Interviews

Boss of KTM on their electric future

He’s very powerful, concerned about the future of KTM and very upbeat about bikes. Especially electric ones.

THE last 12 months were really difficult
And at some stages almost like freefall without seeing any ground – and not just for KTM. The US market declined by 60 percent, and in Europe the market went down 30 percent. Right now the situation has already recovered. In the last six months our business delivered positive figures.

THE major reason for this is KTM reacted very fast
This process was the toughest throughout my time in KTM but on the other hand we had no other option. The industry will probably never return to the sales heights of 2008.

THESE days we’re focussing on our strengths
Which means delivering the best possible off-road sport motorcycle to the core community. On the other hand we started up a strategic partnership with Bajaj in India – the perfect partner to introduce and distribute KTM motorcycles in new, important parts of the globe.

R&D is the powerful engine of this company
And it will remain like this. For some projects, we had to bring the ‘rpm’ down a bit and some targets had to be redefined. But basically all core projects are still in progress and on time. We also had just minor cutbacks in terms of infrastructure and employees inside R&D.

THE Venom was made as a pure show bike from the beginning with RC8 DNA
Maybe in the future we can think again on this kind of naked bike interpretation, but right now we are focusing on the Super Duke range – which is still perceived as an extremely competitive bike in this segment and 100% in line with our philosophy.

WE presented the latest versions of our zero emission sports motorcycle project at the Tokyo motorcycle show last month
One off-road version which is not that far away from a serial production and one interpretation for e-drive street riding in the nearer future. The KTM Freeride project is on schedule and we will see the introduction of the first serial electric sportenduro in summer 2011.  We are pushing this project hard, because we definitely see a huge potential here – and a big chance for off-road sport.

AT KTM we’re open-minded  about electric projects
We always look for sports applications and sooner or later also racing categories for electric vehicles will appear on all kinds of surface. It is like a jump-start situation for the entire industry and we all have to learn.

There are still a lot of questions to answer if we talk about e-motorcycles
But one answer from KTM is to introduce this technology through sport applications. Building commuter vehicles has never been a target for KTM and we think this field is also the weak point of the electric drive. Our goal is quite simple: we want to offer in a first step a sophisticated sport off-road bike which is as capable as a conventional off-roader – but without noise and emission.

This is first of all to maintain and extend riding possibilities. Even in markets with a strong off-road heritage, in these days regulations make it really difficult to practice the sport. KTM Freeride can solve this problem. Also, we identify a massive demand for an e-drive Sports motorcycle in our existing off-road competition customer base. Again, there are many question marks, but to give you an idea, we have in mind a figure of 5000 units per year of our electric-driven Freeride motorcycle.

This technology is new for everybody
And offers a wide playground for various projects. In 2010 it is not a matter of right or wrong. All companies have to learn their lessons, put their knowledge in line with their business plans. At the end of the day, the customer will get the benefit.

Product wise there is still a lot of room to improve the existing products and technologies
4-stroke, 2-stroke and electric engines will have a chance in our medium-term planning. In general I believe we’ll see a global downsizing effect in the industry. High-end premium products will play a role in future as well, but more practical and affordable bikes will get more and more important. If you ask me about the goals in 20 years, I have to say honestly, my thoughts are more focused around the question: how we will be able to use motorcycles in general?

We have to be realistic
And adapt our products to the existing demands. First of all we have to present motorcycles again to the youth as a part of their lifestyle. For this you cannot just push a button – the entire industry needs to reset major parts of their understanding.

The good news is that we understand the desire to ride a motorcycle cannot be stopped by any crisis
People that are used to enjoying their bikes as casual and luxury items will continue like it is today. On the other hand the global economic pressure, the worldwide demographic situation and the decline of space is a good medium to again increase the use of motorcycles in daily life. This brings me back to the keyword downsizing. We will see good chances for the industry in this field and we will have to fight harder than before to sell and ride premium leisure motorcycles.

Safety lobbies have to be taken very seriously
It will not help at all to close our eyes and ears. The motorcycle is under stronger pressure than ever before. There’s no reason to see everything black, but the environment for motorcycles, especially sport bikes, is getting more difficult in terms of political and legal issues. But again, it is up to us to act bravely and be on the offensive, otherwise serious consequences like bans may be not far away.

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