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Piaggio sees growth under new North America CEO

New models, sales programs and co-marketing highlight 2011

Piaggio Group Americas hosted its annual Dealer Meeting in Hollywood, Fla., in March, where the subsidiary announced its plans for a new International Piaggio Group Advanced Design Center, displayed four vehicle prototypes and announced three new models for 2012.

Powersports Business recently caught up with Piaggio Group Americas’ president and CEO Miguel Martinez, who has been in the lead role at the company for about a year. He reported that the company had a successful 2011 and is looking forward to its opportunities this year.

PSB: How has your first year at the helm of Piaggio Group Americas been?

Miguel Martinez: It has been incredibly exciting. I have had the opportunity to meet with many of our dealers to learn about the current state of their business, their interactions with Piaggio and their vision for our Aprilia, Moto Guzzi, Vespa and Piaggio brands in this market. For starters, we listened to their concerns about profitability, given the overall climate in the powersports industry. As a result, we implemented many new programs designed to help dealerships stay profitable, including a new Quarterly Sales Program and sell-in and sell-out sales programs that were very well received. Last year, we were aggressive with our co-marketing programs to generate leads for our dealers, and we saw a great deal of success resulting from our Vespa and Moto Guzzi programs.

PSB: What did you learn in your first year?

Piaggio Group Americas president and CEO Miguel Martinez helped launch three new production models at Piaggio’s Dealer Meeting in Hollywood, Fla., in March.

MM: I learned that we have many extremely passionate dealers and that we have to work harder to engage all of our dealers, so they are at the level that our brands merit and our customers expect. I also saw firsthand that America is indeed the land of opportunity. I’m from Spain, so I’ve always heard the stories about how vibrant and full of opportunity this market is, but now I have finally been able to “live” that vision. With a population of over 300 million and only a small portion of Americans riding motorcycles and scooters, the opportunities are here; we just need to do our best to capture them. We have the right tools: the best product and a dealer network that is strong and getting stronger. These two strengths will position our company for great success in the American market for 2012 and beyond.

PSB: How did Piaggio do in 2011 in terms of motorcycle and scooter sales?

MM: Overall we had a fantastic year, with a 63.8 percent annual increase in total unit shipments and a strong 53 percent increase in revenues. Together — we and our dealer network — did a fantastic job to achieve these types of results.

PSB: Were there any changes to the dealer network or dealer program in 2011?

MM: As we mentioned, there were many changes that we made in 2011. We reviewed the way we were doing business with our dealers and took steps to make it easier and more profitable for our dealers. We established programs and asked our dealers to join us, creating a win-win for us both. The dealers joined with us creating some very good results in 2011 that we will build upon for more success in 2012.

PSB: Are any changes to the dealer network or dealer program coming in 2012?

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MM: We have a committed and motivated network of 370 dealers, including Canada. We have very ambitious goals for 2012, which we announced to the dealers at our Dealer Convention [in March] in Florida. Our two biggest targets are doubling our motorcycle market share and achieving 30 percent overall growth. I may be a little crazy and hungry to set these goals, but I believe we have the best product on the market, especially with our latest introductions, the Aprilia Tuono V4 R APRC, Moto Guzzi Stelvio 1200 NTX and Piaggio BV 350. To support the best product, we are currently implementing a new customer-centric program, Piaggio Prime. This is a dealership certification program that will standardize the aftersales process for customers. Our goal is to ensure that customers won’t have to guess at the level of service and satisfaction they’ll receive at a dealership. So, Piaggio Prime will put dealer standards in place for a number of criteria, including use of quality genuine parts, top certified technicians, a pristine service area and a respect for the environment by committing to collect and dispose of materials properly.

PSB: Is there any one Piaggio brand that the American group focused on in 2011?

MM: Since we represent four brands, we needed to be focused on all of them to achieve results. We are focused on providing the best product and customer service for all of our iconic Italian brands, Aprilia, Moto Guzzi, Piaggio and Vespa.

PSB: Which model or models is Piaggio most excited about for 2012?

MM: Of course we are excited about all of our Aprilia, Moto Guzzi, Piaggio and Vespa models for this year. We know sport riders will be blown away by the just-launched Aprilia Tuono V4 R APRC, which is the most powerful naked sport bike on the market and has the racing electronics and DNA of the championship-winning RSV4. We’re also happy to bring the Moto Guzzi Stelvio 1200 NTX to the market. This is a new adventure tourer with a huge 8.5-gallon tank, plus other very unique features that will appeal to the touring rider, including a suite of accessories that comes standard on the vehicle. In the scooter category, we just launched the Piaggio BV 350, which is completely redesigned and reengineered with a new engine, frame and body work. The engine, which is the most powerful in its category, has the performance of a 400cc but in a compact, fuel-efficient 350cc package — and fuel efficiency is especially important to consumers at current pump prices. We will be bringing in the Piaggio MP3 Hybrid for municipalities and governments seeking an energy efficient vehicle that will decrease the carbon footprint of their fleets. Our idea is to offer green business solutions to state departments that are demanding these kinds of products such as postal services, police, and port and airport authorities. For Vespa, the best known scooter in the world, we will continue to innovate and will introduce our 2013 models later in the year.

PSB: Where do you see the U.S. scooter market going in 2012?

MM: The scooter market will continue to grow in 2012 and beyond, especially since we will not see gas prices dramatically decrease. Fuel-efficient alternative transportation — including scooters — is a topic that will just keep getting more important. That’s of course one of the reasons why we also just announced a new Advanced Design Center in Pasadena, Calif., where our design group led by Miguel Galluzzi will be studying and innovating new ways to address mobility around the globe. Our
Vespanomics platform has advocated scooters as a simple and immediate solution to foreign oil dependence, congestion and pollution for over six years, and we’ve documented the savings that can be achieved by transferring a portion of auto miles to a scooter. For example, did you know that if just 10 percent of licensed drivers in America converted 33 percent of their miles to a Vespa, gasoline consumption would be reduced by 3.9 billion gallons per year? These are significant savings opportunities to be achieved with increased scooter sales.

PSB: How do you think business will be for Piaggio in 2012?

MM: Our dealers are poised to be very profitable this year. That is our focus: to help our Aprilia, Moto Guzzi, Piaggio and Vespa dealers achieve and sustain growth and profitability. For Vespa, we want to maintain our leadership role, while enticing more Americans to ride a Vespa to save gas and money. The Piaggio brand is all about functionality and practicality; it’s the product to ride every day, whether you’re commuting and want to avoid traffic congestion, or whether you’re just enjoying a ride. The BV 350 maxi scooter that we introduced [in March] is a good indicator of the company’s commitment to manufacture products that meet consumer interest spot-on. The Aprilia DNA is technology, racing and adrenaline. We just launched the Tuono V4, and we have the RSV4, the most technologically advanced motorcycle in the market. Our racing results continue to prove why Aprilia is the brand to beat; we won the World Superbike (SBK) championship two years ago and are off to a strong start this year, having already won the first race of the season. The Moto Guzzi brand is about authenticity, originality — backed by over 90 years of history and heritage. This is the perfect brand for riders who want to enjoy touring, those core enthusiasts who will ride a Guzzi thousands and thousands of miles each year, as well as for new riders who want authentic Italian style and riding comfort. When you look at our Piaggio product portfolio, there’s really nothing standing in our way; this will be a great year for Piaggio and our dealers.

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