Interview: KTM Boss Stefan Pierer

Alan Cathcart | April 9, 2013

KTM President/CEO Stefan Pierer is the most powerful man in European motorcycling – a fact cemented by BMW Motorrad’s shock sale of Husqvarna to Pierer Industrie AG, his personal holding company. But even before Europe’s two largest motorcycle manufacturers ended up doing business with each other over the German-owned, Italian-based, Swedish-born off-road brand, each had posted record production and sales records while competing for the title of top dog in the European motorcycle industry. The result has been that the crown of Europe’s largest motorcycle brand in terms of unit sales now belongs KTM and not BMW, handing that distinction to the Austrian company in which Bajaj Auto, India’s second largest manufacturer, holds a 47 percent slice of the equity.

This came in a year when KTM’s success on the racetrack was never greater, with Sandro Cortese defeating the might of Honda to win the inaugural Moto3 road racing World Championship – KTM’s first on tarmac – while Toni Cairoli (MX1) and Jeffrey Herlings (MX2), completed a clean sweep of the Motocross World titles for the Austrian manufacturer. This was matched by a similar dominance of the World Enduro Championship via Antoine Meo and Christophe Nambotin, with Pierre-Alexandre Renet completing KTM’s clean sweep of the off-road titles by winning the Enduro2 crown on a Husaberg made in the Austrian firm’s Mattighofen factory. And let’s not forget Ryan Dungey’s AMA National Motocross Championship – a first for the brand.

The chance to meet Pierer in his Mattighofen office for the first one-on-one interview he’d given since acquiring Husqvarna, gave the background behind this roll call of success, and his plans to build on it for the future..

KTM enjoyed a spectacularly successful 2012. You won every World Championship you contested, you sold over 100,000 units for the first time, and now you’re number one among European manufacturers in terms of unit sales. How did it all come so good?

If we’re talking about the exact figures, we sold 107,142 units – more than 32 percent up on the year before – and we grossed Euro 612 million, so it was our best-ever sales year, with a net profit of around Euro 37 million. This was a big increase on our previous best-ever annual sales back in 2007, when we sold 92,385 KTM motorcycles. So yes, it’s been a great year for KTM, and that’s thanks to the people in our workforce. Here in Mattighofen we employ 1400 people, plus another 300 around the globe in our 26 sales and marketing subsidiaries – the latest one is in Singapore covering the ASEAN countries. They’re the ones that made this happen.

This is a dramatic turnaround over the past five years, after KTM sales collapsed in 2008. How many bikes did you sell that year?

In 2008 we sold 62,000 bikes coming from 92,000 the year before, so in one year …

Alan Cathcart | European Editor

Cathcart has ridden practically every road racer and streetbike ever built and written about them in Cycle News. They don’t call him Sir Alan for nothing.