Husqvarna's boss: PH2 Meets

For those of you not familiar with Husqvarna's fairly long and colourful history (and we are talking about the motorcycle company, not the one that makes chainsaws) here is a brief potted history.

Formed in the Swedish village of Huskvarna as a firearms manufacturer in 1689, in 1877 the Swedish became less violent and so Husqvarna started producing other metal items such as sewing machines. In 1903 it built its first motorcycle using imported engines (technically making it the oldest motorcycle manufacturer although Harley begs to differ) and by 1919 the company was producing and racing its own bikes and motors. Considerable off-road success followed in the 1950s and 1960s and even the legendary Steve McQueen raced a Husky in the 1970s. Then it all got a bit confusing...

In 1986 the Cagiva Group purchased Husqvarna and the company moved from Sweden to Italy. In 2007 the Swedish/Italian firm was bought by BMW for a reported 93m euros and an estimated extra 60m euros was poured into the firm to completely modernize it. Then, just after it launched a new range of BMW-powered Husky models, BMW pulled the plug on the venture in 2013 and sold Husqvarna to Pierer Industrie AG - a firm headed up by KTM's CEO Stefan Pierer. The Swedish/Italian/German/Austrian company is now housed in Mattighofen, Austria, alongside KTM, and uses the Austrian firm's engines to power its range of bikes. To add extra confusion the old Husky factory in Italy is now building bikes under the name SWM and headed up by an old Husqvarna employee, but that's a whole new story. Why does any of this matter? Pierer has fairly big plans for Husqvarna and at the moment the firm is on a bit of a roll.

Under Pierer's ownership, Husky is going from strength to strength. With total motorcycle sales standing at 21,500 for 2016, an increase of 32 per cent year on year, Husqvarna is now setting a target of 30,000 for 2017 and, at the recent Milan Show, unveiled its new range of road motorcycles - the 401 Svartpilen and 401 Vitpilen as well as the 401 Aero concept bike. PH2 spoke to Husqvarna's MD, Oliver Goering, to see what the future holds for Husky.

"At the moment we have a complete, unmatched, line-up of enduro competition bikes. This is the backbone of Husqvarna and our new range of significantly improved bikes has driven the sales increase," he explains. "But in the future road bikes will play a dominant role. We want to become one of the top three motorcycle manufacturers in Europe and to produce more than 60,000 units. You can't simply achieve this with off-road, you need to diversify."

While this target may seem somewhat optimistic, you have to remember that KTM went from bankruptcy in 1992 to selling over 150,000 bikes last year under the guidance of Stefan Pierer. So how is Husqvarna planning on diversifying?

"I think we will grow to 35,000 in off-road sales before hitting a plateau and so 25-40,000 road bikes I would say. The new 401s will not be our only road bikes. We will increase the 701 range and in years to come produce bigger bikes," said Goering. Interestingly, and unlike KTM, Goering doesn't see this growth coming from the small capacity segment. Husqvarna has no plans to release a 125 due to the fact that, again unlike KTM, all of its models will be built in Austria to give them a premium feel rather than India and will use European components, although the single cylinder 401 engines themselves will be built in India.

But here is the big question - how can KTM and Husqvarna, who are direct rivals in the off-road world, become bedfellows? Surely there will be competition issues?

"At the end of the day what Husqvarna offers is a unique styling concept for urban riders. We don't have the slogan 'ready to race' that forces us to do aggressive things. We can focus on other exciting motorcycle styles and that separates us from KTM," says Goering. "We will increase our dealer network and share on-road dealers with KTM, which we don't do in off-road as our bikes are in direct competition. Our on-road ranges are very different and not in competition. But we know KTM have struggled selling road bikes in the past. We have a few very good off-road dealers who are also good on-road dealers and we will use them. But the majority will be new dealers who are on-road focused in urban areas."

So what will these new dealers have in their showrooms? The 401 Svartpilen and 401 Vitpilen are scheduled to arrive in late 2017 and there have been a few spy shots of a large capacity cruiser using KTM's 1290 V-twin engine and the firm has shown a Vitpilen 701 concept bike. Can Goering give us a few teasers of what to expect in the future?

"It is an open secret that we have many motor platforms in the KTM group and of course Husqvarna has free access to these. But we will do it in step by step, first the 401, then the 701 and then we will see where we go..."



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Comments (10) Join the discussion on the forum

  • EggsBenedict 16 Jan 2017

    Goering. What a great name.

    Nice looking bike that....

  • Wizardskills 16 Jan 2017

    Sat on the 401 at the Motorcycle Live event late last year. It looks a feels live a very nice bike. It's top of my list after I get my licence.

  • Birky_41 16 Jan 2017

    If they get that bike with a 1290 lump I'll be handing over money and chopping the aprilia in

  • jamespink 17 Jan 2017

    Great looking "Industrial" styling... Very Husqvarna! Its a great formula, big single with great handling, loads of power andlittle weight. Good luck to them!

  • TheOversteerLever 17 Jan 2017

    That 701 looks ace smile

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