How Do You Say Deja Vu in Italian?

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One of the problems with Italian brands has been their on-again, off-again presence in the U.S. market. Ducati, Benelli, Laverda, Aprilia, Moto Guzzi, Cagiva and Vespa all have been through it at some point during the last decade.

This most recently happened to Aprilia and Moto Guzzi. They shut operations in 2004, changed management, reorganized and got back on the gas in 2005. At a September press intro for the new Guzzi Breva 1200S and Aprilia SL750 Shiver, we spoke to Mike Kull, VP of marketing at parent Piaggio Group, and Rick Panettiera, brand manager for the two marques.

Here's what we found out: Sales for both brands are up significantly. Aprilia sales are up 40.9 percent over last year, and scooter sales are up 58 percent. Moto Guzzi sales are up 18 percent (due largely to sales of the Norge sport touring bike).

After going through a "recovery year" in 2006 following the brands' buyout by Piaggio in 2005, both executives report that the company has improved parts distribution and revamped vehicle distribution and technical support systems. The group now claims a fill rate of more than 90 percent.

The goal now is to revitalize the dealer network. Aprilia has doubled its dealer organization to 138 since 2005, and Guzzi has had about the same success, growing its network to 112. About half of the Guzzi dealers also carry Aprilia.

Coping with small marketing budgets, both brands are instead focusing on grassroots efforts. Trucks have been dispatched throughout the United States to offer demo rides at dealerships in an effort simply to put butts on seats.

For reviews of the Breva 1200S and SL750 Shiver, visit www.dealersnews.com.

— Mike Vaughan