KTM Readies the Road

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KTM wants to clean up its existing floor stock, and then get its dealers moving on streetbike sales. So says company president Jon Erik Burleson.

"We need to concentrate on our ready-to-race brand philosophy and build on the asset of the KTM brand... as a premium European on- and off-road motorcycle manufacturer," he says. "We'll do that in two phases: 1) by rebalancing the market so our motorcycles are being sold in a market without discounts or anything like that; and 2) by taking the next step with our dealers regarding how we develop our on-road motorcycle dealer network, our on-road motorcycle client base and our overall activities in the on-road market."

Burleson tells Dealernews that he plans to accomplish the first goal by adjusting the company's market and sales expectations — similar to what Harley-Davidson did during the cruiser boom. "It's always good to have one less of a product than what the market wants if you want that product to maintain a good demand at the price you sell it for," he notes.

He says he believes KTM adequately matched its production for the 2009 models to what the market will accommodate while still enabling the leftover '08 bikes to move through the pipeline.

To build the new streetbike side of KTM's business, Burleson says it's all about finding the right dealers within the KTM network — not everyone will get a chance to sell the streetbike line. "We have to get into the lifestyle, and we have to do that with our dealers," he says. "It's about dealer commitment. It's going to be key to find those KTM dealers on the street side of the business that really embrace [it], and give them the opportunity to make a good business model out of the KTM street product model line."

Longer term, the OEM is preparing a supersport that's street-legal and reportedly affordable for the U.S. market. "We want to get young people really excited about getting on motorcycles, but also have to offer something that's priced in a way that would make it an affordable choice for a young person who doesn't have the ability to make an autonomous purchasing decision and has to seek approval from a parent or grandparent," says Hubert Trunkenpolz, managing director of sales and marketing for parent KTM Power Sports AG in Europe.

"We've analyzed the target groups — going to the skater parks and places like that in an effort to understand what their desires are," Trunkenpolz adds. "Development is finished; now we just have to bring it into production. I think you'll see it at the latest in two years' time at the American dealers."

AMA's NEWEST FAMERS. Congratulations to the newest members of the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame. Rod Coates (see photo, left) sold Ariel, BMW, Triumph and Vincent motorcycles before the brands established official U.S. distributors. Coates created service schools for Triumph technician training and ultimately organized and directed the company's competition program, Coates, himself a racer, won the 1950 Daytona 100 on a Triumph Grand Prix 500cc Twin. Vaughn Beals (inset photo) helped pave the way for Harley-Davidson by leading the leveraged buyout of the company from AMF. He was CEO from 1981 to 1989 and then chairman from 1989 to 1996. He remains chairman emeritus of The Motor Co.

Many Top 100 Dealers know Larry Huffman, who emceed the Top 100 Gala in February for many years. Huffman, "The Voice of Supercross," has also announced events in Japan, Canada and just about every major stadium in the U.S. Scot Harden, of course, is one of off-road racing's most influential champions: Baja 1000, ISDE, Djerba 500, Rallye de Atlas. Eleven-time AMA national champion Terry Poovey has posted more than 350 national final starts and finished in the top ten more than 200 times (and in the top five 80 times). Finally, Swedish racer Rolf Tibblin, known for his serious training regimen, helped shape future MX champions through his U.S. training school.