Peloton Strides Boldly on Treadmill

Thom Weidlich 04.22.21


Peloton, maker of sleek and expensive stationary bikes, finds itself in a sweaty position over another of its products, its sleek and expensive treadmill. The company is taking a strong stance, which, while a tough call in this instance, is probably a mistake.

On Saturday, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a press release warning people with children or pets at home to stop using the Tread+ machine. The government agency said it was aware of 39 accidents, including one resulting in a child’s death, related to the product. The agency also called on the company to recall the treadmill, according to Consumer Reports.

Peloton responded the same day with its own lengthy press release in which it called the government bulletin “inaccurate and misleading.” It said that, as long as safety guidelines are followed, “there is no reason to stop using the Tread+.” Those guidelines include keeping children and pets away from the $4,300 machine (pictured).

The company mentioned that it had informed the CPSC last month when it learned of the child’s death. Peloton CEO John Foley also issued a statement at that time that garnered wide coverage.

Stock Drop

The conflict is having some effects. Wall Street Journal reporter Sharon Terlep noted the rarity of “public clashes with the CPSC.” Peloton’s stock dropped more than 7 percent Monday and another 6 percent yesterday; investor lawyers are already circling. Also Monday, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat who chairs a consumer-protection subcommittee, said the company should recall the Tread+ (CEO Foley said it would not do that). 

Peloton finds itself confronted with a fight-or-flight situation. It’s chosen to fight. In its April 17 release, the company — clearly miffed — went after the CPSC, saying it was disappointed the agency decided to speak out on its own rather than cooperate with the company, which it had offered to do, it said.

The problem is that many people will view Peloton as being insensitive concerning a serious crisis that includes a child’s death. A consumer backlash wouldn’t be unheard of. William Wallace, Consumer Reports’ manager of safety policy, said the company’s response was “outrageous” and that it “should put safety first.”

Peloton’s position is: It’s not the product — you’re using it wrong. It may believe that, but it comes off as too defensive. It would be better to hit the “cool down” button on the Tread+ — to pause the product until the situation is dealt with. We wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up doing that.

Photo Credit: Peloton

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