Exclusive Interview with KTM Reveals Plans for World Domination

Thomas KUttruf & Florin Tibu 1 photo
Photo: Florin Tibu
In a way, it has become a habit to drop by KTM's booth each year at EICMA and have a chat with its PR Manager, Mr. Thomas Kuttruf. This time we skipped coffee and went for a can of Red Bull, but still we talked a lot.
autoevolution: Hi Thomas, nice to meet you again. How's the show going?
Thomas Kuttruf: Hi there, for me it's actually a bit weird. I feel I've been here only four weeks ago. Time is flying and the speed of the industry increased. More innovation, better momentum, more models are arriving faster and faster in the last two years.

Globally, the situation for certain makers is better when it comes to dealing and developing motorcycles. The message is good for KTM, too. We are at the front of the wave, we are like a surfer riding the wave. For us it's the fifth consecutive year with record sales; the wave we're surfing is quite big.

This year brings an increase of almost 20% in both sales and revenue, so the number of bikes we sold and the turnover are bigger than in 2014. For the first time in the company's history, we will surpass the €1 billion ($1.057 bill) mark in turnover.

We never changed what we saw to be lucrative. We are constantly delivering new models and the main driving force of the company is still product development.

ae: This means that...
TK: We grew our business on so many levels. Physically, we added one floor to our R&D center! The last business year was dedicated to growing the company and adding to the existing ranges.

We introduced four new "campaigns" in 2015 and we have a line-up that works globally. What I told you last year is still true: success, for a motorcycle manufacturer these days, is to have the right products, at the right time, in the right place.

We play this "game" everywhere, in each of the markets we are present. We are not thinking about delivering a big adventure-touring bike only in Europe, or an 125cc bike in a certain country in South America. Seeing the big picture globally is important.

In a way, we are changing the way we look at the market. 2015 was probably the busiest year I ever had at KTM. I recently returned from Brazil, I was twice in Asia, twice in North America; we are not frozen in our "European cage" and just delivering bikes and sending shipments to the rest of the world. We are active!

ae: I remember Mr. Pierer (KTM CEO, red.) saying that the idea behind the company's strategy was to offer so many models that nobody could find an excuse not to own one.
TK: Yes, indeed, we are struggling to deliver the right products for all markets, both saturated and emerging ones. We are still learning a lot about how to act in certain markets, it's a journey that takes quite a lot of effort.

Imagine what entering a market like Brazil comes with. Each year, Brazil alone moves twice the number of bikes sold in Europe, so imagine you want to conquer this market on the dealer network side.

ae: You are only exporting to Brazil, or you have plans for a manufacturing plant there?
TK: Brazil is a very good example because it is almost like a fairytale. Two years ago, we decided to be really committed to this market. 18 months ago we opened our subsidiary and today we are having full-on sales. Even more, we already manufacture five models locally, plus the entire range available there.

You can go in a KTM shop in Sao Paolo or in Rio, and it looks like the one in Salzburg (an Austrian city, red.). The entire KTM product range is available there, with five models made in our plant in Manaus.

On the street side, we make there the 200 Duke and 390 Duke, the two main drivers of the business in emerging markets. We also make three off-road models in Brazil, both 2-stroke and 4-stroke bikes.

This scenario was only an illusion three years ago, but now we have both feet on the ground, and we are even winning races with bikes made in Brazil. They are truly "ready to race" as the slogan reads.

[QUOTE]We want to be the best on the track[/QUOTE]

ae: More manufacturers have taken bold steps into the unknown this year. You know, BMW, who started making small-displacement bikes, Ducati making cruisers like the new XDiavel. How does KTM stack up here? Have you ever considered making a bike that's "strange" compared to your traditional products, yet a part of the orange family?
TK: Talking as a KTM guy, the big step is going to MotoGP. The key motivation is to deliver bikes that perform well in the racing world so that we can deliver a bike we can sell, based on the MotoGP RC16. We are going to sell that bike to race teams!

ae: Only for track use, or in street-legal trim as well?
TK: You will never find an RC16 with a number plate. When the bike is ready, whenever will this be, we will only sell it for closed-course riding. Our aim is very high, because we want to offer the best of the best in the closed-course motorcycle racing market.

It is indeed a niche market, but we don't care. We don't intend to try and match street-legal superbikes on the road, so we're not that keen to make something that's not performance-driven.
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