Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Indians are coming! Bajaj (through KTM) to acquire Husky

MCN is reporting that KTM is about to acquire the Husqvarna brand from BMW. The deal's not signed, but apparently multiple sources have confirmed -- off the record -- that it's imminent.

KTM's a great, but small, company. It's easy to see the impending purchase of Husqvarna for what it is, another move by the big Indian motorcycle company, Bajaj -- which already owns a big piece of KTM -- to diversify it's portfolio of brands, manufacturing capability, and design talent.

India is the next destination for Husky, a brand that began in Sweden before being acquired by MV Agusta and moved to Italy, then bought by Germans. Phew! What a trip.


There was a time, back around the release of On Any Sunday and when Steve McQueen rode the iconic Husky two-stroke onto the cover of SI, that they were they baddest bikes in the desert (and my imagination.) That time's long gone, and the current line up has, overall, left me pretty cold. That said, BMW put a lot of money into Husky's R&D and production capabilities, and it will be an impressive 'add' for India's Bajaj Auto group.

This news comes a day or so after I got an email from EBR confirming that it will again race with sponsorship from the Indian 'Hero' brand.

As we've endlessly discussed, while the motorcycle business is moribund in the developed world, it's growing fast in markets like India and Indonesia. Foreign investment rules in India ensure that virtually any company that wants access to the Indian market must take on an Indian corporate partner. That's been true for decades, so Indian companies are familiar and comfortable with these kinds of joint ventures.

A few years ago, I wrote that "China is the new Japan" in the context of rising quality, originality, and sophistication of the bikes being made in China. It remains true that Chinese design and R&D is improving, and the bikes produced there are less likely to be straight ripoffs of previous-gen Japanese bikes. But over the last few years, as Indian companies have forged ties with design-savvy firms like EBR and now Husqvarna, it's become clear that there's more to India then the old Royal Enfield factory...

UPDATE

H4L did a little digging and came up with a quote suggesting the KTM-to-buy-Husky deal is actually between Stefan Pierer (KTM's CEO) and BMW, and may not involve Bajaj (directly) at all. We'll know more in a week or two...

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