5 Minutes with...  Polisport’s Pedro Araújo

5 Minutes With... Polisport’s Pedro Araújo

June 24, 2013 2:30pm
I recently spent a few days in Portugal checking out the operations of plastics company Polisport, and I had a chance to sit down with company founder Pedro Araújo to talk shop. Pedro is an extremely passionate enthusiast of the sport who was able to turn that passion into a successful business. They make most of their products in their own factories right there in Carregosa, and despite an ever-increasing line, there’s one thing that everything they make has in common: it’s all made of plastic. Meet Mr. Pedro Araújo.

Racer X: How did Polisport get started?
Pedro Araújo:
I started the company more than 30 years ago for one reason: I was at the time racing motocross, and at that time in Portugal no one was producing plastic parts for motorcycles. I was at the time 19, so I was very, very young. I was still studying and I started the company. Very, very small company at that time. It was my beginning. I began producing first front fenders, rear fenders, and hand guards. They were the first parts that we produced in Polisport.

How did you shape them the first time? How did you make your first molds?
The first molds we developed according to our experience because, as I told you, I was riding motocross, and I tried to figure out what were the best parts to produce and the best shape to develop. First we made prototypes in glass fiber, then we started the molds in steel to produce the plastic parts.

Polisport headquarters in Carregosa, Portugal.
Bryan Stealey photo

Did you plan on making this into a big company?
No, in the beginning it was a very, very small company. It was completely impossible for me to realize that the company would grow as it is now. But later, a few years ago, I understood that because every year we were increasing our sales, and then we start exporting to outside Portugal. And at that time I understood that the company could be a very, not a huge company, like it is now, but it could be much bigger than it was at that time.

What was motocross in Portugal like when you first started Polisport?
At that time, motocross in Portugal, it was very funny because most parts of the races were with 50cc motorcycles. Do you remember, I don’t know if it is common for you, the name Gazelle? Gazelle was a Portuguese manufacturer of mopeds and motorcycles. And these kinds of mopeds, they were very famous in Portugal. And we start developing products for this kind of motorcycle.

The drawing board...literally.
Bryan Stealey photo

Who were your motocross heroes in those days? The guys you looked up to the most and knew about on a world scale?
At that time it was Roger DeCoster, as you know. Also Hakan Carlqvist and Eric Geboers. And you know, it was very interesting for me because later on through my business activity, I have had the opportunity to know all these people. That’s been good for me, because at that time, having access to talk to Roger DeCoster was very difficult.

When did you first come to the United States? When did you first start shipping products here?
The first time that I’d been in the United States it was to go to the Cincinnati dealer trade show around ’90. It was the first time that I had been in America to sell our products.

And you've been back every year since?
Yes, since that time, every year at least one time. But usually I’m going to U.S. two times a year. Normally two times, sometimes three times, but two times is usual.

undefinedPolisport tests rigorously in house, putting their plastic through the ringer before it ever sees the light of day.
Bryan Stealey photo

What do you think it is that sets Polisport apart from other companies who make motorcycle plastic? What’s different about what you guys do?
At Polisport, we only produce plastic parts. You know that our biggest competitors, they have other ranges of products, like clothing, helmets, and this kind of stuff. We are 100 percent dedicated on the production of plastic parts. You have seen our machines, our techniques to produce the parts, and you’ve seen that we have a lot of people working to develop the products.

We also have IPD [which is a process of fusing graphics inside the plastic so they won’t peel off]. Do you know that we supply companies like KTM and other companies with this technology? Now it is very important for Polisport, and it makes the difference with our competitors because they don’t have this kind of technology. We are an expert in plastics. Quite often a lot of people ask us, “Why don’t you have any other products?” No, we know plastics. We know the techniques. We want to concentrate on the plastics field.

Sales Manager Paulo Freitas checks out another test subject in the quality-control lab.
Bryan Stealey photo

So you have a motorcycle background. You raced motocross. You started the company founded on motocross. How did Polisport start making children’s bicycle seats? I know that business has become very big for you in Europe.
We started on the bicycles because we understood that there is a special need concerning baby seats on the market. And at that time we had a client in France who was working with Polisport, buying motorcycle products, and he discussed with us the possibility to produce baby seats. And we have understood that it was an opportunity to begin to have a wide range of products, and we decided to start producing the bicycle parts. Bicycle parts and motorcycle plastic parts, they’re both two-wheel products. Our first model baby seat was a very big success on the market. This gave us motivation to increase the line and to go to different areas of plastic parts for bicycles. So this was the reason we started. I also ride bicycles, and I like them very much. It’s my passion also.

How involved are you in racing on a global scale? Do you still get to watch it on TV and follow it?
We have teams that we are sponsoring in Europe, different teams. We have also the cooperation with GNCC racing in America. That’s very important, because GNCC is very famous in America. And the number of riders, this is a very important point, the number of riders that are involved with GNCC races is very, very big. It’s really amazing. In Europe we don’t have this number of riders involved in this kind of racing. This kind of cooperation with the races, with motocross and off-road, is very important because it helps us promote and test our products. There are many improvements that we’ve incorporated into our products that come from the races. We are always in contact with our teams, the teams that we support, in order to get all the feedback in terms of improvements for the products. This is very important. And also the visibility and the exposure of the races is a very important point for our business. The people, as you know, the clients, they buy what they see on the motocross riders. This is a very important thing. So we need to take advantage of exposure that they have.

A sneak peek at Polisport's new packaging.
Bryan Stealey photo

What do you feel is next in the United States for Polisport?
I believe that on the U.S. market we can grow. We have room enough to grow. Every year we feel that our clients, they are more and more open to increase and to develop the business with Polisport. Every year we are giving a lot of attention to this market. Every year we are at the Indy show, we are visiting clients, all the clients at least two times a year, sometimes three. We understand that in America it’s very important to have this kind of a relation.

What I want to tell the American customers is that, for this year, we are preparing a very big range of new products that will be presented at the end of the year, beginning at the next trade show in America next year. They are very innovative products. I’m convinced that the American clients will enjoy a lot the new products that we are developing. We have a lot of new ideas and we want to have a wide range of products. So next year they will see for sure.

Fresh off the assembly line: KTM plastic, featuring Polisport's IPD technology. Say goodbye to peeling graphics.
Bryan Stealey photo

And people can see your full range of products at Polisport.com, correct?
Yes. Another important point, we are going to have very soon, around the end of the year, a new website. A very exciting new website that will be completely different, with many different features.

Polisport products are available at your local dealerships and through mail-order companies across the globe.