Taiwan’s unit exports of bicycles to North America during the first six months of 2008 rose by 19% to 386,671 bikes from 325,745 bikes in the same period a year earlier, according to statistics from the Taiwan Bicycle Exporters Association. By value, Taiwan’s bicycle exports to North America gained 20% to US$142.6 million from US$118.5 million in the same period a year ago.

The organization said in a statement that Taiwan is aiming for global industry leadership as consumers around the world embrace bicycles and other sustainable lifestyle choices. With gas prices soaring, cars are losing appeal for many environmentally-aware and budget-conscious American consumers.

“Around the world, consumers realize that by riding a bicycle instead of driving a car, they can not only improve their health, but also help to improve the environment,” said Jeffrey Sheu, spokesman for Taiwan’s Giant Manufacturing Co., the world’s largest bicycle maker. Giant will increase its branded stores outside the Greater China region to 100 by 2010, growing from 10 this year and two last year, the company said.

Taiwan, also known as the bicycle kingdom, is the leading exporter of high and medium-range bicycles. It is home to some of the world’s biggest bicycle manufacturers, which supply a wide array of finished bikes, components and accessories to the global market.

At the upcoming EUROBIKE 2008 show in Germany from September 4 to 7, executives of some of the world’s largest bicycle companies will preview the latest products and trends in the industry at the Taiwan Product Launch. Speakers include Director James Hu of Giant Manufacturing Co.; Senior Vice President of Marketing William Jeng at Merida Industry Co.; International Sales Manager Jeff Chen of Joy Industrial Co., a manufacturer of bicycle hubs; and Gary Liu, International Sales Manager of Maxxis International, one of the world’s largest tire manufacturers.

“The Made in Taiwan brand today represents the ultimate in quality bicycles,” said Mr. Y.C. Chao, President and CEO of TAITRA. “Our bicycle makers excel in new materials development and fabrication technologies, and continue to build and market innovative products for global consumption.”

In recent years, Taiwan’s bicycle exports have stabilized at around 5 million bikes annually after dropping from about 10 million annually during the early 1990s. While annual volumes have declined, the average price per bike doubled during the same period as the island’s manufacturers have aimed for high-end products such as mountain bikes and road bikes.

China is the world’s largest exporter of bicycles. Chinese bicycle manufacturers face growing pressures on their bottom line due to higher labor costs, higher government taxes and a strong currency against the U.S. dollar.