Car video reviews:

Why MV Agusta's Small-Displacement Bikes May Have a Future

MV Agusta makes high-tech, good-looking, expensive sport bikes. The Italian manufacturer has been doing them since forever, and has established itself as one of the rather small but important houses in the industry.
However, selling premium motorcycles for big bucks is not always the best way to obtain a sustained growth, and it's been more than once when such companies ran into trouble. The luckiest and strongest of them endured, but others didn't.

Obviously, the first example of the latter category is Erik Buell Racing, a manufacturer of cool bikes, altogether, but which has not made it, regardless of how much the customers esteemed their bikes.

Unlike other historic makers, MV Agusta's early motorcycle days were in 1945, which makes it a rather young brand, at least in comparison with others. Still, Meccanica Verghera Agusta managed to stay afloat even in the darkest of times.

After changing hands a lot and finding a steady path of development under the Castiglioni family ownership, the most recent step up represented selling a 25% minority to Mercedes/Daimler/AMG.

Even before this took place, MV Agusta had plans to expand their line-up, and their determination most likely helped convince Mercedes to fork out the money. With more models available, the Italians were able to meet the needs of more customers, and this reflected in the 30 percent growth in 2015.

Still being a hefty percentage short from the estimations for the last year, with over 9,000 units sold from a total of 12,000, MV Agusta is charging ahead. At least six new MV Agusta models are expected to surface in 2016, and this only adds more weight to a wild guess: what about smaller-displacement bikes?Smaller, cheaper bikes proved to be a godsend for the industry
If anything, this entire piece is a wild supposition. If you wish, it is a speculative exploration of the future, but based on observing what happens with other manufacturers.

Naturally, it's about Ducati, BMW, and the biggest European brand, KTM. MV Agusta cannot even dream of rivaling these three in terms of unit sales, especially considering that even Ducati went past the 54,000 bikes sold last year.

However, MV Agusta has a lot to learn from these three makers, and maybe something good could come out of this. Even though a 400cc MV Agusta may sound a bit crazy now for people who are waiting for the new F4, it may appear as a godsend to the new or returning rider.

Be it an F or a small Brutale, the bike or, why not - bikes - would most likely look flawless, retaining the design cues of the bigger machines and the iconic graphics. Even more, MV Agusta could use the bigger machines as inspiration for creating the design of the smaller one, just like BMW injected S1000R DNA in their G310R and are about to reap the rewards.

I am tempted to use the "fact is" introduction, but I remembered we're in "maybe" territory. Anyway, if BMW and Ducati made it stick, the same could work for MV Agusta. I am positive that Schiranna's legendary heritage won't suffer from such a move.

Instead, in case the small-displacement bikes become real and help moving the company further, they will add to the prestige of this historic manufacturer, proving that the brand is not stuck in a conservative past that ignores anything that's not WSBK-grade material.

And because MV Agusta also mentioned something about MotoGP in the future, having youngsters aboard Schiranna machinery would also be a smart move.Partnering with makers in the emerging markets
I put KTM on the list because the Austrian maker seems to be the trendsetter in this segment. KTM's presence in the huge Indian market and in other emerging economies mandates manufacturing more affordable bikes which retain the overall character of any Mattighofen machine.

It's no secret that KTM sells immense amounts of such bikes worldwide, including Europe, and they add a significant chunk to the final revenue and profit figures. KTM CEO Stefan Pierer once declared that the big plan was to make so many different bikes that finding an excuse not to buy one would become hard.

BMW Motorrad and Ducati understood that manufacturing smaller motorcycles that can be sold for more affordable prices will allow entry in markets that were, at that time, insignificant for them.

It's easy to engineer and manufacture a bike that people would fall in love with, but convincing them to buy it is a different thing, altogether. And when it comes to economies that are not as rich as those in Western Europe, the difference between a €13,000 bike and a €5,000 (or cheaper) one is much bigger than simple arithmetics.

BMW made the boldest step and, for the first time in the 9-decade history of Motorrad, a small-displacement machine was conceived. The BMW G310R is a 313cc motorcycle, a thing that was probably impossible to conceive five years ago.

The Germans teamed up with TVS, like KTM did with Bajaj, and are getting ready to sell large volumes around the world, which I believe they will, too. The G310R will also serve as a platform for more bikes, and machines derived from it will arrive, too. So don't be surprised if you hear about bikes such as G310RR or G310GS...Keeping everything in-house
On the other hand, Ducati, under the Audi umbrella, opted for keeping everything in their yard. Their small-displacement Scrambler builds on a platform used earlier in a Monster motorcycle and is set to become as successful as the new 803cc Scrambler.

When Borgo Panigale thought to deliver a more accessible bike that would appeal to other people than those interested in high-performance superbikes, little did they know that the Scrambler was a hidden treasure.

The bike quickly climbed at the top of the sales charts and became the best-selling motorcycle in Italy, driving Ducati's sales to record figures. Almost one in three Ducati sold worldwide is a Scrambler and the almost magical allure of the Scrambler will perhaps be bestowed upon its smaller sibling.

Having the famous Ducati heritage and blazon available at an affordable price is a good recipe for making people pay, and I am looking forward to seeing how the 399cc Scrambler Sixty2 will fare after hitting the market.

Of course, the marketing specialists and their estimations play the lead role in making a call regarding small-displacement machines, but this segment simply has a ton of money that's waiting to be dug out.


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories