Paolo Carrubba is head of media and public relations for Husqvarna Motorcycles. Eric Menard spoke with him in July at the launch of the Swedish brand’s 2017 Enduro models.
Eric: How long does it take to prepare a launch like this?
Paolo: It takes us about a year of work. It all started with the location of the place. We had to find a place where the logistical requirements are met: we must have access to good-capacity hotels to accommodate our group of journalists. As these guys come from all over the world, we also need an airport not far away. Then we also need facilities to ride our 37 bikes simultaneously in a plot offering everything one can find in an enduro use.
Here in Jönköping, we have it all: the forest trail, a classic motocross circuit, and we added a special test section that is found in enduro races. So we have what it takes to demonstrate the capabilities of our bikes for racing but also in Sunday riding conditions.
You seem to have done a lot of work on lightness and manoeuvrability in the new models.
There are three aspects that are completely changed in our motorcycles in 2017: the weight, dimensions, and traction control. Weight and dimensions go of course hand-in-hand. To successfully reduce the specifications in these two aspects of our bikes, we worked on the chassis and frames as well as our engines. For example, in our 450FE, we saved six kilos from the previous year’s model—that’s a lot!
The 2016 models were not heavy. So how do you reduce the weight?
It’s a lot of work in all aspects of the bike. What we did, among other things, was create a new crankcase using a new fusion process that allowed us to have a smaller casing. We also spent many hours on the engine head and cylinder size.
Are lighter and more rideable bikes easier to sell?
Normally, yes. The more a motorbike is powerful and easy to drive, the more it helps to sell it. I must also say that Husqvarna keeps the spirit of the founders alive. Their spirit was to be pioneers. We are obviously trying to find new products but also new solutions, new ideas—like our carbon rear chassis. It is things like that that make us different.
The nationality of the people who produced the motorcycle is often found in motorcycles. Like the Italian taste for design and performance is found in Italian bikes. Is the Swedish spirit reflected in Husqvarna motorcycles?
We try to put the Swedish spirit into all aspects of the bike: the Swedish design is minimalist, simple. You will not find things not needed in our motorcycles. We are seeking the purity of the lines. Our bikes are sophisticated but simple, practical, functional, and this is found in our whole range.
You seem to have a truly international team.
I am Italian, the product manager is South African, we have several German and Austrian engineers, and several designers are of course Swedish. This is a big benefit for a company, to have people of all backgrounds. Also, several members of the team—like me for instance—ride regularly. We think it’s important to have riders in the development team.
How is our North American market important to you?
North American is the largest market for our company, about 30 percent of our sales. We talk regularly with our colleagues in the United States and Canada and I think we can say that our brand is still well-known in Canada. We have a long history and the fans know us. Following North America, the German market consumes most of our motorcycles, closely followed by France and Italy, which buy an almost equal number of our bikes.
Are all these riders asking you for the same features in your motorcycles, or do the Germans for instance want a different kind of bikes than the Canadians?
I would say that the consumer is quite similar across the globe. With some minor differences, they want performance and drivability.
On our Facebook page, a reader recently asked me the difference between KTM and Husqvarna. What do you think?
While we are part of the same large group [KTM group], our bikes are different. Of course synergies are used for the creation of engine and frame, but in general they are very different. It’s also much in the spirit behind the motorcycles that each entity produces. The feeling when driving on a Husqvarna is very different from the feeling on a KTM.
These are bikes for people who have lots of experience but especially search a different feeling in the chassis and engine?
Yes, if you just look at our enduros, the rear frame and the air box in the rear frame gives you a different feeling. Our list of standard components also differs greatly from KTM’s, like for instance our traction control on all our models, the radiator fans and several other things. We are a premium brand and we offer products accordingly.
Why have you invited us here to Sweden instead of elsewhere in the world where you could have found the same conditions?
Our new generation of bikes is a milestone for the brand and that’s why we thought we should bring you here where the brand was born and let you visit the Husqvarna Museum. We wanted to give you a very detailed picture of the Husqvarna brand, which has existed since 1689. We especially wanted to illustrate the fact that our company has had several lives and made several innovations in many fields.
With the Husqvarna museum visit, you can see that since 1903, we have a rich history in the world of motorcycles with models for the Dakar, racing motocross and enduro, and military models. You can also see that there are many products that we’ve made to adapt as a company to a changing national and international economy as the centuries went by. All these products and prototypes illustrate the innovative and inventive spirit of our company.