Bankruptcy slams the brakes on Dutch e-bike manufacturer VanMoof

Category: Business


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. bankrupt / ˈbæŋk rʌpt / (adj.) – not having any money

    During the pandemic, many companies went bankrupt and had to close down.

  2. slam the brakes / slæm ðə breɪks / (idiom) – to suddenly stop something

    The management slammed the brakes on the project because of safety issues.

  3. minimalist / ˈmɪn ə mə lɪst / (adj.) – using very simple ideas or designs on something

    My husband and I don’t like grand designs in our house. We want our space to be very minimalist.

  4. means / miːnz / (n.) – a way of doing or achieving something

    Buses and trains are usually the cheapest means of transport in the city.

  5. willing / ˈwɪl ɪŋ / (adj.) – ready to do something

    I signed up for volunteer work because I’m willing to spend my extra time helping the community.


Read the text below.

Dutch bicycle maker VanMoof has been declared bankrupt, slamming the brakes on a company that won design awards for its stylish, minimalist electric bikes but struggled to meet soaring demand and fix glitches with the app powering its service.

The Amsterdam-based company, started in 2009 by brothers Taco and Ties Carlier, posted a statement on its website informing clients that an Amsterdam court declared VanMoof bankrupt.

It remains unclear how the Dutch bankruptcy will affect the company’s foreign operations. VanMoof sells its bikes online and has brand stores in more than 20 cities worldwide, including New York, San Francisco, Paris and Tokyo, according to its website.

The company has sold about 200,000 bikes. It promised to make its bikes almost theft-proof, through the use of digital locking, built-in alarms and GPS tracking: if a VanMoof was stolen, the company would track it down within two weeks or replace it.

The company saw demand for its bikes soar during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to delays in deliveries. The company uses many of its own parts to make bikes, meaning that normal bicycle stores and repairers that are a feature in nearly every Dutch town and village can’t easily fix them if they break down.

VanMoof bikes rely on a proprietary smartphone app for a number of functions, including the main means of unlocking with a digital “key”. Although it’s still possible to unlock the bikes manually, without the app, owners face severe restrictions on what they can do.

However, the bankruptcy may not be the end of the road for a company that turned a traditional Dutch means of transport into a lifestyle statement around the world. “The trustees are currently setting up a sales process for the assets and activities of VanMoof, in order to find a party who is willing to continue the activities of VanMoof,” the company said.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • VanMoof promises to make its bikes almost theft-proof with digital locking, alarms, and GPS tracking. Do you believe it’s achievable, or do you think it’s too good to be true? Why? Discuss.
  • What are the possible disadvantages for a company that offers a product or service that seems too good to be true? How do you think customers will react if the company fails to deliver its claim? Why? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • According to the article, the company turned a traditional Dutch means of transport into a lifestyle statement around the world. What do you think “lifestyle statement” mean? Do you consciously consider whether the products you use and buy match your lifestyle (ex. healthy lifestyle = vegan products)? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • Do you think it’s important to follow lifestyle trends? Do you feel influenced by brands or products that are associated with certain lifestyles? Why or why not? Discuss.