By Steve Bauer
MILAN, Italy — At the same time Piaggio Group S.p.A unveiled several products during an EICMA press conference, company officials were expressing concern over increasing global competition, specifically from China.
During the Nov. 6 press conference, Roberto Colaninno, CEO of the Piaggio Group, said the company sees greater competition for the entire Italian cycle industry from across the globe.
Piaggio USA CEO Paolo Timoni says the influx of Asian product, especially from China, has forced Piaggio and other Italian manufacturers to focus on promoting quality and performance to consumers as the industry loses sales to cheaper product.
“The global competition has certainly grown,” Timoni said, “but our focus is to inform consumers about the gap in quality that exists between our product and those from companies such as China. It’s hard to compete with those companies’ price points, but similar to what American and Japanese OEMs are doing with motorcycles and ATVs, we are confident consumers will purchase our products for the quality, customer service and support they’ll receive while they own the product. That’s where we have a decided advantage.”
During the Milan press conference, Colaninno also said Piaggio has plans to continue its manufacturing process in India, including the introduction in the near future of a two-wheeled scooter there. He also hinted at a product that’s currently in development that “will speak for itself.”
“This is a very exciting time for Piaggio,” Colaninno said, “with some great new models available from Moto Guzzi, Aprilia and Derbi, along with Piaggio’s product development.”
Among the highlights of the press conference were Piaggio’s X7, the company’s newest scooter in the medium-size commuter segment; the MP3 HyS, which features a hybrid drive system that combines an internal combustion engine with an electric motor (the HyS was presented at EICMA as a prototype, although a production model is expected by the end of 2008 in Europe); and Motto Guzzi’s Stelvio, which features a newly developed 100hp, 1,200cc eight-valve engine. Other models include Aprilia’s SMV 750 Dorsoduro and RX/SX 125, and Derbi’s Senda DRD Evo.
Although the X7 will not be available in the United States, Piaggio USA’s Timoni says the company plans to introduce the MP3 HyS in the United States in early 2009.
“Not only does this machine give you the unique performance ability of the MP3, it’ll feature an environmentally conscious element to it that we feel will be a big success in the U.S. market,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot of excitement over this model, and I would say that in the future you’ll see similar projects from Piaggio.”
Timoni also says the company expects healthy sales on the motorcycle side thanks to new product from Aprilia and Moto Guzzi.
“We are anxious to see how consumers react to some of these new models, but the initial comments we’ve received have been very positive,” he said. “These bikes have some great design and performance aspects to them and really are great representatives of the quality and innovation that Aprilia and Moto Guzzi have been known for throughout the years.”