Quick chat with Diego Arioli Head of KTM Product Marketing

During a recent KTM launch in Thailand Trevor Hedge took the opportunity to have a quick chat with Diego Arioli, the Italian born KTM Head of Global Product Marketing. Based at KTM headquarter in Mattighofen, Austria, we recently caught up with Diego during a product launch in Thailand.

Trevor: Is there a new big-bore street-adventure oriented single-cylinder engine coming from KTM?  Has the current engine reached the limit of its potential? The current 690 is the highest performance large capacity single on the market, but I think KTM has learned a lot since they’ve first built that engine and if you bought out an all new single now, with all the advances in technology that you can incorporate into it, it could be something even more unique and special in the marketplace perhaps? Is there something on the way? Is there a new big-bore single coming?

Diego: “What I can tell you is that the LC4 engine is, let’s say one of the trademarks of the KTM family, so we are not discontinuing this line, meaning that we are also not closing the throttle in the development of this product line. So this is meaning that the development for this platform is still going on.

“Sooner or later something new will come up, but there were have been a lot of steps in the development to get where we are now, even in the real capacity of the bike was growing from 640 to 660 to 690. So there was always some development going on, the double ignition was one of the most recent. 

“With this big bore engine, let’s say what is happening in the combustion chamber is always something you need to control very well. So definitely the new technology will play an important role, even on this engine. I mean when you consider a 690 as a single cylinder, the capacity per cylinder is even more than on a 1290 Superduke R.”

Trevor: And KTM has also learned so much and come so far since the RC8 sportsbike was introduced. Now you have the best technology available in motorcycling with the 1290 Super Adventure and the 1290 Super Duke R. Are we going to see a 1290 RC8 Superbike as such? Is that in current plans?

Diego: “Well, the focus at the moment, the target is to work on the Moto GP project and for companies of the size of KTM it’s not possible to work at the same time at the Moto GP and at the Superbike project. So at the moment we’re focusing on the Moto GP project, the target is to line up in the season 2017, so it’s not much time, it’s two years from now and also when you have a look in the Superbike segment, this is pretty much shrinking in the last few years and nearly every player in the market is pushing a lot to improve the vehicle in order to get market share. So the competition is very strong in a market which is getting smaller, so the effort for a company like KTM would be huge for a return on our investment which would be limited, because of the let’s say shrinking market. We’d rather focus the budget we have on the Moto GP project.”

Trevor: KTM has stated before that there are no plans for a cruiser, that that’s not your market, with your ’Ready To Race’ mantra. But the 1290 SDR platform, which you are having great success with and it’s a premium, high-priced product and they sell quite well. Looking at the 1290 Super Duke R, I see potential for one of those real muscle cruiser type machines to perhaps spawn off of the 1290 SDR. Is that something that might be happening?

Diego: “From a strategic point of view, we are focusing on creating a strong range of motorcycles. We introduced recently 1290 Super Adventure, 1050 Adventure, which is making the Adventure family made of four models, we have here six models on the Naked family, so for the brand KTM we really want to focus on mainstream segments and not follow let’s say that niche potential of product line. Definitely the 1290 engine is a strong asset, we introduced one year ago the Super Duke, we just recently introduced into the Super Adventure. That engine is a great asset, it would be a waste not to exploit it more, so maybe something more will come, but let’s see what’s coming up.”

Trevor: Now KTM were fairly quick out of the blocks with electric technology, with the electric freeride. We’re starting to see some mainstream cruiser brands, Harley with their project Livewire and I think Victory is well underway to introducing a mainstream electric bike project as well. Like I said, KTM on that soft enduro side of things with the electric bike, it’s been around a number of years now and obviously technology has been moving forward every year. Are there any exciting developments, more that we can be expecting from KTM in the near future in the electric bike side of things?

Diego: “Well, definitely, electric bike will play a major role in the future for KTM and for the industry in general and KTM wants to be there with the know-how and the technology, that’s why we started the Freeride-E  project a while ago. Just recently in 2014 we introduced a real mass production of those bikes.

“But at the moment, in regards to electric bikes, we focus on those kinds of light sport type of motorcycles, because when we do a bike, we do it properly. And you might know of course one of the limits of electric bikes is on the range you can have with the batteries. That’s clearly a development which is ongoing, so every year we get bigger capacity of battery at lower price at a lighter weight, so it’s just a matter of time when this will come. But rather than introducing an electric Naked bike which is not capable to have a decent range of usage for the riding mission of a Naked bike, we’d rather decided to introduce a motocross bike or a light enduro bike, which is definitely fit for use, because at the end, after half-an-hour riding on the motocross, even the rider is flat. So it’s not a problem to stop, you’re anyway riding around on a motocross track, you stop, take one battery off, take another battery in, there is a quick exchange possible and that’s it.

“If instead we would have started immediately selling a Naked bike or some different road concept, this would tell the customer this motorcycle is capable for a riding mission of the Naked bike. We don’t want to make our customer unhappy or dissatisfied, like, “You promised me something, you haven’t delivered.” That’s the reason why at the moment we are speaking on those types of vehicles, but this is also a chance for us to test ourselves, to get into the technologies to be one of the first comers and as soon as the technology is available, we’ll be ready for different types of vehicles, we will definitely go for that.”

Trevor: And with bringing new product to market in these forever more-tightening restrictions, like Euro emissions regulations etc. What’s one of the biggest challenges or the biggest couple of challenges in bringing a new model to market now and catering for those looming restrictions that make your job harder than perhaps otherwise it would be?

Diego: “Yes, those restrictions are getting tighter and tighter, but the big challenge for us at the moment is coping with different homologations worldwide. Just imagine 390 Duke is a motorcycle we distribute in 90 different markets, and this is meaning that we have overall 11 different regional specifications in order to fit the different homologations. I think the reflectors in Australia for instance. This is making, just for the reflectors or maybe some stickers here and there, is making that motorcycle a different SKU code for our warehouse for our production. And at the moment we have already 11 of those versions for our 390 Duke. So the big challenge is not meeting a certain regulation, especially when it’s clearly stated years up-front, “Okay, in three or four years from now, this will be the limit.” Okay, it’s a challenge, but we’ll do it. The challenge is really to cope with different homologations worldwide, different set-up in countries where maybe there are changes of regulations in a frame of six months or even less. So I think a constant monitoring of these is more of a challenge, definitely.”

Diego Arioli Head of KTM Product Marketing
Diego Arioli Head of KTM Product Marketing