England’s Motorcycle News is reporting that Aprilia is deep in talks with Laverda about a takeover. Laverda, known to be financially weak, is a prime takeover target — in part, because it has a motorcycle history tracing back to 1949 (something Aprilia lacks).
Those of you watching the automobile industry must have noted that Volkswagen, and its brilliant chief executive, Ferdinand Piech, have been gobbling up historic automobile brands for the past four years. These brands now owned by Volkswagen include Rolls Royce (soon to be transferred to BMW, however), Bentley and Bugatti, among others. Essentially, Volkswagen is buying not only these hard assets, but the tradition and the reputation that comes with these legendary marques. Aprilia appears to have embarked on a similar strategy in the motorcycle industry.
Volkswagen brings its strong engineering and marketing to these legendary marques — designing new products that fit with the tradition of the marque, yet feature the modern styling and engineering that only money can buy. If Aprilia does this with Moto Guzzi and, perhaps, Laverda, Aprilia could become an industry powerhouse.
While the Japanese manufacturers are busy trying to outdo one another in existing market segments, Aprilia can design motorcycles that fit the tradition of these legendary marques (such as a transverse v-twin Moto Guzzi with modern stying and technology — the engine layout being a Moto Guzzi trademark) and avoid competing straight-up with the mainstream manufacturers. It is an excellent strategy, and precisely the strategy Volkswagen intends to employ with Bentley and Bugatti, for instance.
When Aprilia introduced its first big-bore, four-stroke sportbike, the Mille, everyone was surprised by its quality and performance (surprised, because it was a first effort). Aprilia has its act together, however, and it has proven this time and time again — both in racing and in the marketplace. Aprilia is a player.