Italy: the world’s favourite motorcycle brand

Dailies -


Italy is facing crisis. In the news almost daily, the dire economic situation of the world’s 8th largest economy is crushing the country. There is talk of default, of exiting the Euro and the government of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi survives by a thread with political instability the new normal. Violent riots in Rome, the collapse of consumer financing options and a domestic scooter market in free fall add to the malaise, making selling exotic motorcycles seem like an anathema. Almost symbolically, Italy’s great motorcycle racing hero Valentino Rossi now riding for Ducati, has failed spectacularly to fulfill the collective dream of winning a Grand Prix world championship on an Italian bike. It is not all bad news, though.

With EICMA, Italy’s famous international motorcycle industry event less than a month away, everyone in the powered two wheel sector is anxiously preparing for the future. As the leading trade show in the business, brands, marketeers, engineers and distributors will be looking for novelty, confidence and opportunities among the world’s leading OEMs. Of all the companies that turn out in Milan each year to present their wares, none are more anticipated than the local Italian brands. In the motorcycle universe, names like Aprilia, BimotaMV Agusta, Moto-Guzzi, and Vespa have come to mean all that is desirable to a western public largely attracted by the motorcycle’s promise of escapism. Each year, they come and put on a show filled with exotic machinery, bold promises, motorcycle celebrities and beautiful models designed to wow the industry and public alike, assuage investors and excite motorcyclists everywhere. Italy is, after all, long established in the minds of many in the world as the epicentre of design and fashion, and the leader in motorized exotica on both two and four wheels.

Italy has achieved this prestigious position of global importance in the motorcycle industry as a result of careful cultivation by a number of brands, not least of which is brand Italy itself. The country, through its many privately run luxury brands in every industry from fashion to exotic cars and exotic foods, to public efforts to elevate Italy as the last word in elegance, craftsmanship and personal experience have largely succeeded. Today, even amid great uncertainty and with an economy facing the abyss, brand Italy wears the rare glow of desirability so sought by industries around the world.

For today’s motorcycle industry, Italy presents a tantalizing opportunity. Filled with top shelf manufacturers and suppliers and a workforce with decades of specialty experience seeking sales and work, companies at all levels of interest in the motorcycle sector are finding that made in Italy can bring outstanding value as well as prestige, quality and growth potential. The following is a special report by Amarok Consultants on the state of the industry in Italy, from an industrial history including past growth and success factors, to a present day analysis of working conditions, key players, recent government and private activity and sales and output data. Italy: The world’s favourite motorcycle brand.

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Check out the gallery for the full report.

  • David

    SUOMY with a Y not an I. Unless you’re Finnish.

    • michael uhlarik


      You are right. Funny name for an Italian helmet company.

  • Gene

    Hm. Considering the Italian bikes I’ve seen on the road in 10 years… that would be just 3 Ducatis, including an 851 a former co-worker owned.

    A friend had an MV Agusta, but I never saw him even start it.

    Thanks for making it a readable gallery, instead of one of those broken “sorta-pdf” thingies.

  • Kevin

    I love my Multistrada 1200… it made a believer out of me with respect to Italian design and engineering. Likewise with my Dainese D-Dry jacket, it’s extremely well designed and good looking for all its utility.

    You pays more, but you gets more.

  • 1

    Sex always sells.

  • Anders

    Great article.
    Funny how the products I associate with Italy relates to pleasurable experiences like motorcycles, cars, furniture, fashion, coffee, food and wine. They’re not really famous for their vacuum cleaners or central heating systems (even though I own an Indesit washing machine).

  • Thom

    The ‘Land of my Forefathers ‘ is in deeper financial shit than even this article suggests , with the facts becoming ever so slowly clearer by the day .

    Berlusconi has raped billions from the treasuries , Marchionne is driving the Italian Auto Industry straight into the ground , the Italian Banks and Financial Sector are making ours look blatantly transparent in comparison and what effect this will have on the rest of Italian Industry including Motorcycles is in truth anyone’s guess

    Add to the mix some of the great Icons of the Italian Industrial world in the process of or having already collapsed such as Pininfarina , GG Design and Bertone , along with companies like Lamborghini being reduced to Audi’s with a Sexy body , and Ferrari resorting to marketing schemes ( SheikMaranello Land , $400 Hair Dryers , Ferrari Pit Lane Experience at an EU Mall nearest you ) just to barely stay solvent : much of the ‘Italian ‘bicycle industry now being manufactured in China and you’ve got a recipe for another Fall of the Roman Empire ( this time in design and manufacturing ) in the making

    Like I said , with my having an insiders view that reaches well beyond what the above is reporting , the future at best is looking very Dark for Italy and its Industries . They may survive : may even as in the past come back out of it better than before they fell , but take my word for it the Shit is About to Hit the Fan at some 14,000 rpm with a 100 mph wind gusts driving it in .

    Hint ; Sell any and all Italian stock you might own , and if a New Italian M/C , Bicycle etc is in your future plans , you might want to move those plans forward and get it now before the company you’re dreaming of doing business with possibly goes bust .

    Enough said . You’ve been warned . Believe it , or don’t , makes no difference to me . But you’ve been warned .

    • JVictor75

      With the release of expensive boutique items like Ferraris, Lambos, and ‘R’ Ducatis being the landscape, I can’t say that I’m entirely surprised.

      What is surprising is that people like American designers like Eric Buell and Italian designers/manufacturers like him aren’t getting the picture.

      Yes, the stuff that Buell designs and builds is just amazing, in the technical prowess displayed in the advanced design, and the beautiful seeming simplicity and cleanliness of the end product. The Lamborghini LP640 is an amazing vehicle, as is the 1190RS, the 1198R, and any number of products from Italian clothing industry.

      But as I’ve said on here time and time again – You have GOT to make something that the masses can buy, will enjoy, and will think about when making a future purchase as a result. If the only thing you make available for sale to the public is just too damned expensive for your commoner garden motorcycle rider (or car driver, or shoe wearer, or purse carrier, etc etc etc, ad infinitum) to purchase, sooner or later you are going to run out of people who are willing to fork over the ridiculous sums of capital (money, time, etc) to obtain your product or service.

      People don’t WANT simple cheap easily breakable, environmentally unfriendly shit. But the majority here in flyover country USA also won’t spend the money on super expensive boutique items solely on the basis of how environmentally clean it is or how cool it would make the individual look if he/she were using said item while parading down 5th Avenue.

      The basic problem is that there seems to be absolutely no middle ground anymore, with anything that people want or need. No one is making simple, rugged, somewhat stylish, capable, middle-priced shit anymore. If it is cheap it’s worthless, environmentally caustic shit that breaks too quickly and easily. If it is rugged and long lasting it’s expensive and most likely not “environmentally friendly”. If it’s environmentally friendly and inexpensive it just plain old doesn’t work as advertised or at least as well as the non-environmentally friendly version.

      I won’t even bring up the oil and gas industries, expect to say that I don’t forsee China having any compunction whatsoever about calling in their debt from us by offering to take it in mineral rights under government owned land. Think about that little gem for just a second.

      And now we have Cuban oil derricks springing up within sight of Florida beaches because we have a Government who has an official stance of not letting our own Oil industry people work because of “necessarily raising the cost oil and gas” so we can all enjoy owning a $50,000.00 car that only goes 45 miles between 8 hour charges, provided you don’t use the heater, the radio, or go over 45 mph.

      I’m not saying that we should do away with regulation and oversight, but for fucks sake can we PLEASE just have a manufacturing environment where it’s product first, sales second, safety and environmental concerns third? Any product made in this day and age that was inherently NOT environmentally friendly or made in an environment that had horrific working conditions (like, I dunno the batteries in your average Hybrid or all-electric vehicle, for instance) is eventually going to lose market share to people who DO give a shit about those things once it’s become public knowledge. Either the company in question shapes up or they get fucking replaced. I’m looking at you, GM(and by extension, the UAW).

      And manufacturing overhead costs eventually go down, regulatory costs go down, prices go down, sales go up, and (because of taxation) government doesn’t go fucking broke. It isn’t fucking magic, guys.

      • Grant Ray

        You think someone like Buell can make “simple rugged, somewhat stylish, capable, middle-priced shit” in America for the masses? Oh man, my sides are hurting from laughing so hard.

        Do you have even an inkling of an idea what kind of gargantuan investment Buell would have to secure from banks that won’t even look twice at him, the enormous infrastructure, and the buying moxey his magically backed 500+ employee company would have to have to offer such a thing?

        I love that you’re so passionate, but please try to understand a little more about what it really takes in the world of manufacturing to offer goods like what you describe.

        Companies like GM, Ford, and Wal Mart can offer low-cost durable goods at the prices they do because they have BILLIONS in collateral reserve. They can sweep a 10 million loss away as easy as the dust settling on their desks.

        Oh, and I love how you have safety and environment as the least of your concerns. That’s real foresight in long-term financial sustainability, right there.

        • Lawrences

          But Grant … JVictor75 wrote swear words to make sure we get it…

        • Lawrences
        • JVictor75

          Alright, I get the point. And I do apologize for A) going off on a seriously weird tangent like that, B) for the overuse of swearing, and most importantly C) for not taking the time to think about how I wanted to make my point and in turn making myself out to be a huge jackass.

          Seriously, I apologize.

          I guess my problem is that I don’t understand why it seems (to me anyway) that what seems to be a majority of the manufacturers of durable goods like motorcycles (like Buell) and flagship car manufacturers (like Ferrari) treat themselves as some form of cottage industry.

          I understand that it takes a ginormous amount of capital (in one form or another) to be able to be the next Honda or Ford Motor Company.

          What I don’t understand is the idea that having only “flagship” level products makes such good business sense to those involved.

          Sooner or later the product itself degrades in value because there is not enough investment from outside sources, unless mandated via Government largess.

          Mercedes, BMW, Ford, Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Triumph, GM, and Dodge all make exciting technologically amazing (somewhat) environmentally friendly stuff. Harley used to. But they all had to sell a few thousand completely boring econobox type vehicles before they could get the chance to do so.

          Selling a lot of the boring stuff helped finance the ability to design and manufacture the flagship models.

          Related anecdote: Assorted people I talk to lately seem to think that during the 50′s, 60′s, and (the early) 70′s everyone in the U.S. was driving SS Chevelles, Hemi Cudas, and GT 500KR Mustangs.

          We all, collectively as both a country and as a world full of consumers of… stuff seem to have forgotten that GM, Ford, and Chrysler sold millions of econobox basic little beaters for people to get back and forth to work in. In order to AFFORD to make (and sell) all the firebreathing Superbirds, Firebirds, and Thunderbirds they had to sell millions of inline 6 powered “secretary” cars.

          Where do you think all of that “collateral reserve” came from?

          Sure it isn’t as glamorous, but what’s more important? Being Glamorous or putting money in the bank, food on the table, and saving up to buy lots and lots of industrial equipment and manufacturing space?

          I really did screw up what I wanted to try and say regarding environmentally sustainable practices and safe working environment (and safe end products).

          Of course creating environmentally concious products and having safe working environments to create those products in is important. I’m just not sure that should be the main focus.

          I will admit to not knowing exactly how to verbalize what I want to say, so I’m just going to take the flogging. Again, apologies all around.

  • the_doctor

    I like the logo map. If you guys made a poster of it, I would probably buy one.

    • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1100]

      Def. Me too.

      • always_go_big

        Me three, come on Wes, hook us up with a tasty print.

        • Grant Ray

          Thanks guys, I’m glad you like the design. But, I’m pretty sure making a product for sale that has lots of other folks’ trademarked names might be a bad idea.

          • the_doctor

            Just at ™ to everything. Easy.

            • Grant Ray

              Uh, no. If someone pulled that stunt with HFL, I promise they’d be getting a friendly little visit from our 6’5″ legal dept.

          • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1100]

            Can you post a vector-based PDF for us?

  • always_go_big

    Oh, an excellent article too, love getting my head a round a mix of industry insights along with the bike/life style pieces.

  • guest

    Wes you guys doing EICMA?

    • Wes Siler

      Nah, the show creates a Catch 22 by not providing WiFi on the floor, so if we do go, we can’t cover it…

      • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1100]

        You sign up with a credit card, they send you an AT&T SIM or Micro-SIM that’s attached to their grandfathered unlimited international data plan, you take the SIM on your trip, and when you land, you drop it into your phone. No Jailbreaking needed. And you can even tether. Afterwards, you chuck the SIM.

        I have a Micro-SIM adapter, so I’ve used the provided Micro-SIM in my Verizon (world-capable) Android and Windows phones, as well as in my AT&T iPhone. And with hotspot capability on my phones, tethering my laptop was no problem.

        I’ve got no affiliation with the company other than being a happy customer.

        Also, if I’m staying in a country for more than a few days, and if prepaid SIMs are readily available in that country to tourists (unlike India or Japan), I pick up a local SIM when I land. I use this site to research prepaid plans:

        • Wes Siler

          That’s some good advice. I’ll explore it for future trips.

  • The other Joe

    Didn’t know Italy was a brand. All this time I thought it was a country, silly me. I’ve always preferred German brands anyway, so I guess it doesn’t matter.