In 2018, Swiss e-scooter brand VMAX did something rather bold. It built its own factory after being in business for just three years.
The reason for starting a wholly owned production facility in Yongkang, Zhejiang Province, China, was twofold. First, to ensure the business is operating to the highest standards for quality and workers rights, and second so that it could control every component that goes into its e-scooters to deliver on customer expectations for a Swiss-grade quality product.
Yongkang has established itself as a centre for production excellence for some time now, with a wide variety of electric tools, appliances and vehicles produced there from impact drills to e-bikes and more.
However, VMAX understood that ensuring quality and maintaining a focus on production should not come at the expense of the well-being of the employees who are instrumental in turning that vision into reality.
Dedicated to e-quality
VMAX CEO and Co-Founder Dany Dätwiler says himself that the business did experience varying build qualities when sourcing from a third-party supplier in the company’s early days back in 2015, and had heard about questionable working conditions in other factories before making the decision to take direct control of e-scooter production and standards.
The Yongkang factory is ISO/IEC 17025 and amfori BSCI Code of Conduct certified, which has helped VMAX to create a formal plan to review the standards it’s putting in place as well as to continuously monitor, make improvements and hold itself accountable.
The amfori code reviews the business across 13 areas including worker protection, fair remuneration, occupational health, and safety. VMAX, for example, pays higher salaries than other factories in the area.
Employees at the factory are individually interviewed about these topics each year as part of the audit to maintain VMAX’s certification.
The ISO code also ensures VMAX’s development facilities are testing and calibrating products competently for the markets it is exporting to. The audits and interviews help VMAX pinpoint areas where the company can do better and make further improvements.
VMAX USA’s Chief Operating Officer Yoav Dreifuss tells Zag Daily: “It was really important for us to make sure that we’re building products and operating in a way that reflects our company culture and values. Operating our own facility directly and in a socially responsible manner is an important part of how we’re able to deliver state-of-the-art products like the award-winning VX2 Pro E-Scooter.”
VMAX hires the majority of its employees from the same city the factory is located in which means that the average commute time is between just five to 30 minutes. This has the additional knock on effect of improving the environment as staff aren’t having to travel long commute times, while as Dreifuss explains, it also means there is a better social quality of life, with employees able to visit family and friends in the evenings and weekends.
He adds: “It means our teams are integrated as part of the community in the city. This, combined with our efforts to provide good working conditions and create a positive atmosphere, leads to a very low fluctuation rate.
“Our employees stay with us for many years which in turn allows us to retain talent with excellent knowledge of our products. This lets us guarantee consistently high quality standards.”
Another way VMAX is keeping a close eye on how it operates is by having Chinese-born and raised Co-Founder Johann Fang running VMAX’s operations in Yongkang. He works closely with the wider VMAX executive team and was previously global quality management director for a sizable power tool company. This has helped to meet expectations and standards for exporting to markets in Europe and North America.
Gearing up for global expansion
Having these standards in place has been particularly important for VMAX, which has gone from being a smaller player in the European e-scooter market to a global brand producing e-scooters in sufficient numbers to export across global international markets, including the US and Canada where it launched in 2023.
VMAX now has six e-scooter models on the market for its North American customer base, four of them come in three different battery sizes, each offering a different range. Prices start at £400 and reach £1,300 for the most premium race e-scooter. All of them are built with an expected lifetime value.
VMAX has already received UL 2272 certifications (tested by SGS) for nearly all of its models. UL 2272 is the golden standard in the US for lithium-ion battery safety standards. It gives consumers the peace of mind that their e-mobility device and especially its battery are safe. Battery fires have made a lot of headlines in the last year, and in New York UL certification is now mandatory.
Built to last
VMAX’s entire 14 e-scooter product range comes with a two-year warranty, but Dreifuss says the latest products have been designed to be used “way beyond that”.
The firm is still repairing and offering replacement parts for scooters from several years ago.
“Our vision is to build products that are built to last. What doesn’t make sense is to build an electric scooter that falls apart after six months and make the consumer buy a new one.”
The micromobility industry is all too aware that the batteries powering zero emissions transport can also cause environmental strain.
While VMAX’s e-scooter batteries are built to last for years, when they do eventually need to be disposed of they can be used for long-term storage solutions for solar energy plants or server systems.
Dreifuss says: “We are making an effort to pass on our battery cells to sustainable battery second life projects whenever possible before disposal, offering suitable companies the opportunity to pick up our used battery cells free of charge.
“This is one of our corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects for 2024 and it’ll give many battery cells a second life beyond the e-scooter.”
In 2024, VMAX is also aiming to continue building on its partnership with Greenspark, which started in June 2022, to help off-set the company’s CO2 emissions. VMAX donates part of its revenue to Greenspark to help fund sustainability projects like planting trees and removing plastic from the oceans. In the last six months, VMAX has helped to plant over 3,000 trees and offset nearly 100 tonnes of CO2.
Dreifuss adds: “As we have been scaling up to start launching in more international markets we have been looking for an organisation that meets our standards and represents our values and that is Greenspark. It’s so important to make sure that as we’re building the scale of the business in the years to come, we’re taking responsibility for the planet and the resources that we are using to manufacture our products.”
While VMAX’s US warehouse is located in Los Angeles, it has partnered with reputable repair partners across North America to minimise the distance that e-scooters need to be shipped if there’s a repair and to offer fast local support to customers.
“Our customers in Europe, the US and Canada rightly have high expectations and we’ve set the business up to deliver on our pledge of e-quality as we continue to expand and innovate in the future.”, he concludes.