Derbi leaving Spain

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In its annual report released today, Piaggio states that it plans to close Derbi’s historic factory in Barcelona, transferring production to Piaggio’s Italian operations. The move comes just two months after Yamaha closed its Spanish factory too. All this is very bad news for the Spanish motorcycle industry and Spanish workers. The country currently has 21 percent unemployment and suppliers like Showa Spain will now have no clients for their products.

In the report, Piaggio states:

“At the meeting the Piaggio Board of Directors approved plans to restructure current production operations in Spain at the Martorelles factory (Barcelona) of the subsidiary Nacional Motor S.A.U.. The project provides for production operations to be transferred to the Piaggio Group’s Italian factories. In addition to rationalising the Group production network in Europe, guaranteeing greater efficiency and productivity, the move will strengthen the competitiveness of Derbi vehicles to support the growth of the Spanish brand’s market share.”

The Mulhacen is a 659cc single-cylinder street tracker. Utterly unique, of the moment and desirable. Presence within a larger brand would help this thing sell.

Spanish unions are fighting the move. According to them they have an agreement with Piaggio which guarantees employment for the remainder of the year. The Catalan government appears to agree, with politicians understandably taking the side of their constituents. However, such a case could, at best, hope only to delay the move.

Note the GPR’s frame, brakes, suspension and other components. You’ll see them on the US-bound Aprilia RS4 125 later this year.

Michael Uhlarik, who used to run a design studio in Spain, provides some context, “Derbi is a historic brand, having formed after the Spanish civil war as a producer of bicycles in 1939.  Over the years, it became known as a manufacturer of fast, small displacement motorcycles, winning numerous Grand Prix world championships in the 50 and 125cc classes, most recently in 2008.  The company was bought by the Piaggio Group in 2008, and rejuvenated with high quality, design-focused 125 and 250cc street bikes, including the Senda line, Mulhacen and GPR.”

The Senda is a 125cc supermoto or dual sport. Nice-looking, ain’t it? Euro teens go crazy for bikes like this.

Derbi produced 19,000 scooters and motorcycles last year, most of which were simply re-badged and re-designed Aprilia or Piaggio models. The three notable exceptions were the GPR, Senda and Mulhacen, as Michael notes above. The usual flow of product re-designes was reversed last year when Aprilia showed the RS4 125, which is actually a Derbi GPR under the RSV4-alike bodywork. Without a strong brand presence outside of Spain, could we see the Senda and Mulhacen re-badged too?

Sources: Piaggio, El Pais, La Vanguardia

  • andehans

    A shame. I really like Derbi’s profile and the Mulhacén is a very cool little bike. With regards to Spain I wonder what will happen with SEAT. Their future is looking shaky as well.

  • Ross

    The Mulhacén is amazing. Even though I know in my heart that a modern take on scrambler/tracker styling cues won’t sell well, it would sell to me.

  • marshallhaas

    I wish we could get more of these small bikes here. The 125-250 supermotos and sport bikes are so much fun.

  • HammSammich

    I think I’m in love with the Mulhacen, but forgive my ignorance…if it’s a thumper, are the “twin” headers just a design element? At a glance I would’ve assumed it was a small displacement parallel twin…

    • stickfigure

      The (2007 and prior) KTM LC4 has two headers as well. Must be one for each exhaust valve.

      Until this article I had no idea these motorcycles existed. That Mulhacén is one sexy beasty.

    • bluegrass

      That is an interesting design choice, giving each exhaust valve its own port. I guess that helps optimize flow on the exhaust side? And you could get away with it because its only a single cylinder. I would have assumed a twin as well considering how wide it looks in the photo. That cylinder head is just massive.

      • HammSammich

        Thanks Stickfigure and Bluegrass…it hadn’t occurred to me that they would have separate ports for each valve, but that makes perfect sense. Either way, it’s a great looking bike, and I bet it would be a blast to ride around town and even out on logging roads and other mild off-road terrain. Maybe we’ll see an Aprilia iteration in the US someday.

        • michael uhlarik

          The Mulhacen uses a Yamaha 660cc liquid cooled engine, made in Italy. It is the same plant that powers the Yamaha XT660, Mt-03, Aprilia Pegaso and a few others.

          The motor is a four valve, with separate exhaust headers for two of them. Once upon a time, there was a “super XT” motor with the five valve Genesis head too …


  • Daniel

    This are such bad news :(

    • Daniel

      The first bike i rode was a 30yo Derbi… i was in a friend’s house near a village in the mountains and his uncle gave the bike to him, and taught us both how to ride it.

      I was like 15yo and for me such things as a clutch and a gear lever were totally unknown…also the braking was a total mess, as i was used to the brakes on my mountain bike, and i always pulled the clutch when braking…

      So, in the end we learned more or less how to operate a geared motorbike with road tires on dirt/gravel tracks arround the village…it was an epic weekend :)

  • Ricardo

    There produce also the Mulhacen 125 cc,a cool and affordable bike… they got also some interesting concept bikes..

    It’s a shame this factory will close, and probably the brand will disappear too.
    They already won the constructors 125cc Championship in MotoGp in 2010 with Marc Marquez.

    And the model line up here:
    Check the racing heritage here: