MV Agusta is restructuring in a big way. Topping the headlines is MV Agusta’s new co-branding initiative with Mercedes-AMG of the Daimler AG, which acquired 25 percent of the motorcycle manufacturer in October 2014.
The Italian company – founded near Milan in February of 1945 – also took out a 15 Million EURO loan, and hired a new team in the USA headed by the highly experienced Helen Vasilevski.
Ultimate MotorCycling was at a recent event hosted by MV Agusta at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. We were fortunate enough to have a few minutes with Mario Spitzner, Vice President of Branding and Marketing for both AMG and now MV Agusta, and one of the main drivers behind the deal.
Ultimate MotorCycling: So how did this deal happen between AMG Mercedes and MV Agusta?
Mario Spitzner: Well, having been a great fan of MV Agusta, and also having been twelve or thirteen years ago in Varese talking to Claudio Castiglioni, we already at that time tried to get together, but for many reasons it didn’t happen at that time, so now finally we did. And in the meantime I was a customer of Giovanni’s (Mario Spitzner owns three MV Agustas) and we always got along extremely well, and it was clear to us both that it would be a great partnership to do, so eventually…
UMC: Yeah, he’s so charismatic.
MS: For sure, of course. Giovanni is the perfect person you know? Plus, the Castiglionis to me are – it’s a bit like the Agnellis in the car world – the motorcycle dynasty in Italy, and so I also said to Giovanni (whispers loudly) “Giovanni—you are it—you are MV.”
So, we were talking but to then finally to get this to happen you need to talk to the guys that decide; and at that time it was Ola Källenius—who was at that time a board member of Mercedes Benz and at that time my boss at AMG, but soon after moved to the Daimler board and recently became a Daimler board member, and he and Dieter (Zetsche, CEO of Daimler) immediately responded and said ok, let’s see if we can work this out. So that was big support from the top right away; and it was not like uh—no no no, it was immediately ok.
UMC: Why do you see AMG as a fit with MV Agusta?
MS: Well for first of all, both are high performance brands — very high performance brands—and very exclusive, and on the low end of the volumes. Well, compared to the rest of the market. And both brands—especially MV Agusta—have always been iconic brands with a fantastic history; MV Agusta was born on a racetrack, and AMG was born on a racetrack.
Through the years we have realized that the customer base with AMG and MV is very similar, there are a lot of bikers, or motorcyclists or however you call them that own AMG. And we realized in our Private Lounge — which is a web based community just for AMG customers — [it is] very successful, 30,000 members just in the States in the Lounge — and just about 28 percent of those are riders! You know…
UMC: Wow…that’s getting on for a third!!
MS: Yeah, and that’s pretty high, yeah, almost a third. And being the brand guy you know, I die for both brands, and to be honest, for me actually it is an honor to refresh, and to revitalize this icon that is MV. Now we’ve had some – a lot of experience in co-branded events, and what we have realized is that the customers—now the MV Agusta customers—are slightly younger; so that’s a very good fit for AMG.
MV Agusta will bring in younger customers into the AMG world; but also what it does, when you look at a bike, and a car—the GT for instance (the all new AMG GT S) I mean you don’t even have to tell anyone because you can see it, it’s obvious; and it already tells you the story—it’s two dynamic brands. The motorcycle is just pure performance — and so from a prime point of view, it’s a perfect fit.
Both have their own niche, both are high end, both are technology driven, both are all about craftsmanship—and that’s one of the most important things, you know; one man one engine — an AMG engine is completely hand-crafted by one guy, and it has the engine plate with his name on it. Basically there are so many parallels to this iconic little company called MV Agusta, that for a branding guy he thinks ok, this is Disneyworld — it’s easy to meld these two brands.
So yes, we truly believe this is a long-term partnership and that what I said before is most important: that Mercedes AMG/Daimler don’t step into a venture like this—and then 5 years down the road say, well that is it. This is a long-term relationship, it’s a partnership. We always said this is a partnership among equals; no matter who is bigger—whatever—each brand, each company has its own assets, and it is so easy to work together—this is really going to be exciting!
UMC: Is there anything you’d like MV Agusta to do with their machines that you think would be a really good fit with AMG? Something that as the AMG guy you’d suggest to them?
MS: Well right now we first want to do the basics to get MV back on track with the network and things like that. But beyond that we’re already looking at the cars and the bikes, and we are already asking “what can we do” so right now.
UMC: So you can already feel the synergy?
MS: Oh for sure, for sure. Obviously, long term; not right now, but long term obviously those AMG engineers love to talk to the MV engineers and vice-versa and so on, but it’s not on the immediate radar screen to have a technology transfer yet. But in the long run I think it will be inevitable, because of course AMG is also F1; so, so the AMG engineers have a close working relationship with the guys at AMG Mercedes Petronas Formula 1 team and who knows what that will lead to!
UMC: Can you see some co-branding perhaps? Maybe a “Brutale RR AMG” or similar?
MS: Well the brands would allow that, there are brands that you could never do that with, but here since this is a perfect fit for sure you can do it; but also that we will take it easy, because it has to be the real deal—not just put AMG on it—for sure you could do color, trim, fittings and so on but we want much more than that.
UMC: You have talked about authenticity of the brands, so this is the strategy?
MS: Absolutely. We (AMG Mercedes) are authentic, to the brand, and to ourselves, and to our customers. And that is one of the things that is so true for MV Agusta too. For AMG the credo is always under promise, over deliver. And so when it says for instance 630 horsepower on the V12 AMG — for sure you got 630! It’s this kind of thing we take it very seriously.
So in the end, always whatever was claimed was on the super-safe side. So what happened with customers—and it’s also true here (with MV Agusta), is the purchase of a car, or bike, or product is the first step; but what decides the re-purchase is not just the experience with the bike, but also the world surrounding that product—and that’s very important to us.
UMC: Mario, thank you for talking to us.
MS: Absolutely, you’re welcome!