Husqvarna Motorcycle History
Husqvarna Motorcycles is an international manufacturer of motorcycles for cross-country and road use. Originally founded in Sweden, the company has been part of the BMW Group since 2007 and can look back on more than a century of manufacturing motorcycles.
This makes it the world’s oldest motorcycle manufacturer with uninterrupted production. For decades now, the brand has clocked up great successes in international racing, including 82 world championship titles in off-road events.
Since 2008, the development, manufacture and marketing of Husqvarna motorcycles have been located in Cassinetta di Biandronno, in the north Italian province of Varese. That is where the headquarters was established back in 1987 when the company was taken over by the Cagiva MV Agusta Group. In 2011, shipments totalled 11,243 units.
In addition, the introduction of the Husqvarna Nuda 900 and Husqvarna Nuda 900 R models signalled the brand’s return to the street bike segment. These models, too, developed in partnership with BMW Motorrad, are distinguished by their typically purist and sports-oriented Husqvarna design. Most recently, prospects of a further expansion of the model range have been opened up by the prototype Husqvarna Concept MOAB and Husqvarna Concept Strada and Concept BAJA.
Parallel to this, the alliance between Husqvarna Motorcycles and BMW Motorrad strengthens the company’s capacity for technical innovation. The prototype of an anti-lock braking system specifically designed for off-road use, as well as the all-electric Husqvarna e-GO concept bike, underscore the future viability of this tradition-rich motorcycle maker.
History: roots in Sweden, motorcycle development since 1903
Husqvarna is the original name of a town in southern Sweden, where a metalworking business was founded in 1689. Today, in the same town (now spelled Huskvarna) there is a factory museum, in which exhibits from all former and present branches of production can be seen. Production of motorcycles began in 1903.
The first motorized bicycle bearing the Husqvarna badge was powered by a 1.5 hp single-cylinder two-stroke engine and achieved a maximum speed of 50 km/h (30 mph). In the years that followed, the firm consistently pushed ahead with the expansion of this new line of business.
At first the engines were bought in, but all other components were developed in-house. From the outset, Husqvarna motorcycles were distinguished by their light weight and high reliability. Their qualities quickly proved themselves in sporting competitions, which in those days were staged predominantly on unsurfaced tracks. The first Husqvarna motorcycle completely developed and produced in Sweden was launched in 1918 and subsequently sold in large numbers. The 550 cc V-twin engine of the Husqvarna 150 model delivered12 hp.
As early as the 1920s and 1930s, Husqvarna motorcycles were being built for the road, but were also entered for prestigious racing events such as the Tourist Trophy. Its commitment to international competitions made Husqvarna famous throughout Europe, and sporting triumphs contributed substantially to rising sales figures.
It was chiefly on the light and robust four-stroke machines that the Husqvarna works riders scored Grand Prix victories, and in 1933 also won the European Championship title in the 500 cc class, thus cementing the brand’s reputation. Husqvarna became a byword for reliability and advanced technology, and up until the late 1930s the brand enjoyed steadily rising demand.
Realignment: lightweight two-strokes, off-road sport and a leap into the USA
The post-war years brought a fundamental reorientation to the motorcycle industry as a whole, to Husqvarna, and to its motorcycle division. The parent company focused on domestic appliances, and in the 1950s even introduced chainsaws and other garden equipment into its catalog.
The Husqvarna motorcycle range was limited to lightweight two-stroke models which, in modified form, were also deployed in the off-road sports that were becoming popular in the mid-1950s. The best-selling model was the single-cylinder Silverpilen (Silver Arrow), whose 175 cc engine produced 9 hp and which could be upgraded with modern technical refinements such as a telescopic front fork and hydraulic shock absorbers.
In the years that followed, numerous competition machines with two- and four-stroke engines were developed; and between 1960 and 1963, the first four Motocross world championship titles were won in the 500 cc and 250 cc classes. The sporting achievements of the robust and manoeuvrable Husqvarna motorbikes made the brand popular in the USA too, boosting sales figures there. Among the high-profile Husqvarna riders in the successful era of the 1960s and 1970s was Hollywood film actor Steve McQueen.
The move to Italy
In 1983 Husqvarna marked yet another milestone with its TE 510 model. The exceptionally light and easy-handling off-roader with all-round lubrication and air cooling became the forerunner of a generation of four-stroke motorcycles for off-road use. As other manufacturers followed suit, it led to a revival of the four-stroke classes in international competitions. Here, too, Husqvarna riders scooped collected numerous world championship titles in the following years.
By 1977 the entire Husqvarna business had already become part of Sweden’s Electrolux Group. Then, in 1987, the Husqvarna motorcycle division was sold to the Cagiva MV Agusta Group and the company headquarters transferred to Varese in Italy.
In parallel with the continuing sporting successes, the production models were subjected to ongoing development. The unmistakable personality of the brand, characterized by lightness, reliability and cool, minimalist design, was retained after the move.
Restructuring under the aegis of the BMW Group
Since October 2007, Husqvarna Motorcycles has been owned by the BMW Group. The resulting strong partnership between Husqvarna Motorcycles and BMW Motorrad enables the strengths of each to be combined in a selective way.
Husqvarna can thus continue to build on the outstanding off-road performance of the brand and at the same time conquer new market segments. At the same time, the development know-how of BMW Motorrad is feeding into fascinating concepts and models. One of the first fruits of the partnership is Husqvarna’s re-entry into the street bike segment with the Nuda 900 and Nuda 900 R models. The introduction of these models – based on the BMW F800 – signals Husqvarna’s product offensive in the coming years.