It had been quite a while since I last rode a multi-cylinder KTM on a racetrack – all the way back to 2011 and the Red Bull-sponsored factory RC8R 1200cc V-twin on which Martin Bauer was victorious in that year’s IDM German Superbike Championship, with teammate Stefan Nebel third. That was a key moment in the Austrian dirtbike specialist’s climb up the ladder to equal status with the likes of Honda and Ducati in the road racing pantheon, and showed that orange was a color to be reckoned with on-road as well as off it.
Alan Cathcart’s conversation with Stefan Pierer continues, as the PIERER Mobility president and chief executive officer discusses his motorcycle brands (namely, KTM, Husqvarna and GasGas), and some of their competition. This includes MV Agusta, of which PIERER gained a stake in 2022. —ED.
As the Coronavirus pandemic gradually disappears in the rear view mirror of history, in its aftermath the global motorcycle industry continues to experience rapid and sustained growth. Leading this charge among European companies is the KTM Group, whose parent company PIERER Mobility AG finished 2022 on a continued high, after a 12th successive record year which saw sales of its three current brands KTM, Husqvarna, and GASGAS continue spiralling upwards to 375,452 motorcycles in 2022, an increase of 13% compared with the previous year’s 332,881 units. Of those, 268,575 of these motorcycles carried the KTM badge, 75,266 were Husqvarnas and 31,651 were GASGAS motorcycles, a sales volume of 375,492 motorcycles. Add to that the 118,465 pedal cycles and E-bicycles sold in the same period under its Husqvarna, GASGAS, Felt and R Raymon labels (up 15% compared to 2022’s 102,753 bikes), and the company’s overall revenues increased to EUR 2.437 billion in 2022, up 19% year-on-year.
Just over four years ago, Italian trophy marque Moto Morini narrowly avoided joining the many other defunct brands from all our two-wheeled yesterdays already deposited in motorcycling history’s trash bin. But in October 2018 Chen Huaneng, the owner of Chinese scooter and minimoto manufacturer Zhongneng Vehicle Group, saved it from extinction by acquiring 100% ownership of Moto Morini from the previous Italian owner.
The man with overall responsibility for creating Royal Enfield’s first twin-cylinder modern-era cruiser is New Jersey native Adrian Sellers, 42, who after a four-year stint with Honda R&D in Italy and, before that, nine years at Yamaha’s Design Laboratory in Los Angeles, was appointed the Indian company’s Head of Custom and Motorsport in 2016, based at its UK Technology Centre at Bruntingthorpe. Let’s leave it to him to tell us how the ground-breaking Super Meteor 650 came about.
Five years on from the 2018 launch of its first ever twin-cylinder models to be made in India, since when over 400,000 examples of the Interceptor 650 and Continental GT 650 have been sold around the world, Royal Enfield has now added the first of a much-anticipated series of spinoff models to its range.
It was the talk of last week’s 2022 EICMA Show: MV Agusta, Italy’s most prestigious and historic manufacturer, winner to date of 270 Grand Prix races, 38 World Riders’ Championships, and 37 World Constructors’ Championships, had supposedly been acquired by KTM. Stefan Pierer, the most powerful man in European motorcycling, had captured his most iconic trophy brand yet, to add to his roster of Euro-marques including KTM, Husqvarna and GasGas. Indeed, according to one supposedly authoritative source, he’d be sealing the takeover deal with MV’s current owner, Russian entrepreneur Timur Sardarov, on the Thursday before the Valencia GP, November 3. This would permit him to announce at the final race of the 2022 season that MV Agusta would be returning to MotoGP racing in 2023 – albeit as a KTM subsidiary.
These days, any manufacturer with pretensions to being a global player at whatever level in the marketplace has to have a dual-purpose Adventure model in its range, and MV Agusta is no exception. Italy’s most historic trophy brand – the so-called Ferrari of motorcycles, with 270 Grand Prix road racing victories and 75 World Championship titles in its locker, including 17 successive 500GP crowns – actually has a notable off-road heritage, too. Company founder Count Domenico Agusta’s dirt demons won successive Italian MX/Enduro titles in the 1950s and ’60s, as well as equipping the Italian team in ISDT events abroad. But after the Castiglioni family acquired MV 30 years ago, their focus for the brand was exclusively on the hard stuff – a focus which the company’s current owner Timur Sardarov is now in the process of changing.
Kawasaki’s November 2019 acquisition of a 49.9% shareholding in Bimota has brought the Italian boutique manufacturer back from oblivion, to the point that despite a slowdown caused by component supply issues, it’s now constructed all 250 examples of the its limited edition kickoff model unveiled at the 2020 EICMA Milan Show, the supercharged hub-centre Tesi H2 now being shipped to its dealers around the world – but mainly in Japan. As Bimota’s strapline for the bike succinctly puts it – “The Revolution Continues!”