German motorcycle association sits astride a powerful business

Munich. The German Association of Motorcyclists, Deutsche Motorradfahrer-Vereinigung (ADAC), founded by 25 motorcyclists in Stuttgart 100 years ago, has grown into an economically powerful lobby with 14.7 million members.

The largest such club in Europe, the ADAC advertises itself as the "yellow angels" who provide "help, protection and advice" around the clock. ADAC president Peter Meyer stresses that the club remains a mutual association. Critics, however, say that behind the idealistic word "association" hides what SPD state minister Hans Martin Bury once described as a "well organized service provider with a clear economic orientation."

There is hardly a travel-related service that the ADAC doesn't provide, including roadside assistance, holidays, books, insurance and letters of safe-conduct. Its commercial arm ADAC Beteiligungs- und Wirtschaftsdienst GmbH has 35 subsidiaries which in 2001 had a turnover of approximately 730 million euros, while in the same year the ADAC and its 18 regional clubs received membership fees worth merely 484 millions euros. The largest money earner is ADAC Schutzbrief Versicherungs AG, which provides letters of safe-conduct insurance. It received premiums of 288 million euros and an annual net profit of 21.9 million euros. On top of that, the ADAC owns property estimated to be worth a few hundred million.

However, the general economic slowdown has affected the ADAC. Its total turnover fell to 710 million euros in 2002. Its publishing company was particularly hard hit, with lower book sales and fewer pages of advertising.

ADAC so far has not had a return on investment on its telematics activities, which is why ADAC Telematikdienste GmbH was dissolved and the remaining business integrated into ADAC Service GmbH.

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