division. In fact, it is searching for a name and has launched a contest to generate ideas, at ebikebrandchallenge.com. The return of the LaSalle name, an homage to French explorer Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, seems fitting for GMs new bicycle division.