Buell Shuts | New Horizons for MV Agusta

MV Agusta’s Future

With the recent announcement that Harley-Davidson is folding Buell, it would be easy to slip past the news that Harley-Davidson also wants to divest itself of MV Agusta too. It’s interesting that Buell was not considered a saleable asset, yet MV Agusta is.

Buell products were always ‘different’ and somewhat outside the mainstream. They persevered–perhaps too long–with the relatively heavy and under powered air-cooled Harley Sportster motors, although with the new Rotax built 1125 engine things were definitely looking up. Other Buell innovations failed to get the credit some people felt they deserved. The bikes handled well, were easy to ride and produced prodigious torque, but even so, many motorcycle enthusiasts thought of Buell machines as a little too quirky and ended up buying something else. MV Agusta has no such stigma attached.

One wonders if a timeframe has been placed on the sale of MV Agusta. If there has–and it’s a short one, then once again the storied Italian marque may find itself out in the wilderness. If on the other hand, Harley-D is prepared to woo a potential buyer then the romance and heritage that is the MV Agusta brand may well find a worthy owner. Benelli appear to be going from strength to strength since their acquisition by the Chinese motor group Qianjiang in 2005, perhaps accounted for because the Chinese encouraged Benelli to maintain their design and manufacturing in the passion that is Italy. And the success is starting to show.

But having visited Italy as recently as two weeks ago to ride MV Agusta’s brilliant all new Brutale, I can’t help but feel very sad for the talented, classy, passionate people over at MV. Their hopes have not quite been dashed again, but certainly living with a sword of Damocles teetering over your head must be a distraction at best. Ironically, things were just beginning to gel with Harley. Acquired in 2008, MV Agusta seemed to have been given a new lease on life.

Harley-Davidson’s proven ability to build superb-quality motorcycles–especially visible in their CVO products–has enabled them to develop their brand into a spectacular success, an iconic emblem that’s famous across the globe; and MV Agusta has the potential to do the same.

Although the MV acquisition was not necessarily an obvious fit at first glance, with further thought I can see that the two historic brands could indeed be a perfect match: Both manufacturers have decades of heritage; both market products with signature design elements and unique philosophies; and each company’s products are so different that there’s no danger of clouding either brand or cannibalizing from each other’s buyer.

MV Agusta was in the process of leveraging H-Ds considerable supply chain expertise and their brilliant marketing savvy. It seemed unlikely that the dealer network would change, so you could never have expected to walk into your local H-D shop and get your Tamburini serviced, but the thought that aspects of H-D’s distribution expertise in the US would have been exploited was an attractive one.

The good folk at Harley had effectively left MV Agusta alone to do what they do best. As Enrico D’Onofrio (new Managing Director of MV) said to me "Harley-Davidson’s love for motorcycles can literally be felt; I can tell their strong leadership is based on principle and integrity". And that thinking resonated with not just him, but with the entire MV Agusta team who feel exactly the same way.

Personnel from the Italian factory and the US distributor alike talked to me consistently with gleaming eyes and bright smiles about how kind, how welcoming, and how genuinely excited, literally every person from H-D has been to them. The feeling was one of universal joy and that if attitude has anything to do with success then this partnership would exceed everyone’s expectations.

Alas, it seems it’s not to be. Like a gifted orphan child that’s pushed from foster parent to foster parent, MV Agusta needs to find a real home that will adopt them permanently and allow them to flourish as they fully deserve.