I am still waiting for the other shoe to drop on this one. What will be next for Gas Gas? There are certainly a couple of interesting talking points to consider.
Contrary to a couple of the comments we have received, I am certainly not trying to run down the brand. I doubt there is a reader here who has a longer association with Gas Gas than myself. It is in everyone’s best interest that we have as much diversity as possible.
But the economic realities of the world make that tougher everyday. Some of which I find difficult to understand. KTM rebadges Husaberg to Husky and the world flocks to it. One year sales of Husqvarna’s, at about 15,000 units, appear to match or top any previous year in the 100 year history of the brand. If I recall, that is about equal to the best year of the BMW era Husky’s.
Meanwhile, the smallest guys, Gas Gas and TM languish in obscurity. TM chooses to stick with their solid, but very narrow focus. Gas Gas continues attempting to get as much life from a good, but aging, platform as possible.
As you may have seen, KTM decided to come out and formally deny their interest in buying the brand. It seems like a bit of an interesting move to me. First, I believe what KTM has to say, they don’t care to take over GG. Even a casual glance at the numbers makes it difficult to see much book value for the company. Any kind of move by KTM would have to be hugely in their favor I think.
So this leaves two questions for me. Where did the KTM to buy Gas Gas rumor come from? Why did Gas Gas not make any announcement to deny the idea? I see these kinds of whispers pass around regularly. While many never come to pass, they still contain a grain of truth. Gas Gas is clearly playing a high stakes bluff right now. With the factory shut down they are gambling that the very socialist minded government will come to the rescue to save the jobs and perhaps face. It would be a shame to lose the Spanish (Catalan) motorcycle industry.
It would not be a very long reach for someone to come up with idea that KTM may want to play ball, purely as a misdirection. Remember how Pierer shut down the Italian Husqvarna factory and turned a deaf ear to the protests? It was a bold move that BMW didn’t have the cajones to do for fear of negative exposure. That possibility would not sit very well with the Catalan government and may even play right into Gas Gas managements plans. Perhaps Gas Gas chose not to deny the rumor because it was in their own interest.
So I sit here and wait, hoping things get on track. Gas Gas has a long history of missed opportunities. A succession of management changes certainly has not improved things much.
When I had the opportunity to work with co-founder Narcis Casas a decade ago, I could see that he had the vision. Narcis was a former Bultaco engineer and factory racer. But he lacked the capitol to make it happen. He never really could come around to understanding the US enduro market either. The failures of the home grown four stroke and quad lines were evidence of that. They were ambitious R&D projects that ended up only half complete due to financial pressures and the need to get to market. Ultimately he was forced to make a deal with the devil (banks) and lost out.
For now the clock is ticking at double speed. For every day the factory remains shut down, the harder a rebound will be.