KTM closed out 2012 with a nice little boost: The president of KTM North America, Jon-Erik Burleson, was named AMA Motorcyclist of the Year. (Don’t worry, Malcolm, your Motorcyclist of the Century title is safe.) Jon-Erik is son of enduro legend Dick Burleson.
The company’s year started with a strong boost in sales, up 36 percent in the first half compared with the previous year. That’s worldwide, and fueled by the success of the 200 Duke sold in India. Selling more than 50,000 motorcycles in just half a year is quite an achievement for a company the size of KTM.
KTM’s push for the near future centers on the revitalized 690 Duke introduced this year at EICMA and, of course, the 1190 Adventure that will appear here in the third quarter of 2013 as a ’14 model. KTM has chosen to further separate the street-oriented and true-ADV versions of the bike with the rework, which should help sales against the BMW R1200GS. Success here in the States will depend on sustaining the brand’s strengths off road but also expanding its street and dual-sport reach. Currently, the company lists just 61 dealers selling street-only models. Given success with the Duke and the 1190 Adventure, it’s easy to see KTM further expanding in the U.S.
Ten years ago, when its line consisted of little more than a decade-old superbike platform (the 749/999) and a range of air-cooled standards with bones dating back even further, no one would have predicted that today Ducati would be one of the most dynamic and technologically advanced brands in the motorcycle industry. More than anyone else, Ducati has invested heavily over the past decade in new products and new technology. Now that investment is paying off with more success than the firm has ever enjoyed before. By constantly updating is core superbikes and nakeds, and at the same time ruthlessly increasing marketshare with new and unexpected models like the Diavel and latest Multistrada—and now this year, filling micro-niches with the Diavel Strada touring cruiser and Hyperstrada commuting motard—Ducati has successfully transformed itself into a full-line OEM building some of the most sophisticated and desirable motorcycles on the market.
New product like last year’s 1199 Panigale S superbike, with its radical Superquadro V-twin, electronically adjustable Öhlins suspension, and ultra-light “frameless” chassis, is proof of the bold development path Ducati is blazing, and the positive result that action is having on Ducati’s bottom line. It’s cutting-edge in every way, more sophisticated than anything out of Japan and with build quality to match, and it’s also Ducati’s best selling superbike ever, with a record-breaking 7500 sold in 2012. What economic slowdown?
Much of the credit for Ducati’s recent success is due directly to the leadership of general manager Claudio Domenicali. His strong drive to push technological bounds with daring product like the Panigale, his vision for market expansion with bikes like the Diavel and Multistrada—you can only sell so many superbikes, after all—and his efforts to increase and improve production by opening factories in Thailand and Brazil, have led directly to the proliferation—and subsequent profitability—of the Ducati brand over the past few years. Credit also goes to Investindustrial Holdings, who took control of Ducati following the Texas Pacific Group in 2005. Investindustrial poured enormous resources into new product R&D and racing. For the first time in many years Ducati has been able to operate from a position of structural and organizational security, and it has thrived under those conditions.
Expect Ducati’s success to continue. Early in 2012, Investindustrial sold the Italian motorcycle maker to German auto giant Audi for a reported $1.12 billion. After decades of unstable ownership and itinerant product development and availability, Ducati is now on solid ground with even greater financial support and management stability. Other manufacturers—European or otherwise—have cause for concern.