Stefan Pierer exclusive interview: Part one
Last week saw the official opening of KTM/Husqvarna’s all-new headquarters in the UK, based at the world-famous Silverstone circuit. Cutting the ribbon was company owner and architect of KTM’s phenomenal rise to power, Stefan Pierer – and MCN was granted an exclusive interview to find out what’s next for the Austrian brand on road and track.
How broad can KTM’s road bike range get before it changes the firm’s identity?
Stefan Pierer: KTM could go through all different displacements in line with the brand concept – Ready to Race. It’s always about performance; it’s for the sporty rider. I wouldn’t say that KTM is limited, but we have to focus on our core content.
The new mid class is on the way, with the 800, and we will see a naked model first, the Duke – but this will be closely followed by an adventure bike, so the Africa Twin should be aware that a serious competitor is coming! And Husqvarna gifts us the possibility to target a slightly different customer with the new classic style of Svartpilen and Vitpilen, with upright seating positions and cool riding, and using state-of-the-art components.
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You have invested heavily in the rebirth of KTM since 1992 – will this continue?
SP: For sure. Last year was another record year, the fourth in a row, with revenues of more than a billion Euros. Investment was 100 million Euros in 2015, and this year it will be 130 million.
KTM and Husqvarna will use common engine platforms, so if you are investing in a new engine platform the you are essentially investing in both brands, and then separating them through the chassis and design – but I would say that two thirds of the product development budget goes to KTM, and a third to Husqvarna.
The new MotoGP project is another huge investment – is that intended to drive road-bike development?
SP: Yes. So we are number one in Europe, but my vision is to overtake Kawasaki and Suzuki in the next five or six years, and that means to get perceived as a full-range sportsbike manufacturer, and to do that you must go racing at the top level.
And this will lead to a new sportsbike to replace RC8?
SP: Yes, we will replace RC8, we will also offer the RC16 as a closed-course version, because we are 100% convinced that a superbike with 250 or 270bhp is more or less a weapon, it doesn’t have to be this for public roads.
Were you personally involved in bringing Bradley Smith into the project?
SP: Yes, I’m in charge of racing, but Pit [Beirer, Motorsport Director] is doing a great job, and makes a lot of decisions, but we are talking all the time. Bradley was one of our favourites from the beginning, and fortunately it worked out, so we are very happy.
He is still a very young rider, he is an intelligent rider, his personality is positively perceived, he is a hard worker – so that fits very well with the project and with KTM.
We are expecting two new Husqvarna road bikes for 2017, but how fast will the rest of the range develop?
SP: Within the next three years the dealers will get a very nice range. The 701 is closely following [the 125 and 390-engined roadsters expected for 2017], and then the Svartpilen, which is a sort of Scrambler type of bike. There are some rumours that we are already working on a big power cruiser based on a Husqvarna concept, too
How many more KTM and Husqvarna models will be built in India?
SP: In India we are focusing on the small displacements – 125cc up to 400cc, single-cylinder bikes, and the Husqvarna Svartpilen and Vitpilen will also be done in India with Bajaj – because it’s the platform, and it just makes sense to build them there.