Bike India

Interview: Timor Sadarov

During a recent visit to the MV Agusta factory on the banks of Lake Varese in northern Italy, we had an opportunit­y to chat with MV Agusta’s Russian-born CEO, Timur Sardarov. Here are the excerpts from that interview

- Interviewe­d By: Adam Child ‘Chad’ Photograph­y: MV Agusta and Milagro

A chat with MV Agusta’s Russian-born CEO

The former London-based internatio­nal businessma­n who now lives in Italy took over mV agusta in december 2018 from the Castiglion­i family as once again the historic brand faced financial uncertaint­y. over the last few years, there has been a clear injection of cash and urgency, as mV agusta have stepped up their game, delivering more new models than ever before. as we face the uncertaint­y of the current CoVId-19 pandemic, we managed to grab half an hour of sardarov’s precious time.

Thank you for taking time to chat with us. We appreciate you must be really busy. Since you took over MV in December 2018, has the journey been what you expected?

It was tough. I thought it would be easier, but it would be much better if CoVId hadn’t come. The company would be stable a bit earlier, but still we have surprising­ly recovered for the first time in the history of mV agusta. We have stable production, finance, and stable plans — the company structure is proper and continues to be a family-run venture. but there are, as always, small issues which we are dealing with.

What have been your highlights?

This year we have launched five new models. In the history of mV agusta, this hasn’t been done.

Apart from COVID, is this where you expected to be?

slightly behind, because of CoVId. restrictio­ns on movement and everything to do with regulatory bodies have put us three to four months behind schedule on some of the work we do, but, generally, the pandemic has brought the company together. With new management, we are working to maximum capacity and in good spirits too.

Where do you see MV Agusta in the next, say, three years?

mV agusta is now going into the wider range of mobility. The journey will start in the lighter mobility segment and move to urban commuters that will be powered by electric propulsion. We will produce highperfor­mance bicycles that are also electrifie­d. We are working on a new 500-cc platform with quite an interestin­g philosophy and we are working on our new adventure range that will be announced in the next three to four months. We are also working on a brand-new 950 platform and our 800 is going through major change with euro 5.

We took the opportunit­y with the euro 5 transition to bring significan­tly more changes to all the bikes and all the platforms across the entire range. It’s not just euro 5, it’s major change to the products in terms of styling and technical packaging — from next year, I would say all our range could be considered new.

When we spoke to your team before, there was talk of the electric bikes coming from the Cagiva brand. Is that correct?

oh, Cagiva is more utilitaria­n electric, more for b2b services — sharing platforms rather than lifestyle, premium lifestyle products like mV.

Is a replacemen­t for the F4 in the pipeline?

To be honest, that’s still on the drawing board. We currently have to work more towards electric propulsion rather than saving the combustion engine.

mV agusta is a small company as compared to many others and, for us, it’s important to see where everyone is going and evaluate complex developmen­ts for the high-performanc­e superbike. We realised that after a certain amount of power is produced, we spend more time removing that power, rather than applying it. We could produce a bike with 250 horsepower, let’s say, but there is probably only two to three per cent of the time when this power can be applied. so, the quality of the rider plus the quality of the ride need to be balanced. do we need to produce a bike with so much power when we spend 80 per cent of that production time removing this power to make the product reliable, safe and fun, and more usable for the wider audience of riders?

We see performanc­e cars with 1,000 hp but this power is applicable — we can all use it, you or I. Put your foot down and you can use it as the electronic­s in a car protect you from doing stupid things! a bike is different; it’s not as easy as that. You have only one wheel with that much power. There are physics limitation­s.

We need to first see what will happen with electric, hybrid or combustion and whether we will need a massive engine with a lot of power or something different. The f4 is a brand in its own right that appeared at a time when the most technologi­cally advanced product was the superbike. Will superbikes be important in five years and still represent the biggest technologi­cal advancemen­ts? I don’t know. so, it’s an interestin­g question, but, perhaps, another product will have that technologi­cal superiorit­y rather than a superbike.

So, we suppose, for a small company, if you were going to focus your efforts, it would be on the smaller capacity?

It’s important to move towards own-brand retail. The supermarke­t-style bike dealers are at the bottom of the food chain of the business and CoVId is putting nails in its coffin. dealers will either have to be loyal to a brand to deliver the experience to customers or they will be wiped out. The faster they realise this, the better; otherwise, this business will not exist in a couple of years.

I’ve seen a number of dealers in europe deal in multiple brands and I’m confident that this standard dealer model is dead. so, for me, in terms of investment, it’s about bringing in experience and showing the depth and history of the company to the customer.

We are also moving towards becoming a mobility company rather than just a motorcycle company because we have a new dna in which mobility is becoming more important. Thirty years ago, the journey of the motorcycle rider started with a 50-cc moped and now it starts with a scooter, so it’s a very different. We are also moving towards safe mobility, premium products, and beautiful designs, but not too much about sport, as that’s a very dangerous area that could backfire on the company.

Lifestyle, less pollutants, more comfortabl­e, cheaper to own, reliable… this type of message is integrated into the product, which is why we are looking towards lighter motorcycle­s that are very connected. our focus is adventure.

When you say adventure, smaller or bigger capacity?

both. We will bring two bikes: one will be 500 cc and the other around 1,000 cc.

With your focus moving more towards introducin­g people to the brand with smaller bikes and the mobility market, how does that change your view on racing, which you’re currently involved in with Moto2? Will the MV brand still need to be racing?

To be honest, we don’t need racing for our brand. It’s a good showcase, but it depends how we are approached. The company went through a crisis and we had to reduce our direct involvemen­t in non-profit making activities. so, we gave it up in 2017. all the racing we do now is done with partner teams and we are evaluating that involvemen­t with moto2. We are going to stay for 2021 and, maybe, the year after, depending on how that goes. In supersport, we are evaluating it right now: there is a chance we will come back ourselves over the next two years as a factory team. racing is relevant but not top of the priority list.

mV agusta never made money and the priority now is to make sure this brand is sustainabl­e. I think I owe it to the company to love and make this brand work. focusing on something that doesn’t make money would be a shame, as the industry would not be the same without mV agusta.

The way the media and manufactur­ers work is changing. Historical­ly, we would go to the internatio­nal shows to see new models. How do you propose to get the

message over for MV Agusta?

Trade shows will not be back in the next two to three years. There will be less people and the significan­ce of that investment is going to drop. I can tell you, for example, that the participat­ion in eICma in terms of people, products, and time will cost mV more than one million euros. multiply that by the number of different shows that we have to attend to interact with our customers and the expenditur­e becomes significan­t. Is this an effective expenditur­e? I consider not, because it’s more for the public than the industry but the public is not coming. If this is only for the industry, I’m pretty sure we can spend the same amount of money on a more effective way of delivering informatio­n, digital or direct, so that’s why we are evaluating how we are going to present the new products and how to communicat­e. We will still be introducin­g new euro 5 models without eICma.

Which geographic­al region do you see as a growing market: America, Europe or Asia?

for mV agusta, every market is growing. The number one market is Italy. We can grow two, three or even five times here in a very short period of time. same for Germany, the UK, france, and spain, the netherland­s… all the northern countries. europe is our direct market. We can bring the clients, meet the collectors, and I can be involved myself — we can be very intimate with our customers. We are friends with our clients. many other companies have managers, but we are more entreprene­urial, easier to understand, and more welcoming.

Then there’s america, where we are now distributi­ng directly. Things would have been so much better had CoVId not intervened. america is a great country, but it is in disarray. businesses on the ground are really struggling, which is why our events and activities have been halted.

China is a modern market, where we have signed to build our network and I’m a great believer in this project. Then Japan. We are growing there too. so, I would say europe, the Us, China, and Japan — these are the biggest markets for mV agusta to grow. because we are so small, I can consider we are underperfo­rming.

from next year, we will produce 10,000 bikes, which will be a record for mV agusta. from there, we will start to be strong and the market will feel that effect. over the next three years, we will grow in all the segments but with our production outsourced, especially for the 500-cc platform, which we are outsourcin­g to China. We will achieve 20,000-22,000 bikes in the next three years.

What is the current production?

around 5,500.

Everything is currently produced in Italy, but in the future?

everything above 500 cc is produced here in Italy; everything below 500 is produced elsewhere.

Finally, readers would like to know more about yourself. Do you still ride bikes?

I used to ride bikes and own them, but I do not consider myself a rider. am I a car or bike person? I would say a car person, but I grew up in the north, so I’m russian. Then I lived in London. but in the north, there are very few bike riders. now I ride bikes weekly, all different bikes — it’s not that I stick only to mV agusta; for me, it is very important to understand every single bike that we consider our competitor and there are a lot of good bikes in the modern world. I am a great advocate and supporter of the industry.

If we went to your house and opened the garage, would we see bikes in there?

I have custom harleys, custom bmWs, and mV agustas.

Did you ride in London?

Yes, it’s the easiest way to get around. now all my bikes from London are here in Italy. I had beautiful custom bikes there, but two were stolen. one was an mV in black and white, a really amazing bike. It was stolen in shoreditch.

A lot of bikes get stolen in London…

The mV was stolen in London too, but I got it back. It was stolen quickly but I managed to get it back myself. They’d hidden it somewhere to see if there was a tracker fitted to it before they transporte­d it. We called the police. They were busy, so we got it ourselves.

Do you support and follow motorcycle racing when you can?

Yes, I do. motoGP is doing very well and I’m happy it’s growing compared to formula 1. motoGP is exciting. This year showed how unpredicta­ble the racing can be. This makes it more exciting than formula 1. I think, maybe, mir for this year. he is spanish and everything is in spain.

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