When it comes to marketing, the biggest difference between car and motorcycle manufacturers is that the latter typically get involved with competition. In fact it is almost a prerequisite for motorcycle manufacturers to be involved in motorcycle competition to have any chance in the marketplace with either street or competition machines.
Typically, in the early days of motorcycles, many of the manufacturers used racing to gain publicity for their machines. In the US, the ever popular motor domes saw machines from the likes of Harley Davidson, Indian and Excelsior competing regularly with works teams and riders to promote their wares. Needless to say, this marketing ploy worked for these manufacturers.
For many of the European manufacturers, the IOM TT was the place to get the publicity necessary for market success. But in later years, some manufacturers used the global motorcycle sport of MX (Scrambling) to either promote their brand or simply to sell replica machines for competition. The Italian Aprilia motorcycle company is one such brand.
The company’s history can be traced back to the little town of Noale in Italy where Cavalier Alberto Beggio opened a bicycle manufacturing facility shortly after World War II. In 1968, Alberto’s son, Ivano, took control of the factory and led the company into motorcycle production.
Aprilia’s first machines were the Colibr- and Daniela mopeds. In 1970 the company entered what for them would be the bedrock of their motorcycle production and marketing plans when they produced the 50-cc Scarabeo (beetle in Italian) MX machine, but it was 1975 when the company began to make a mark on the national MX scene in Italy. In just two years later the company won national titles in both the 125-cc and 250-cc championships.
In 1978 Aprilia rider Ivan Alborghetti took sixth place in the world 250-cc MX championship–a result that put Aprilia firmly on the international MX scene. After this result (the best by an Italian rider to date), export sales began to grow establishing Aprilia as a major manufacturer in the world market.
In the 1980s Aprilia made inroads into all of the off-road motorcycle markets including machines for Trials. Enduros, MX and Road Racing. They also started a relationship with the Austrian engine manufacturers Rotax which proved to be a highly successful move.
Grand Prix Win
One of the many racing successes of the 80s put Aprilia firmly on the map of international race bike manufactures when rider Loris Reggiani won the 1987 San Marino Grand Prix in the highly competitive 250-cc class. Reggiani eventually finished in sixth place in that year’s 250 world championship. This was a remarkable result considering the company had only begun racing in the class in 1985!
Obviously the riding talents of Reggiani played a part in the success, but he still needed a good machine to achieve the results.
The competitiveness of Aprilia racing machines can partly be judged by the list of famous riders that would use their bikes on the way to becoming household names within international motorcycle sport. These included Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Max Biaggi, Loris Capirossi and Alessandro Gramigni. However it would be 1994 before they won the coveted world 250-cc crown when Max Biaggi took the championship on an Aprilia.
In the 125-cc GP class. Aprilia won the world championship with rider Alessandro Gramigni in 1992 and the constructors’ championship in 1996. To date, Aprilia has accumulated a total of 40 world championship titles, which includes 33 world championship road racing Grand Prix titles.
Success in competition has helped to make Aprilia a major manufacturer in all sectors. The company (which since 2004 has been part of the Piaggio Group–headed by chairman and managing director Roberto Colaninno) is now number four in the world of motorcycle manufacturing sales, producing some 600,000 units per year.
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