FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE
Interview Timur Sardarov: MV Agusta must improve its quality of service
Timur Sardarov (s’) has been investing in MV Agusta for a year and a half. Giovanni Castiglioni’s new partner takes stock of his work and the future of the Italian brand: stop of the WorldSBK, return to Grand Prix, arrival of the Brutale 1000, new – very – limited models, rebirth of Cagiva, etc..
The launch of the news was an opportunity for the two big bosses to talk to journalists, including Site which gives you the report of the first interview: that of the Russian entrepreneur Timur Sardarov.
- MNC interview of May 13, 2016 :
- MNC of 22 November 2016 :
- MNC of July 25, 2017 :
Via his Ocean Group companies then ComSar Invest, Sardarov gradually acquired a stake in the Varese manufacturer, notably ousting AMG (Mercedes) with whom Giovanni Castiglioni had not succeeded in coming to an agreement..
Why did you invest in MV Agusta ?
Timur Sardarov: There are several reasons…
The main ?
T. S .: I just believe in MV, in its products, in what the brand represents.
Is this your first experience in the motorcycle world ?
T. S .: Yes. We specialize in new technologies, and I admit that I never thought of doing something like this, within a brand that is experiencing problems. But my experience must be able to serve the MV Agusta team, its staff, its motorcycles. There was potential, that’s why we went for it.
You drive motorcycles yourself ?
T. S .: Yes, but I must admit that I am much more comfortable behind the wheel of a car than the handlebars of a motorcycle.
What is your role within MV Agusta? Do you participate in strategic decision-making ?
T. S .: Yes of course. I didn’t just invest in MV Agusta, I’m working on it. At the moment, I work almost full time because MV requires all my attention and expertise. Giovanni is the CEO of MV Agusta, he is in charge of products and production. I am more involved in marketing, sales and technology.
How do you see MV Agusta in five years? ?
T. S .: The first step is to stabilize the mark. We are already fairly stable in terms of production and delivery. We must now improve the quality of service, it is a big part that we are tackling this year. It is only a matter of time, because the processes are already launched. We also need to work on our relationship with customers. You will soon see what I mean by that … So what will we do in five years? We will produce the best motorcycles in the world! And we will be careful not to depend on the strategy of another group like Harley-Davidson or AMG, which almost sank MV Agusta … We must rely on ourselves, on our own capital, on our own decisions. We have to defend our strategy. It is fundamental. The products are there, the market is there, and the customers too. We have to concentrate on the "+ 800 cc" sector with our 3-cylinder, and the new 4-cylinder 1000 cc platform. We must also be careful not to overproduce: if our market represents 10,000 machines, we must produce 9,000 in order to maintain demand, to ensure that our services are up to par, and to maintain a strong second-hand market. This is how a brand remains desirable.
What do you think of MV Agusta in competition? Is it important to you ?
T. S .: Yes of course. We are currently participating in the Superbike and Supersport World Championships. But this is the last season for the F4.
Your commitment to Moto2 therefore means the end of the WSBK and WSSP programs ?
T. S .: Yes. We have developed a chassis for the Moto2, similar to that of KTM. The engine will obviously be the Triumph 3-cylinder, not our Tre Pistoni. But this is a good point because it is cheaper for us! The advantage is also that the geometry is very close to our F3.
What are your goals ? A 38th world title ?
T. S .: First of all, to re-enter the world of Grand Prix, to be noticed there, to generate interest and, potentially, to climb intelligently in MotoGP. Because the top category for a company like ours can turn out to be disastrous or fatal because of the costs. But before we come up with such a plan, we’re going to focus on the Moto 2 to see what we’re capable of. We have a glorious past and we want to get back to the forefront !
In World Superbike you do not display any title sponsor? This will also be the case in Grand Prix ?
T. S .: No, this will change in Moto 2.
You have contacted pilots ?
T. S .: Yes, but it is still too early to talk about it. I don’t know motorcycle racers well yet, but I learn quickly.
You announced the arrival in 2021 of a "Hyperbike" and not of a Superbike. Could you be more precise ?
T. S .: Development for the new F4 has been going on for some time, but we want to take our time to achieve something really special. MV Agusta has always represented a certain form of madness, something impalpable, sometimes inaccessible. We know how to produce a good motorcycle. Internal debates have been intense over the news. We all know each other very well: some of our technicians have worked for them, and vice versa. We know they’ve created a fantastic product, there’s no question about it. But that’s only a very good bike: good gearbox, good engine … The design? It’s always subjective. We want to go back to basics, find what the first F4 represented. This bike, you remember, had revolutionized the hyper sports market. We don’t want to just produce another really good, expensive bike. We want something crazier !
Also tell us about the future Brutale that you will present at the next Eicma show at the latest….
T. S .: The Brutale 1000 is in the same spirit … 200 horsepower on a 175 kg roadster! It will have the very latest technology, but it will have to go beyond, bring a little madness.
Last year, Giovanni Castiglioni had mentioned a Brutale 1200, but it will ultimately be a 1000. Why, knowing that your competitors offer larger displacement ?
T. S .: Because you have to pay attention to performance. Our maximum power will be around 200 horsepower, or even 210 + … Besides that, it seems to me that the Monster 1200 develops 150 hp. It’s not a question of size, but of what the pilot has available and what he can do with it. I think we have one of the best 1000cc engines. Once again, we are not focusing on the displacement but on the behavior of the bike, which will be significantly superior to anything that currently exists on the market..
Expect something extraordinary at the MV Agusta booth in Milan this year?
T. S .: You know, despite some very difficult passages, the company has always succeeded in presenting new products. Last year we exhibited the Brutale RR and presented the new Dragster RR which is not a simple evolution but a real new model. It will go into production in two to three weeks. This year, we will therefore present the Brutale 1000, as well as the second RVS with astonishing style … plus a few surprises.
You said that style is subjective. Do you think MV Agusta should keep its current lines or move away from it? ?
T. S .: You will see that the new Brutale 1000 will be very different. The purpose of the RVS series is precisely to demonstrate our ability to explore new avenues. The first RVS was beautiful, but a little conservative. The second will be exceptional, quite distinct from mass-produced products.
And what about the "One To One" project, to build unique motorcycles? Do you have orders, proposals ?
T. S .: It is a heavy program in terms of human resources. To make the bike, you have to prepare three actually, for development, testing, etc. We clearly do not have the right to make mistakes on this kind of product. We cannot launch several studies at the same time. We’ve been working on a single project for six months, and it should be completed by the middle of next year. It is a radically different machine, unprecedented in terms of propulsion. It is therefore complicated in terms of design, integration…
An electric motor, hydrogen, pedal ?!
T. S .: It’s a mixed, a hybrid … But we want to keep the surprise !
How does the "121" project work ?
T. S .: The first machine is ours. In the automotive industry, when Lamborghini for example unveils three new models, they have already been sold. This is the goal of our long-term program: to manufacture mini series of three or five machines. But originally, the ideas always come from us.
You estimated the price of Zagato at over 200,000 euros during the press conference. Is she sold ?
T. S .: It too was sold from the start. But this project was not ours, it was that of a Zagato client. She really had a crazy class.
MV Agusta wishes to invest the heart of big cities via galleries. What is the point ?
T. S .: We want to bring the brand closer to its customers and prospects by developing our network around the world, in city centers. The current dealers have gradually and logically moved away from it because of the costs. We want to come back to it by selling rare and different goods that will attract people who do not necessarily frequent the traditional concessions..
The term gallery is not likely to muddy the waters ?
T. S .: No, it’s the opposite. Our slogan is "Motorcycle Art". We have always offered stylish, sculptural motorcycles! We plan to work with artists, not just on motorcycle preparations. There are people who care about our brand but don’t even ride, just because we’re different. Around this table, we are all "bikers" in the traditional sense … But the world of motorcycles is changing. We want to reach out to new populations who see us from other angles. Not necessarily that of performance or driving pleasure. We want to distinguish ourselves from other places where you can only find motorcycles, and exhibit other forms of art. We are also considering other services, such as taking charge of the motorcycle for overhauls or maintenance, returning it directly to the owner. It will be unprecedented in the motorcycle.
However, it already exists in the car, like Volvo for example with its "Next-generation Showrooms" ?
T. S .: Exactly. We are looking for new ways to welcome our customers, to give them new experiences. Look at Aston Martin or Ferrari: there are big traditional dealerships, and smaller showrooms that serve to capture people’s attention and make them want to buy a new machine, to drive with it..
It’s a new way of "consuming" the motorcycle ?
T. S .: What strikes us when observing in the automotive world is that it has become expressionless in twenty years or so. Today, buying a Mercedes or a Toyota is almost the same: the quality of the product is the same. Before, one car was good, the other much less, some were safer than others, etc. Now, we can consider that they are all good, all safe. The motorcycle world is following the same path. All the brands are part of large groups … except us! We want to keep our original side, sometimes unpredictable.
The people you are targeting through the galleries will be more style oriented rather than performance oriented, no ?
T. S .: The term "performance" is very debatable. What works for me may not work for you. It is above all a question of capacity. Very often, we seek the maximum: reach the highest speed, enjoy more grip, etc. Why not ! But for some, performance depends on accessibility to power, grip … There are also many people who would like to ride but cannot: they lack time, experience, confidence … should not be forgotten. They buy a motorbike for what they represent, for the look they have. But rest assured, we will continue to produce high-performance motorcycles in the true sense of the word. !
And you will keep the concessions for "die-hard" bikers ?
T. S .: Of course, but we want to improve them, allow them to develop without necessarily trying to sell more, at any cost. This method does not work for MV Agusta. Not at all. We are going to rationalize our network: rather than having ten salesmen in Varese – this is an example – who each sell a few motorcycles per year, make sure that there is a large one that offers our entire range and sells a hundred motorcycles. The quality in terms of service, follow-up and advice will increase significantly. We could suggest that they come with their customers to take possession of the new motorcycles in Varese, to visit the factory, to go for a walk in the surroundings. We are also thinking about launching a branded cup, as is the case in Spain with the MV Agusta Gentlemen Driver Cup, very close to the Ferrari Challenge, where the pilots buy their motorcycle but entrust it to the dealer who is responsible for preparing it and to carry it on each race, about one per month.
How many dealers are there in France now? ?
T. S .: Ten, which is not enough for such a vast territory which represents a big potential market for us. Paris is well covered, as is the south-east in Nice and Monaco. We are working to expand our presence. Two new concessions will open in April in Granville and Metz.
Do you have any details to give us on the relaunch of the Cagiva brand with two-wheelers with "alternative propulsion"? ?
T. S .: Cagiva is an amazing brand. You are all passionate bikers, so you remember that this great company allowed Ducati to go from 300 to 35,000 machines, which it owned Husqvarna, Agusta, Moto Morini … It was a formidable beast that has also known its ups and downs. But its spirit remains: the "fun", the youth, the accessibility illustrated by its slogan "Power To People", remember! Cagiva will therefore perfectly complement the MV Agusta range, with only electrical products, but above all pleasant, not boring … We don’t want to talk about the environment. Electric can be fun, cool, young.
Should we expect leisure, all-terrain products ?
T. S .: Yes, but not only. You will see at the next Eicma fair…
The motors and batteries will be produced at your place in Varese ?
T. S .: No, not at the beginning anyway. We work a lot on the design and the structure. At the moment, we do not have the means to develop electric motors and batteries. In all fairness, no one actually does. The differences between Tesla and BMW, for example, are not at this level: they are supplied by Bosch! What sets them apart, however, is the assembly and software to ensure better autonomy, better simulation of the engine behavior (s). This is where the products differ, in the way they deliver power, which may be better than on Zero motorcycles, for example. It’s not that the motors or the batteries are bad, the "hardware" is the same … It’s all in the "software". So we’ll work on this first, then we’ll see for the hardware.
How do you plan to develop your software? Do you have partners ?
T. S .: I personally have a lot of experience in this area. And we have our own CRC research office, we collaborate with our suppliers, we have competing partners … It promises to be exciting !
Cagiva will have the same "Super Premium" positioning as MV Agusta ?
T. S .: No, these products will be much more accessible in terms of prices and range.
When will we see the first models ?
T. S .: On our stand at Eicma this year. Then we plan on marketing in 12 to 14 months.
Bultaco offers light and fun two-wheelers called Brinco, you must know them (yes, yes). They are placed in the leisure market. But the urban potential is enormous too, with the closures of city centers to thermal engines. Do you see this as an opportunity ?
T. S .: Our Cagiva will not be limited to all-terrain, but kinds of "cross-over" obviously. In addition, Bultacos are more like bicycles … We are trying something else.
Motorcycle manufacturers are facing the rising average age of bikers in Europe. Cagiva is a way to rejuvenate your audience ?
T. S .: We are counting on Cagiva because these new products should attract young people. This aging problem is global, worldwide, it affects all manufacturers. We see it particularly at Harley-Davidson, their sales drop dramatically. But all brands are impacted. MV Agusta is relatively small which can be an advantage as we have more time than others to react. In addition, our clientele is relatively young.
But with an increasingly "Super Premium" positioning, your customers must have more and more income … This is not going in the right direction for once ?
T. S .: Certainly, but our range starts at 14,000 euros and most of it is under 22,000 euros. Our customers are on average over 35 years old. But we have to admit that our motorcycles are not intended primarily for beginners, they require a little experience. We also need to work on financing solutions.
You will develop loan offers, rentals with option to purchase or long term ?
T. S .: It is in our projects, yes, but it is not easy to work with the banks, following our period under the Italian "chapter 11" (safeguard procedure allowing companies to restructure under the control of a court , Editor’s note). Financing motorcycles is an important lever to stimulate sales, it is obvious. Some of our dealers already have agreements. But we would like to work on a larger scale, as Ducati does with Volkswagen Financial Services.
Your little brother also works for MV Agusta. What is his role ?
T. S .: He just graduated in New York and moved like me to Varese. He works on e-commerce, accessories, merchandising … These are activities that we did not have in the past. He is working in particular on a new site, on a new platform for dealers which will allow them to communicate and keep us informed of their sales. It is a tool that should allow us to improve, to better identify the specificities of certain markets or sectors. Ducati and Harley have similar systems. But the first is supported by Audi, the second is a very large American company.
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