Big things are happening behind the scenes at MV Agusta.
Last fall, Mercedes-AMG, the sportscar and performance subsidiary of Daimler, announced that it had purchased a 25 percent interest in the company. Then, just days ago, MV Agusta secured a €15 million loan to support the company's plans for growth into markets in the Americas and Southeast Asia.
MV Agusta says the loan will help implement the company's 2014-2018 business plan, which includes adding models to the lineup and pushing into high-value and emerging motorcycle markets.
The loan was issued by Banca Popolare di Milano and guaranteed by the SACE financial group. It's the first infusion of money the Italian brand has received since Giovanni Castiglioni took over as chairman of MV Agusta, and we have to assume the Mercedes-Benz role was a factor in getting the loan.
The Mercedes deal was described as a cooperation agreement that would create a long-term partnership in the areas of marketing and sales. If that seems vague to you, you aren't alone.
Is this Mercedes' attempt to compete with Audi (which purchased Ducati) by adding a luxury bike brand to the company's portfolio, or do they actually think they can help turn the little Italian bike brand into something both competitive and financially lucrative? Surely, they can't be in the dark regarding MV's reputation for not being the most reliable nor their difficulty with sales, which makes me think they must have more planned than simply working together in the areas of "marketing and sales."
Historically, MV Agusta is known for its domination of Grand Prix racing when its technologically advanced post-war motorcycles propelled Giacomo Agostini to a record number of victories. In recent decades, however, the company has changed hands half a dozen times and is now a minor player in the industry.
While I'm skeptical, I have to say this recent news is incredibly exciting. I've always been a fan of MV Agusta's motorcycles and think this is probably the company's best shot to move from being a boutique brand making motorcycles that few can afford to purchase and upkeep to becoming a viable competitor to brands like Ducati and Aprilia.
We will get a more thorough briefing on MV Agusta's plans in the next few weeks, so expect more news from the other Italian motorcycle company.