New KTM Superbike Coming in 2012?

02/21/2011 @ 8:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

With the announcements of KTM lopping $3,500 of the KTM 1198 RC8 R’s price tag, thus replacing the RC8 as the base superbike model in its line-up, and the new 2011 KTM RC8 R Race Spec track bike, something appears to be afoot with the Austrian brand. It’s no secret that with the down economy, RC8s (along with just about every other sport bike) haven’t exactly been flying off the dealer floors, which has lead to some speculation that the reduced price on the higher spec model could be purely to help spur sales of the “Ready to Race” awesomebike. We disagree in part.

If we’re to believe the idea that this is only a sales promotion to help KTM sell a few more bikes, it would first seem strange that KTM appears to only be concerned about moving its RC8 R superbikes, which account for very little of its product volume. It’s also very strange that after releasing the RC8 in 2008 that KTM would now, three years after the fact, begin to seriously push sales on its entry into the Superbike market (without similar heavy incentives for other bikes in its stable).

Bringing only 50 units over to the United States in 2008, RC8 & RC8 R sales haven’t exactly skyrocketed since, and have catered to a selective and affluent motorcyclist who is looking for a v-twin that’s not made in Italy. KTM has seemed content to let the RC8/RC8 R models do their thing, mired by a high sticker price and spotty dealer coverage (this is a brand after all known for its dirt, not street bikes). Call it the laissez-faire approach to superbike marketing.

Over the past 3+ years, KTM has released several limited edition models, presumably to help pump a few more bikes through the channels with a sufficiently high-priced margin. The latest of these creations being the 2011 KTM 1190 RC8 R Race Spec track bike that features 180hp and a bevy of go-fast aftermarket parts. With the only notable revision in RC8’s model history being the larger displacement of the RC8 R series, the question begs to be asked why is the Austrian brand just now getting aggressive with its superbike offering? After all, it could just as easily let the model ride for another model year, as it has consistently done.

The answer is a simple one for those familiar with product development: a new model is coming down the pipe, that isn’t based off the current RC8 design. If the RC8 R was due for another minor revision for 2012, KTM would be under little pressure to push RC8 R’s out the door. But with its substantial $3,500 price cut on the awesomebike, KTM seems to be serious on moving some product, and soon. While we have no insider knowledge to suggest this is the case, the very fact that the RC8 design will be turning four years old (older if you want to count its 2005 public debut), is almost compelling enough evidence that the model is due for a ground-up re-tooling.

Despite the fact the RC8 R is more than capable, both on the spec sheet and on the track, against its Italian counterparts, it’s clear that 2012 will usher in a new game-changer for the market segment. With Aprilia nipping at both Ducati and KTM’s heels with its RSV4 Factory APRC SE, Ducati has already put into development its new Superbike offering. With reliable sources pegging the new Ducati as having 20+ hp and -20 lbs over its predecessor, the bar in the v-twin superbike category is about to get moved a bit higher.

Of course the interesting thing to note in the Ducati side of this equation is the fact that the Bologna-based company released its own “inventory incentive” bike this model year as well. The 2011 Ducati Superbike 1198 SP is basically a 1198 S with some extra features and lower price tag, designed to help lure customers into dealers, while rumors and spy photos of its next Superbike will likely surface during the course of this summer and fall (Ducati also updated the 1198 base model with other add-on features). Aggressively priced and mildly updated models is the product strategist’s go-to tool for making sure old inventory clears out before a new model. Now, doesn’t that sound familiar?

  • Andre

    After reading your article about the price reduction the RC8R, I went to our local KTM dealer in Seattle. Apart from the fact the new price model has cast wheels not forged, the dipstick salesperson didn’t know squat about any of the road bikes. Spotty dealerships for sure… Cool bike but not so sure about the after sales service skill level.

  • BBQDog

    Why doesn’t KTM create a nice affordeable 250 to 450cc single cilinder road bike ?
    The got all the components in the house.

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  • BikePilot

    Another possibility is that KTM kept its price up and sales down for the first few years as it was pretty new to superbikes and probably still pretty high on the learning curve (which means also high on the cost curve). Now that they’ve been at it for a few years no doubt they’ve gotten better at making and tuning them and are starting to feel like they’ve slide down the learning and costs curves enough that they are ready to start moving bikes and getting into the street bike market in a serious, competitive way.

    BBQDog, KTM doesn’t have a sub-690cc motor in house that’d live more than a few days in a road bike (except maybe for the pre-production little dukes that have yet to go on sale). They’ve had a hard time keeping the 450 together long enough to finish races – extended freeway drones aren’t something its built to handle being a high strung off road race motor and all.

    The affordable bit is hard for them as well – even their simple dirt bikes are $8k.

  • RSVDan

    Just spit ballin’ here, but KTM DOES have experience building a V4. Perhaps they have decided the V-Twin is not the platform they want to pursue for for racing any longer seeing as the RC8 saw limited use in that arena. That V4 they built and KR used for a season was an absolute jewel of a motor, and sounded absolutely wicked. It’s a shame they weren’t able to continue funding development for it while they were racing both 125 and 250, but they have the basic architecture there which could be used for a road bike.

    My only other concern for this being a sign of a new superbike, is KTM is notorious for plastering the media with prototype and pre-production pictures long before a new model is released. We saw images of the 950 Adventure and RC8 three years before they finally hit dealer floors. Maybe they learned their lesson that over-saturation and hype actually hinders excitement for a new model and have kept this one under wraps.

  • I think the big thing there Dan is how radically different the RC8 was to what KTM was selling in 2005. Better to put a concept out there and see what sort of reaction you get, than go ahead and stealth mode and flop on the release. With how much brand equity KTM has, I’d be reluctant too to just storming into a new segment.

  • RSVDan

    Very true. Things have certainly changed for KTM since the intro of the Adventure and RC8. I was mostly just talking out loud.

  • BikePilot

    I sure hope they stick with twins, otherwise what’s the point? You can pick your flavor of ultra-fast, boring 4cyl racer reps from the Japanese (and now bmw). We surely don’t need another and I think ktm would find it extremely difficult to be competitive with the Japanese head-on (just like in MX – despite their long dirt bike history they still struggle to match the japanese in MX). If they stick to twins it’ll give people a reason to buy their bikes and will keep them poised against the Italians.

    I am of course quite biased in favor of twins :)

  • Euro Twin

    I think the site here is making some silly presumptions. The reason they knocked the RC8R pricing down (2010 and older) by $3500 is due to the fact that the new bike is that much cheaper. If you bring in a lesser priced bike of the same name and actually updated components and parts, you are most likely going to kill any chance of selling older units.

    The dealers would be pretty miffed to find out a better and newer version is now $3500 cheaper than what they have on the floor.

    The fact that BMW has come to the table with an aggressive pricepoint and the Japanese brands are sitting around that same priceline, KTM might have been forced to reduce price to be competitive.

    Could there be a new 2012 Superbike as presumed? Sure! If I were a betting man in this side of motorcycling, they’ve had this bike for 4 seasons now. Why is it shocking to think somthing better is coming? It used to be every two years we saw new Japanese bikes and not a single concern…

    I think KTM is branching out more and focusing more because they see the street market coming back a bit. Afterall, since 2009, things have been fairly dark. Anyone ever heard of a brand called Suzuki and what has happened to them since 2009?