Will 2012 Finally Be Husqvarna’s Year?

03/08/2012 @ 2:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

For the past day I have been plunking away at a spreadsheet, adding in values found in several years’ worth of press releases. You see, while most motorcycle manufacturers go out of their way to hide sales information in their media communications, they still leave enough clues that allow one to decipher these pieces of information in their entirety. A monthly figure here, a quarterly result there, a percent gain over last year mentioned, and you’ve got your self five or more months of sales data extrapolated.

That being said, there is no need to go through this much work to know that Husqvarna has been having a rough couple of years. Even by just taking a straw poll from any of the BMW Group’s many glowing sales reports, you’ll find a three to four sentence paragraph outlining the continued disappointment that the Italian-based Swedish brand has brought the German company. Often not even cracking four-digit monthly sales figures, Husqvarna has been on a sales decline that has spawned BMW Motorrad’s decision to push the once dirt-only brand into the street bike scene.

In its most recent media communication, the BMW Group has praised Husqvarna’s sales success over the past two months. With the subsidiary posting a 50% gain in January, and a 2% gain in February, Husqvarna has thus far this year posted a 15% gain over the first two months of 2011. All is well for Zie Germans, no? You know the setup, continue reading for the take-down.

Just taking a look at Husqvarna’s ongoing yearly sales decline (above), you can see why there is a good business case for the introduction of bikes like the Husqvarna Nuda 900, Husqvarna Strada, and Husqvarna Moab & Husqvarna Baja concepts (in theory at least, I’ll save the execution part for a later commentary). And while it is easy to believe the early 2012 hype that Husqvarna has finally found the rocky bottom of whatever chasm it fell into, if history teaches us anything, a promising first quarter does a yearly sales increase not make.

Part of the reason for the hesitation regarding Husqvarna’s promising 2012 stems from the fact that all of this has happened before, and it will happen again. Posting strong(er) numbers in January and February of 2011, Husqvarna went on to post a 22% decline in sales for the year, which was punctuated with the absolutely horrible second and fourth quarters that were posted by the motorcycle company. Coming into 2012, Husqvarna has once again posted signs of life in the early months, though with less fervor than before, which leads to the question of what the rest of the year will hold for the brand and parent company BMW Motorrad.

If we can assume the same trend of lackluster performance in coming months, Husqvarna’s one saving grace for positive sales growth could well be the Nuda 900. Even with Husqvarna’s limited dealer network, one or two models sold at each dealership in the summer months could easily sway the company from negative to positive sales growth, due mostly in part to Husqvarna’s sub-600 unit monthly sales figures in 2011.

A classic game played in public relations, large percentage gains at low volume numbers are really less impressive than they appear. But even if Husqvarna really can bolster its sales with the Nuda 900, the move could be a bigger financial burden than financial boon to the company. While much has been said about the use of BMW’s F800 motor as the base for Husqvarna’s new 900cc lump, one important factor that has been overlooked with this move by BMW is the relatively low production costs associated with the repurposed engine.

Already produced at volume, the BMW Group has likely absorbed most of the tooling costs associated with the F800 series, and with BMW Motorrad revamping its motorcycle line, the water-cooled parallel twin motor could certainly be coming to its end-of-life with help from the Husqvarna Nuda 900 (the same can be said with single-cylidner BMW-powered Husqvarna Strada). It wouldn’t surprised me then if the choice in motors for the Husqvarna Nuda 900 was based not using the German bike company’s road-going heritage, but instead because of the financial efficiencies of the motor design at smaller-scale production. It’s all something to chew on as we wrap up Q1 2012, and head into the rest of the year.

Source: BMW Group

  • Jonathan

    As a proud Husky owner I’ve been watching the last couple of years’ sales figures with a feeling of gloom. Dirtbikes are a leisure accessory and the recession in Europe and America has decimated sales, but will these rather unremarkable /downright ugly (delete where applicable) roadbikes save Husqvarna? Or will they devalue the image of the brand to the point where no self-respecting young racer will buy a Husky competition dirtbike because the roadbikes are so woefully lame?

    My local dealer has a couple of Nudas. Overall they look far better in the flesh than they do in print – lean and purposeful – but up close I feel that they look cheap and unfinished. The motor area is the focus of any naked bike, but it’s just an amorphous mass of differet textures of black.

    As for the Moab and Baja – I think that there’s a huge amount of merit in tipping the hat to past glories, but BMW’s implementation with these concept bikes is woeful. Where do I start? The tank shape? The ill-fitting seat? The cut-off sidepanels? Don’t even start me on the perimeter frame – it makes the machines look like scaled up pitbikes. Just awful.

    As for the Strada, I hope it’s cheap. It’s certainly not aspirational. If you’re going to build commuter bikes you might as well shut down the Varese operation and move production to the far east. And if Beemer are so proud of Husky, why are the new roadbikes so anonymous? Where’s the Husky logo? The way these bikes are presented is almost apologetic.

    Sorry for the ranty post but I really care about this. I also genuinely appreciate the amount of coverage that Husky get here an A&R!

  • Jonathan

    Sorry for the awful spelling in my previous post. Small screen + no glasses = epic fail!

    On the upside it has to be said that the Husky engineers have done a fantastic job with the 449 / 511 range. I can’t imagine how unimpressed they must have been when BMW presented them with the motor from the G450X and said “here, build something good around this, because we don’t have a clue…” but the Varese boffins did good!

    Now BMW, please just give us:

    1) A 250 MX bike with class-leading power so the US magazine reviewers will tell everyone to go buy it.

    2) Updated strokers. Direct fuel injection would be nice…

    3) Some sort of vague plan / roadmap for actually selling the things!

  • TRL

    It sounds silly but I think it was the orange. Too damn much orange. Even H-D learned that orange bikes have limited sales. Ask anyone what the first thing that pops into their minds when you say KTM is and they will likely say blah blah blah orange….

  • MikeD

    I just hope they don’t get lost & become diluted(watered down) BMW clones…chasing the migthy elusive euro or dollar.

    Don’t let them go the MZ and MotoMorini way…it ain’t good for the wheeled world and enthusiasts everytime we loose another player…big or small.

  • flyboy2160

    They should take note of:
    – the sales gains of KTM in large part from selling those small Dukes in ‘less developed’ markets and manufacturing them in those same less costly areas.
    -the relatively stagnant sales of sport bikes in the developed countries.
    -wusssy as it sounds to hardcore bikers, by the numbers I believe the 250 Ninja and 250 CBR250R are the best selling bikes in the U.S.A.
    -(yes, I know Ducati and Harley have posted gains, but I don’t think they can establish Huskytistas…)

    So make some low cost 250 to 450 street bikes with those great Husky low weights and great power to weight ratios and sell them worldwide.

    And I’ll get fired when it doesn’t work!

  • MikeD

    …and yes, +1 on the PUSH for CLEAN GDI 2 smokes…we all know that the OEM dirt bike builders have the tech and know-how, only God knows why there are NONE out there already.
    This been beated to death before but u know the drill…..only the (T_T) baby gets fresh diaper, feed and looked after \(^_^)/ ….

  • Braap Wrunn

    Husky needs now some proper bikes in E3 and E2, they are off-road design leaders basically but behind the design you need a proper killer engineering too. Kymco doesn’t sound the one. They win Enduro titles, they did well in Dakar and they have Barreda now over there – who is the next Coma most probably. But they need some proper trustable tools now to sell, there is very limited amount of good 4s bikes and specially KTM killed their EXC series Husky should have had something new ready to hit it now as KTM riders will change their 2008 and up bikes now but there is not much to buy and many of them ain’t going to buy this new EXC Harley framed bike. If some one only could offer some proper bullet proof engine bike there you don’t have to invest extra 6000-10K more to get it running properly. This is the reason a lot of people who race are buying to the 2strokes now again. ~80% of UK enduro field is going already on 2s. For most of Japanese bikes you can’t get license plate in EU and this is it. So … an proper 4s with killer power parts list is more when welcome on the market. Wake up BMW! Uhhuuu ;) And where the hell is Mille Tre !?!! And why the Nuda is -100/300 cc !?!! There is like all the decisions are great and right but there is always some missing i dot. Get it right damn. I was expecting to thee Husky in SX/MX at ~2014 about 5-6 years they started the new project now it looks like now way and MxGP project is not evolving quick enough still :( Get more right phenomenal people in and let go all this brake holders. In off-road you have earn the trust, it takes time and winning and when you are in – you know that so chip, chip back to gym :)))

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  • BBQdog

    I never understood why BMW, in a time of recession, is turning a brand making small bikes into a brand making fat and expensive bikes. I think the way KTM is going is much better, more 200cc and 350cc’s, lowering prices.

  • Jensen

    Nice bit of statistical debunking. Something I have been saying for a very long time, that rarely gets picked up by the media is how deceptive press release “data” can be, when it is only shown partially, and from a particular point of view.

    Reminds me of when I was a small boy visiting Communist Czechoslovakia, and saw signs everywhere boasting “Production of ball bearings up 300%! Victory to the proletariat!” Funny how all production was always always up everywhere, but we still had to line up for an hour to buy toilet paper.


  • TRL

    @Michael Uhlarik

    I’ve used that paper many times in the last few years, always wondered why people would stand on line for it, I’d rather use a badger…

  • Shawn

    I love the idea of owning a Husqvarna. I considered a TE510 when I bought a new dualsport last year, but the price was ridiculous compared to the competition. The Honda had great offroad chops and would last forever, the KLR is a go anywhere, do anything kind of bike for a relatively cheap price. The DR650 is a reliable bike, and also great in the dirt. The TE510 (now 511 I suppose) is also great in the dirt, but its terrible on the road and not exactly reliable and goes for a premium price. If I was gonna to spend so much on a bike it’d have to be much better known. Hell, around here I’d keep having to explain that the bike manufacturing Husqvarna is not the chainsaw and lawnmower Hsuqvarna.

    I AM looking forward to trying a Nuda 900R at some point, and perhaps even purchasing it if its in the same ballpark as a Tiger 800 or the F650GS/F800GS.

  • conchop

    Husqvarna needs to build a Buell Ulysses with 1972 CR 400 styling cues. As the are, typical horribly ugly Euro Styling cues that seems applicable to something Count Von Mach Schnell would be seen riding. BMW has done very little, but that’s no surprise judging from the appearance of their bikes. I’ve always thought of Husqvarna being a great performer … BUT, I wouldn’t want anyone to see me riding one. Another one of those bikes that reminds me of having a girlfriend with a supremely well built athletic body, but with a face that would cause train wrecks. Ugh!

  • Jonathan

    Good point well made conchop! It begs the question – who did BMW get to design the excellent 1000RR for them? They surely can’t have done it themselves…
    I think that Beemer should start looking at KTM’s business model and refining it rather than building bargain basement clunkers around leftover engines.

  • Brett

    I love the looks and specs of the Nuda. However I’ll probably never even see one much less get the chance to buy one. The local BMW dealer doesn’t sell Husky, the nearest Husky dealer is a 3 hour drive and they won’t have one, neither will the dealer 6-7 hours away. Too bad.