Could the 'Morbidelli' name be making a return to motorcycling?

The Morbidelli name could be returning to motorcycles in the near future thanks to a potential revival of the brand from Chinese manufacturer, Keeway.

Morbidelli V8

The Italian brand, Morbidelli, seems to be on its way back courtesy of the Chinese manufacturer, Keeway. 

The Morbidelli brand’s prominence struck most in the late-1970s, when it won world titles in the 125cc and 250cc Grand Prix classes between 1975 and 1977. 

By 1982 the racing activities had been closed, and by the early 1990s Morbidelli was essentially gone from motorcycle production after a failed attempt at an 850cc V8 bike.

However, now it is coming back, and like Benelli, for example, it is thanks to a Chinese manufacturer. 

Before we get to Morbidelli, we must discuss MBP. This is a brand which we have covered already on Visordown, with its T1002V, C1002V, and C650V motorcycles. 

The brand’s initials stand for “Moto Bologna Passione”, which shares a resemblance to MBA, or “Morbidelli Benelli Armi”. MBA was a conjunction of the Morbidelli motorcycle manufacturer and Benelli Armi, a firearms offshoot of the Benelli motorcycle manufacturer.

Benelli Armi helped Morbidelli to construct a factory in Pesaro in 1976 which allowed the racing experts to sell their bikes to privateers for the first time.

The MBA partnership was also the beginning of a relationship between Benelli and Morbidelli which today sees the latter’s bikes displayed in the former’s Pesaro-based museum.

Coming back to the modern day, the MBP logos and trademarks are registered with Powerlink Technology, according to Cycle World. This is a Hong Kong-based company, and it has also applied for the rights to “Morbidelli MBP” and “Morbidelli MBP Pesaro”.

MBP’s website states that its “experienced design team is based in Italy at our motorcycle design house and works closely with colleagues at the Keeway Group's R&D centre in Barcelona and remote team members across Europe. Geographical diversity brings new ideas as our strong Italian heritage unifies design criteria and objectives for all motorcycles developed by MBP, staying true to our roots.”

However, Cycle World notes that its motorcycles are taken from Chinese manufacturers. MBP is operated by Keeway, as alluded to in the above extract from MBP’s website, which is a part of the Qianjiang group which also owns the Benelli brand.

However, unlike other Qianjiang-owned brands, MBP does not get its motorcycles from Qianjiang manufacturers. It also does not design them itself. Instead, it receives motorcycles from a variety of Chinese sources. 

These include Gaokin, whose V1000 is renamed C1002V for MBP. Gaokin’s global presence is in places named Brixton, and the Crossfire 500 of that brand is renamed M502N for MBP. Further, the C650V is for MBP the model that Longjia calls the V-Bob 650.

However, the T1002V is a bike which so far is unique to MBP, and is not used by any other Chinese manufacturers so far.

Cycle World reports that Keeway is intending to combined the MBP name with the more recognisable 'Morbidelli' name. It has become useful for internationally-ambitious Chinese manufacturers to acquire the cultural value of historical European manufacturers that the Chinese themselves know they cannot apply to their own brands. It is simply a marketing strategy. 

The lack of cultural or historical value for the Chinese manufacturers might not matter in their native market, but in places where motorcycling has a longer history these manufacturers understand that - rightly or wrongly - there will be scepticism about the quality of their products from potential consumers. 

Should motorcycles begin again to wear the Morbidelli name, there will be little about those bikes that are authentically Italian or authentically ‘Morbidelli’. 

It is impossible to make a judgement on whether that is bad or good. Without the Chinese investment, the names ‘Benelli’ or ‘Morbidelli’ would not exist in modern motorcycling at all. On the other hand, those names are used as little more than marketing tools. There are positives and negatives, like everything. 

As for the prospective return of the Morbidelli name to the fuel tanks of motorcycles, it is not yet possible to say when this will happen, or even if it will happen at all, let alone the model - or style of motorcycle - to which it will be attached. All we can do for now is wait and see.

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