Exclusive: Piaggio boss chats to MCN
01 December 2006 14:13
Two years ago Piaggio UK’s Managing Director, Tony Campbell, was racing against Dani Pedrosa. Here he gives MCN his first press interview.
The Piaggio Group’s ambitions for global domination and the host of iconic Italian marques under its wings make it one of the most exciting brands in the bike world.
As the new Piaggio MP3 (three wheeled scooter) is launched we went to find out what Campbell’s biking credentials are and where he sees the Piaggio group in the UK market.
MCN: What’s your biking background?
TC: When I was 16 I bought a Yamaha FS1E and have never looked back. Since then I’ve owned a Yamaha RD350LC, a Honda NC30, a Kawasaki ZX-7R, an Aprilia RSV-Mille and a Suzuki GSX-R1000. However, it wasn’t until I was 34-years-old that I started to take my racing career seriously.
MCN: Were you a successful bike racer?
TC: Two years ago I raced against Dani Pedrosa at the British GP at Donington Park. However, the highlight of my career was out braking Alex De Angelis coming into the Foggy Esses.
I’ve had to give up racing because I’m just too busy and it’s impossible to juggle both balls. As the UK boss of Piaggio I’m sure I could phone up head-office in Italy to sort me out a few laps on an Aprilia 250cc GP bike but I’m trying not to get bitten by the racing bug again.
MCN: So are you the fastest bike boss in the world?
TC: Most definitely – all the other bike managers are puppies. Mark Davies (Manager of Honda UK) is good on a dirt bike but I’d happily lay down the gauntlet on a sports bike.
MCN: Can you help get us a British champion in Moto GP?
TC: Next year we are supporting the ACU Motostar Cup by supplying an all-in-one package to help young riders get into the sport. Together with the ACU we have developed a low-cost proposition which gives riders a fully-prepared Derbi GPR 125RR race bike, full training, entry fees for the season as well as tyres and lubricants.
This will not only help to promote the Derbi brand in the UK it will also help us to get a lot more young riders into the sport, something we desperately need if we're going to get a top British rider into MotoGP.
MCN: Are you concerned about the rise of cheap Chinese imports in 50cc and 125cc market?
TC: The impact has definitely been felt but the UK consumer is brand aware and sceptical. I think the 50cc market is where the real fight will be with Internet sites offering incredible bargains.
We’re lucky to have a cult brand like Vespa which will always be in demand and hold its value. Vespa is the Harley-Davidson of the scooter world. If any brand was immune from Chinese imitation scooters it’s Vespa.
However, we are doing something to counteract the threat. For example, the Piaggio Zip is £300 cheaper this year to make it more competitive.
However, I’ll tell you now – there will be no supermarket style price war with the Chinese.
MCN: Will there be more unity with the various brands under the Piaggio umbrella?
TC: Within the next three years you will see Piaggio dealers in the same way that you see Honda dealers.
Under the same roof will be scooters from Vespa, Gilera and Piaggio and motorbikes from Derbi, Aprilia and Moto Guzzi. Piaggio has a range that rivals the Japanese manufacturers.
MCN: Any plans to revive the Laverda brand?
TC: I grew up lusting after a Laverda Jota so I’d love to see them make a return. However, I can confirm there are currently no plans to revive the marque.