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Across the table with Stefan Pierer CEO of KTM

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By now, every Indian motorcycle fan (and more) has heard of KTM. And like all the places it’s gone to, KTM has already gathered a following of its own and is on its way to becoming a cult-inspiring brand. Not bad for a company that launched its first product in the country little more than a year ago. Never mind that no one knows what KTM stands for.

While its partnership with Bajaj has a lot to do with its success as does canny business strategy, KTM’s success is the result of one man’s vision - that of Stefan Pierer, CEO of KTM. And we managed to corner him at the Geneva Motor Show at the KTM booth full of variants of the KTM X-Bow. It looks like a car that was made out of leftover motorcycle parts, so naturally we begin by asking him about it.

trPierer wants as much involvement from Bajaj as possible, and wants to bring Husqvarna to India and other emerging markets in a couple of years

“Will it come to India?’ we ask, throwing each other amused glances at the absurdity of the question. As expected, Pierer replies, “There doesn’t seem to be a market for this kind of vehicle in India. Plus there are a lot of rules - homologation and this and that - so for a car like this, it’s very difficult.” At this point, we suggest holding a track day-clinic at the BIC F1 circuit to gauge response to the X-Bow, to which he replies, “That sounds interesting... maybe you guys could help us do it!” Uncomfortable with the idea of doing some actual work, we change the topic.

Congratulating him on buying the fabled Husqvarna brand from BMW, we ask him about how that’s going to work out, with KTM and Bajaj in the picture. He’s more than happy to share. “Husqvarna and KTM are not in direct competition as I see it. Now that we have Husqvarna, we will position it in a more accessible space - it will be less hardcore than KTM, with more road-biased performance from the models. Of course, we will share platforms because it is an effective business strategy.”

So, will there be a Husqvarna 200 based on the Duke 200? “Yes, of course! Also another, based on the 390... and other models as they come along.” Now, we were always of the opinion that Husqvarna was Pierer’s retirement plan. Given Bajaj’s steadily increasing stake in KTM, we expected a day to come when Bajaj would take over majority stake and Pierer would leave, having Husqvarna to run the way he pleased. Instead, he wants as much involvement from Bajaj as possible, and wants to bring Husqvarna to India and other emerging markets in a couple of years. That’s a mighty impressive intention.

“We want every brand to benefit, and that happens only by sharing, not by living alone. So yes, we will work out a business model where every brand improves without losing its identity,” he says. And how does he feel about KTM’s Indian partnership? “It’s a very good thing. We are proud of what we have accomplished with Bajaj, and we will keep the momentum going with the Duke 390 launch in a couple of months and the faired version of the 200 by the end of the year. Indian bike fans have a lot to look forward to!”

At this point, we run out of things to ask, seeing as Pierer’s told us everything without needing to ask too many questions in the first place. And there are quite few things we’ve learnt: by April/May 2013, we will get the bigger Duke and before we recover from it, there’ll be another one coming. Also, it’s amazing to think that Bajaj will share their parts with motorcycles that sport Husqvarna and KTM tags. But in a world that relies increasingly on perception rather than actual differentiation, it’s the done thing to do, we suppose. It’s a win-win situation, especially for customers, and we’re really looking forward to seeing how India benefits from all this sharing. Oh, and by the way, KTM stands for Kronreif Trunkenpolz Mattighofen.

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