Last week we gave you a quick little motorcycling quiz to noodle. From what industry or product did a list of ten motorcycle manufacturers (both past and present) evolve? We’re going to roll out the answers, with brief back stories, over the next several days. Here are the first two answers.
Founded in 1689 to produce muskets for the Swedish Army, Husqvarna has since evolved into a world leading producer of outdoor power products including chainsaws, trimmers and lawn mowers. In the early 1900s, however, just a few brief centuries after it’s inception, the ever diversifying Husqvarna Group found their way into motorcycle production. Well known here in the US during the 60s and 70s for its motocrossers and dirtbikes, the iconic brand was made even more famous by the involvement of motocross and off-road heroes like Malcolm Smith, John Penton, and Swedish champion Torsten Hallman. Some lean years followed that notable era and a weakened Husqvarna Motorcycles was sold off to Italy’s Cagiva Group in 1986 . Shortly afterward Cagiva moved the entire operation to Varese, Italy. Anemic sales, financial woes and investor misadventures continued until BMW finally gathered up the pieces six years ago, in 2007. BMW has subsequently made a noble (and seemingly successful) effort to revitalize the brand with innovative new products and a “real” dealer network. A historic Swedish Brand, owned by a German parent, and producing motorcycles in Italy. Tangled web? Oh yeah. Long before that, however, “Husky” began life as a humble little Swedish munitions firm.
B. Kawasaki – Answer 3: Aircraft
Predecessors to Kawasaki Heavy Industries date to the late 19th century, focused initially on shipbuilding and later, locomotives and such. However, from the rubble of World War II the Kawasaki motorcycle brand evolved directly from Kawasaki Aircraft. Initially, in 1960, Kawasaki Aircraft purchased the obscure Meguro brand, a key player in the nascent Japanese motorcycle industry. In the years immediately following, Kawasaki introduced a full line of two stroke motorcycles of it’s own design and in displacements from 50 to 250cc. Early products were even badged with the Kawasaki Aircraft logo. Introduction of the iconic Kawasaki Mach III 500cc triple and later the groundbreaking 900cc Z1 cemented Team Green’s reputation as a performance and technology leader that endures to this day. Today, the Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) Group is comprised of over 100 companies in Japan and around the globe, together forming one of the world’s leading industrial and technological business group. But motorcycles remain as an important part of the overall picture. Partial credit, however, if you really wanted to answer “Shipbuilder.” 😉
More answers tomorrow when we bring you the story on Ducati and Hodaka.