I think about bikes a lot. Actually all the time. Lately, I’ve been thinking about why I don’t see more Aprilias on the road. Why don’t Aprilia seem to sell many bikes compared to the likes of Honda, Yamaha and hell, even Ducati? I’m biased, but they without doubt make one of the best or the best bike on the market in the Tuono, and the RSV4 has been one of the best sports bikes since its release in 2009. On top of this, their other bikes are pretty good too. Aprilia are also extremely successful in motorsport, in fact they are the 4th most successful motorbike manufacturer in respect to world titles. But despite this, looking at the 2016 sales figures, Aprilia are languishing at the back of the field in 15th position with 648 sales in Australia. This doesn’t sound too bad, until you compare it to the top placed Honda. Big Red sold over 26000 bikes in 2016! That’s 40 times the amount! Ok, maybe that’s not a fair comparison; after all Honda sell A LOT of off road machines and Aprilia only sell road bikes. Let’s even the score and compare only road bikes and scooters (a market where Aprilia actually does quite well) combined. In 2016, Aprilia sold 648 scooters and road bikes and Honda sold 10596. This is better reading for our Italian beauties; it means Big Red only sold 16.35 times the machines…
So, Aprilia make fantastic machines that are great on the road and track, but can’t sell shit. Let’s look into why that is.
What is an April-a?
The simplest explanation why Aprilia aren’t a big seller is, no one outside of motorcycle enthusiasts have ever heard of them. Hell, even the odd motorcycle rider asks who makes my Tuono when I stop. So why has no one heard of the 4th most winning manufacturer in history? First and foremost is marketing. The only place I’ve seen Aprilia advertised is in the odd motorcycling magazine. You’ll never see an ad on TV or even a billboard. And you can’t say that they don’t have the coin anymore, they are now owned by Piaggio. Now Piaggio aren’t Honda, but they are one of the biggest motorcycle companies getting around. They own multiple brands and one you might have heard of – Vespa.
As I mentioned before, Aprilia has won plenty of championships in the racing world. While they have conquered so many categories, they haven’t conquered the one that everyone watches, MotoGP. Can you imagine if Valentino Rossi or Marc Marquez was riding an Aprilia? I have no doubt they would sell a shit load more motorcycles. Thankfully, they have entered MotoGP and seriously kicked things into gear last year. At this stage, they are only middle of the pack, but with some good performances they’ll get their name out there and maybe even snag a big name rider (and bump sales) in a couple of years.
The Italian Stigma
Italian bikes have a stigma of being unreliable and expensive. I can honestly say the Aprilias I’ve owned have been pretty bloody reliable. Servicing and parts prices are comparable to the Jap brands too. I’ll admit they do take that little bit of extra care, the staccato like firing order loosens bolts more than some and you need to keep on top of your servicing. Honestly, you should be doing these things with every bike you own anyway, it’s just with the Japanese brands you can get away with it that little bit more. One way Aprilia have lost sales, is by failing to look after their customers. Overall, they are pretty bloody good, but I’ll give you one example. The 2011-2014 model Tuono (mine) has a problem with the stator. You can guarantee that the stator will burn out eventually due to a design flaw (funnily enough, the stator is one of the only things on the bike not made by Aprilia). Aprilia are aware of this flaw and even went to the trouble of releasing an updated stator. Unfortunately, they decided that this would not be a recall and you have to pay for it yourself when the inevitable happens. I’m not sure how recalls work exactly, but in my mind, if a new part is released because the old part is faulty, why should I have to pay? Thankfully, the stator was rectified on later models.
Without doubt, an Aprilia generally costs more to buy new than your run-of-the-mill Japanese bike (Japanese bike prices are creeping up in recent times though). The main reason for this is they only produce high-end bikes and are more upmarket (who said I wasn’t fancy). With an Aprilia you get high quality components and high performance. Unfortunately, your average Joe generally wants something cheap and cheerful. My response to this is Aprilia need to expand their range of bikes. Outside of the RSV4, the Tuono and Caponord, all they have is an out of date Dorsoduro and Shiver 750. Thankfully these are being updated this year and they should provide much needed sales. Hell, people are flocking like moths to a flame to the f*ck ugly Yamaha Mt-09 even though it has poor quality suspension and a snatchy throttle so the new Shiver/Dorso 900 should do well.
But they still need more bikes. Why they don’t have a Ninja 300 equivalent is beyond me. Imagine a RS300 and Tuono 300 that looked like their grown up namesakes? LAMS bikes are the biggest selling bikes on the market and it would be a great way to get people into the brand. Add to this a Tuono GT (higher handle bars, wind protection, lower footpegs), a V4 1100 sports tourer and a Caponord 900 and you are starting to get a serious lineup of bikes.
Unfortunately there is also a lack of dealers. Australia isn’t too bad (I believe the new importers are looking at expanding too), but overseas it’s another story. I frequently read of people wanting to buy an Aprilia, but because their nearest dealer is 800kms away (combine this with the Italian stigma) they end up choosing a ‘safe’ brand. Its not just a case of having dealers nearby, its also having a reputable dealer you can depend on. Speaking from personal experience, and others, if you know your dealer is going to look after you it makes a huge difference in providing a positive biking experience no matter what brand you have.
So there you have it, a guide for Aprilia on how to sell more bikes. At the end of the day, Aprilia are a niche brand and I love that. Owning one is like being part of a community and the bikes have bulk personality. While it’s all well and good having the best bike, it’s not good if no one rides the bloody thing. Besides, I don’t know if I want to live in a world where more BMW F700’s (aka the lamest bike ever made) are sold than RSV4’s.