The Huffy Corporation is an American manufacturer and importer of bicycles. It has its roots in 1887 when George P. Huffman purchased the Davis Sewing Machine Company and moved its factory to Dayton, Ohio. They made their first bicycle in 1892. In 1924, George's son, Horace M. Huffman, Sr., founded the Huffman Manufacturing Company. From then until 1949, Huffy continued to manufacture and sell bicycles under the "Dayton" brand.
During the 1930s, Huffy participated in the revival of the American cycling industry, during which Horace Huffman commented on a "change of attitude". Although Huffy dabbled in the high-end of the market, they never overcame their entry-level reputation. In 2004, Huffy sold its Huffy Sports division to Russell Corporation. Huffy Sports manufactures sporting goods, including the Hydra-Rib basketball systems used by the NBA. By 2006, Huffy had sold more than 100 million bicycles. Bicycles sold under the Huffy name are now made in China.
In 1949, Huffy developed the Huffy Convertible, a children's bicycle with rear training wheels and foot steps. The Convertible revolutionized the children's market and was the first Huffy bicycle under the Huffy name. In 1953, a Huffy logo was created and Huffy switched all its bicycles to the Huffy name. Popular models included the Special Roadster, the Racer, the LaFrance, and the Streamliner.
By 1960, Huffman was the third largest bike manufacturer in the United States. Popular models produced during the heyday of the Huffy Corporation included the Radio Bicycle, which had a radio in the frame; the Scout, a 10-speed road bicycle; the Dragster, a so-called "wheelie bike"; and the Sigma, a BMX bike.
The Penguin and Chopper Bicycles
In 1962, Peter Mole of the John T. Bill & Co contacted the Huffy Corporation with a concept for producing a bicycle based on a motorcycle, which he called the High Rise. Mole developed the bike based on heavily modified children's bicycles that were becoming popular with pre-teens in Southern California, and which mimicked the appearance of customized "chopper" motorcycles. The High Rise had a long banana seat with supporting struts and tall "ape hanger" handlebars. Huffy hesitated for several months before agreeing to make the bike, on the condition that if the bike failed to sell that Mole would buy all the leftover parts and frames. The new bike, informally designated the Penguin, began appearing in retail stores by March 1963. The Penguin was the first of the banana-seat chopper bicycles to reach the U.S. market.
In 1966, Huffy introduced a new long-wheelbase bicycle frame called the Rail. The new frame was approximately 4" to 5" longer than previous models. The new frame became Huffy's base model until 1968. In 1968, in an effort to market a children's bicycle with an automotive theme, Huffy designers added a car-type steering wheel in place of handlebars to the Rail frame, which became the Huffy Wheel. Tall "stick-shift" derailleur gear shift levers mounted on the frame top-tube imitated the gearshift levers of popular muscle cars of the day, while many banana-seat cycles were fitted with tall chromed sissy bar passenger backrests at the rear of the seat. In mid-1968, Huffy released the Flaming Stack chain guard, which was designed to looks like the distinctive side exhaust pipe covers on the Corvette sports car. Later that same year, Huffy released a new Slingshot model with 16" front dragster wheel, and 20" rear. The new 1969 models where the last year for the three-bar Rail frame style. In 1970 Huffy deleted their three-bar frame and went to a two-bar Rail frame, evenaually adding additional two-tone fade paint jobs along with Persons striped seats. These designs continued in production until 1971 when new safety and manufacturing restrictions from the BMA (Bicycle Manufacturers Association), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and other U.S. federal agencies forced the discontinuance of the Wheel, the top-tube mounted "stick-shift", the "sissy bar", and many other stylized features of children's bicycle designs.
In 1970, the Huffy Corporation was founded as an umbrella company to house the Huffy Bicycle division, as well as Huffy's emerging sporting goods line. Huffy purchased YLCE (Yorba Linda Cycle Enterprises) and converted that Southern California Company to a national service company, assembling bicycles and other products for mass merchants such as KMart, Target, Sears, and Walmart. Other divisions were purchased and added to the Huffy stable of companies, including Gerry Baby Products (Denver), Washington Inventory Service (San Diego), Raleigh Bicycle USA (Kent, WA), and True Temper Garden Products (Pennsylvania). The growth of the corporation during the 1980s was significant and Huffy (on the New York Stock Exchange) was nearly a Fortune 500 Company.
In the 1984 and 1988 Summer Olympics, United States athletes riding Serotta-built bicycles racing under the Huffy name won two gold, two silver, and one bronze medal. A technical development center housed in the Huffy Corporate Offices in Dayton, Ohio was formed to research and create next-generation carbon fiber road and time trial bicycles. It was led by Mike Melton and Steve Bishop, two legendary custom bicycle builders. Sponsorship of world class and professional cyclists was only partially effective, as famous teams and riders, such as Greg LeMond and the 7-Eleven team used the Huffy sponsorship for financial support while openly maligning the company and even using different bicycles for competition while sponsored by Huffy. The subsequent fallout in the cycling community was devastating to Huffy, but not surprising considering the nature of the athletes involved. Huffy spent $500,000 to be named the Official Bicycle of the 1996 World Cycling Championships, held in Colorado Springs, the only time the World Championships has been held in the United States.
Huffy Bicycles had manufacturing and assembly facilities in Azusa, California (closed in the late 1970s), and Ponca City Oklahoma (closed in the early 1980s), but largely manufactured most of their bicycles in Celina, Ohio, and at one time was Celina's largest employer. At their peak, the bicycle division manufactured over two million bicycles per year and were the free world's largest bike company.
By the mid 1990s, Huffy was in deep financial trouble. The U.S. Bicycle industry had consolidated, sharply reducing the number of channels for selling bikes. High-volume retailers had claimed three fourths of the U.S. market, gaining tremendous leverage over bicycle makers. Wal Mart in particular was pressuring Huffy: it ordered 900,000 bikes at one time, but insisted that Huffy lower its prices significantly. To remain a major player in the bicycle market, the Ohio company had little choice but to agree. Even with Huffy's other non-unionized manufacturing plants, it could not make a profit selling bicycles at the prices Wal Mart, its biggest customer, was willing to pay. After requesting and getting a pay cut for its unionized workforce in Ohio, Huffy returned to profitability for two years only to again crumple under the pricing pressure applied by Wal Mart. This forced Huffy to close its Celina, Ohio plant and lay off all 935 employees. Their other two factories in Missouri and Mississippi soon fell to the same fate for the same reason. Even after subcontracting production to China,where plant workers earned only 25 to 41 cents per hour, it remained unable to operate at a profit.
In federal banktruptcy court in Dayton, Ohio, in 2004, Huffy's assets were turned over to its Chinese creditors. After years of struggling against the cut-rate Chinese bicycles that set the price target guiding Wal Mart, Huffy essentially had become a Chinese-owned company.
In 1996, the bicycle division received a major blow when U.S. courts ruled that surging imports of low-cost, mass-market bicycles from China did not pose a 'material threat' to the last three major U.S. bicycle manufacturers - Murray Inc., Roadmaster, and Huffy. Huffy closed its Celina, Ohio plant in 1998, and quickly thereafter closed two smaller bicycle manufacturing plants (in Farmington, MO. and Southhaven, MS.) which had been opened as a last-ditch effort to avoid the higher union manufacturing costs in Ohio. After it became apparent that continued U.S. production of low-cost, mass-market bicycles was no longer viable, Huffy had bicycles built by plants in Mexico and China, starting in 1999. The relationship with the Mexican plant was severed in 1999, and Huffy soon reneged on its loan promises to its Chinese partners, effectively surrendering the company to its Chinese creditors. Crown Equipment Corporation now uses the former Huffy U.S. bicycle factory in Celina, Ohio, to produce forklifts.
On 13 August 2004, Huffy announced that its financial statements had accounting irregularities. The price of Huffy stock (Stock symbol: HUF) declined by 40 percent on the next NYSE trading day. On 16 August 2004, the NYSE suspended Huffy stock and removed it as a listed stock. Finally, on 20 October 2004, Huffy announced that the Huffy Corporation and all its United States and Canadian subsidiaries would file for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code. The accounting irregularities included the corporate (mis)use of pension funds. The pension program of Huffy Corp is now run by the U.S. federal government, under the Pension Benefit Guarantee Program.
- Caroline Thompson (May 26, 2011). "The History of Huffy Bicycles". Demand Media. Retrieved 2012-01-15.
- "Company History". Huffy Corporation. 2011. Retrieved 2012-01-15.
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- Herlihy, David V. (2004). Bicycle, The History. Yale University Press. p. 327. ISBN 0-300-10418-9.
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- John Brain. "The Birth of the Factory Muscle Bike: 1963". "John T. Bill introduced the Penguin to their many So-Cal dealers on March 3rd 1963, at the open house of their new corporate facilities in Glendale, CA."
- William Hudson. "Myths and Milestones in Bicycle Evolution". "Leon Dixon of the National Bicycle History Archive of America notes: "This is a very serious myth. First, Schwinn merely copied the Huffy Penguin which existed BEFORE the Sting-Ray."
- "Evolution of the High Rise Bicycle 1963". Raleigh Ron's Classics. Retrieved 2012-01-16.
- "What's this new Huffy-of-California Bike Got that Others Haven't?". Life Magazine: 102. November 13, 1964.
- Liz Fried (August 1997). Schwinn Sting-Ray. Motorbooks International. ISBN 0-7603-0330-4.
- Todd Spinner (August 6, 2009). "In defense of Huffy". Smile Politely, Champaign-Urbana's independent online magazine. Retrieved 2012-01-15.
- The Bully Of Bentonville, by Anthony Bianco
- Sands, David R., Chinese Bikes Ruled No Threat To U.S. Makes, The Washington Times, 5 June 1996
- "Company News; Huffy Plans to Close 40-Year-Old Bicycle Factory". New York Times. May 29, 1998. Retrieved 2012-01-15.
- "Company News; Huffy to Stop Making Bicycles in United States". New York Times. September 28, 1999. Retrieved 2012-01-15.
- "Huffy Bicycles Into The Swinging Sixties And Beyond". Bicycle-and-Bikes.com. Retrieved 2012-01-15. "Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 30. St. James Press, 2000"
- "Company News; Huffy, Maker of Classic Bicycles, Files for Bankruptcy". New York Times. October 21, 2004. Retrieved 2012-01-15.
- Coverage of the John T.Bill warehouse opening of March 3, 1963 showing the first factory built High Rise bicycle "Huffy Penguin". "Bicycle Journal" April 1963.
- The Bully Of Bentonville, How The High Cost Of Wal Mart's Everyday Low Prices Is Hurting America, by Anthony Bianco