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A few minutes with KTM CEO Stefan Pierer- Dirt Illustrated Magazine

A few minutes with KTM CEO Stefan Pierer

KTM CEO Stefan Pierer (left) and Designer Gerald Kiska share a light moment while discussing KTM's latest vehicle designs.


Here are some of the highlights from the KTM blog interviews of their CEO Stefan Pierer. Interesting stuff.

On using Gerald Kiska for KTM's design team: "It is a special relationship and it is difficult to explain. It is based on a long-term friendship. In the first decade, it worked without any contract, and Gerald started with one employee. He is now Europe’s biggest independent design company with 120 people."

Why KTM has risen to prominence: "We are 1800 people and in a year that might climb to 2000, we are clearing 120,000 units, we are doing 700 million euros in revenue… and it sounds great but we have to go to Thailand and every country is totally different. Thailand is not Malaysia, Indonesia is different to Philippines and that’s a challenge for a small company but something that is very nice and of huge potential."
"Sales and Marketing is doing a great job and production is keeping the quality high. Everything is in a good ‘rpm’ but you also have to take care not to go too fast because an increase of 25-30% means you are running on a edge in terms of people and capacity."

In Motocross there was a rumor that you stood in the pits at a Grand Prix and said you wanted to destroy the rest of the field. Is that true?
"For sure you have a certain ambition, and that is the racing attitude. You want to win, that’s all. If you can add on additional podiums, and dominating a class, then that is very nice. But first you want to win. In everything. That’s why for Superbike you have to meet that expectation of being able to succeed. As a small newcomer, you can take certain risks, and maybe not do well, and it is fine, but we have a reputation. If KTM shows up, they take it seriously, and go for the win. That is what KTM customers and fans expect.

What is your view on Supercross? It is a very visual and well-followed discipline so people can understand the investment. How important is it to KTM North American operations?  

"For many years I was not convinced that a huge investment would pay back, but we were influenced by the Americans and Pit Beirer (Motorsport Director]) and we were able to persuade Roger DeCoster (former MX world champion and team manager) to come over to KTM, we decided for Supercross. I have to say, I am positively surprised by the payback! Supercross is THE showcase in the States – no doubt – and that was another piece of learning for me. I was worried about having to spend too much money in that market segment, particularly if it didn’t work out. But with our professional set-up, and team manager, the success is coming. We have good riders and the US market is one of our growing areas. Last year we did +20% and this year it is +15%. Although the overall market is flat, the growth is due to Supercross."
Marvin Musquin, Ryan Dungey, Roger DeCoster, and Ken Roczen have all helped propel the KTM marquee to the top ranks of Motocross Manufacturers. It even surprised Stefan.
On the electric bike project:
"If you knew everything before you do a project then you probably wouldn’t do anything! That’s the experience of an entrepreneur! Sometimes you have to go over the edge! The electric experience for us was different. It didn’t come out of the crisis but more from our heavily-squeezed possibilities now to ride off-road."
"The battery pack is still the main issue because they are expensive for production. A 20 kilo packed battery cell costs 2000 euros and is quite a lot."
"In Germany and Austria next year we will start a renting system for the battery like the car industry, so that the customer has the sense of security that if something goes wrong with the battery they can change it and they have 100% back-up."

Why electric bikes are important for the future:
"We have 100 years of experience with combustion engines but here we are still starting with electric and we need to collect information. For a small company you need to make a serious step with a project like this or you risk too much. We are going ahead and maybe you have seen some photos of our concept scooter from the Tokyo show. I am convinced that for urban mobility and the scooter electric is the future. It is just the double size of the existing battery for our off-road model."

Honda's complaint... "We decided twelve months before the first race that we would enter Moto3, and try to beat Honda. It motivated the whole company. You can see what we delivered and now Honda is complaining that the sport is expensive and it is not part of their focus to deliver a winning product. They just lost the race, that’s all."

Why the Japanese have not shown their hands when it comes to electric bikes?
"Honda for sure is working on it and Yamaha has done a lot of research but the breakthrough in the market is not there yet. You have the cheap junk from China, but they are low wattage concepts. If you want performance, then you need to go high wattage, to meet safety requirements. It is very tough and very challenging. The market is not there yet for mass production."
Do you think the Japanese are looking at KTM more so now?

"I think if you go to a track in Europe, you can see some nice ‘red’ displays and branding like KTM did ten years ago. I think it is good that they are making the effort and putting in the money. A consequence of this is that motocross starts to get more attention. If you look at the motocross GPs, in Brazil, France and Italy, there were big crowds. It was incredible to see, and it was motocross from twenty years ago. This is also a little bit from the current selling crisis. Price-wise, you are getting more value now. You are right though, people like Honda are taking the sport seriously, and maybe they have seen us as a pain in the ass! Secondly, I think they are looking at us in a different way. We are really hitting the emerging markets with outstanding products, and new designs at affordable prices. From whom else should I obtain market share?"
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A few minutes with KTM CEO Stefan Pierer