SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - MV Agusta's bikes can race at 300 kph (190 mph), but the Italian luxury motorcycle maker appears unable to outrun the global economic slowdown and is hoping Asia's rich can help boost sales.
Like several other auto manufacturers that have been hit by the economic downturn, the Italian brand's January sales slumped about 30 percent at home, and all makers of the "super sporty bike" category of over 1,000 cc have also been hurt, said export sales manager Raffaele Giusta.
With just over half of its total sales in Europe, 30 percent in North America, and only 4 percent in Asia, Giusta sees an opportunity for growth in Asia, where booming economies just a year ago were creating a new breed of millionaires.
"We are not making economic bikes, we will always be a premium brand with special models," Giusta told Reuters on the sidelines of a recent bike event in Singapore, BikeAsia.
With the MV Agusta bikes costing up to six times more than regular bikes and its limited edition F4CC priced at about $120,000, owning a swanky Agusta may be just for the rich.
The MV Agusta's F4 series, with 190 horse-power and a top speed of over 300 kph, is considered one of the fastest and most exclusive sports bikes.
"Those who choose the MV Agusta are special customers that feel the passion toward the brand, to the history, to the tradition, to the performance of the bike," said Giusta.
He said the company had sold about 90 out of 100 limited edition bikes to high profile "friends" such as Formula One driver Michael Schumacher.
BikeAsia gathered over 100 motorcycle manufacturers and dealers, including MV Agusta's rivals such as Italy's Ducati and Bimota.
Iconic motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson, which has owned MV Agusta since 2008, posted a 58 percent plunge in fourth quarter profits and is cutting 12 percent of its workforce, as a financial crisis has hammered auto manufacturers.
In Southeast Asia, sales of mass-market motorbikes in Indonesia, used by some as an economic indicator, are seen falling up to 28 percent in 2009, market leader Astra Honda Motor said on Tuesday, after sales reached a record last year.
Editing by Neil Chatterjee and Miral Fahmy