Despite the hardships created by COVID-19’s global impact in 2020, the motorcycle industry saw an unprecedented resurgence that continues to this day. KTM North America President John Hinz sees this opportunity for growth as something that can revolutionize the motorcycle industry for years to come and has partnered with decorated cinematographer Troy Adamitis to show how the world how motorcycles brought people together in 2020. The Year of Jubilee is a three-part film showing many different aspects of motorcycling and the motocross industry with the first episode releasing earlier this morning. We spoke with Hinz earlier this week to discuss KTM’s connection to the film series.
Racer X: A lot of the film covers basically May/June-ish onwards and how that cycle worked with getting back to racing after COVID-19, but you talked about in the preview for the film about going through March and April and kind of the struggle from within of you guys not knowing what was going to happen. How challenging was that time and how rewarding has it been to see the uptick in everything?
John Hinz: We started to get some early indicators that COVID was for real and it had a potential to not only effect our business but the broader economy. We’ve got some business relationships in China, so we had an early indicator of what was happening there. And then, of course being European based with an Austrian based company, Europe was hit hard first. Specifically, in some of the key countries that are parts suppliers for our motorcycles that we build and that support our business. So, we had an early indicator from Europe that this is for real. I remember talking to our executive team saying, “There’s real potential that this makes it to North America and to the United States and we need to be prepared. We need to make sure that our foundation is solid, that we have a spot for our employees, we can help support our dealers, and our dealers have a viable business to stay open and support their customers.”
How challenging has it been with restrictions COVID has put shipping and travel of resources from out of country and into the U.S.? You guys have seen a huge surge in motorcycle and parts sales, but how hard has that been to get those resources into the country to actually be sold at this high rate?
COVID has presented all sorts of challenges and when it just started, you know when it hit mid-March, I read every federal regulation, every state regulation as they would come out. Regulations in Canada and Mexico and we looked at every regulation and looked at our business and thought through how we can ensure that we’re a viable business. The great part of our industry is that we supply transportation to people and goods, so we are an essential business. And our dealers are an essential business. They supply parts and service to our motorcycles that transport people and goods and a lot of our customers are essential workers. So, we were fortunate to be part of an industry and a business that was deemed essential and provides transportation for all the essential workers. We’re grateful for everything that everyone did in being just a small part of keeping the nation healthy and working through the recovery. But every single day there was some new regulation where someone was trying to close the business or impact shipping or there was a new regulation that we had to adhere to in order to keep our employees safe. Every single day we would read through what we had to do to make sure the employees were safe, our facility was safe, and we could help support our dealers.
The film shows the positive trend in motorcycle sales and company growth since COVID has started and it’s been a huge year for KTM, but how do you feel you’re going to build upon that? This film is going to appeal to the enthusiasts out there and you guys want to reach a new audience or a different audience to go buy motorcycles and get out and ride, but how do you continue that narrative?
Through 2020 and now going into 2021, there are so many new families that have rediscovered motorcycling. We talked to a lot of them that, you know, they rode when they were young, and they rediscovered it and they want to bring their kids into it or even they’re discovering it for the first time. They’re friends with someone that’s a motorcyclist or they have a neighbor, or they saw it on TV. And what’s interesting about it, especially with how stick and ball sports are today, all of the sudden motorcycling has become this outlet for families to do something together and to do something safe. You know, you put a helmet on, you don’t have to wear a mask, you’re outside, and you’re together as a family. They’ve rediscovered the sport and it’s incredible to be a small part of that. It’s an entire industry that’s pushing it forward and hopefully the video that Troy Adamitis produced is just one small part of inspiring the next generation of motorcyclists.
Yeah, and you talk about the next generation, and the first episode does highlight youth and the KTM 50 and e-bikes program that you guys are trying to build up from the bottom up. How exciting is it to see those initiatives that you guys probably created years ago now coming into reality and you’re continuing to try to grow those programs and reach new younger generations?
Yeah, we had planned for the motorcycle and had planned for it to be part of the Loretta Lynn’s program and to have a National Championship, the first ever for an electric motorcycle. What was rewarding about it was to work together as an industry and have MX Sports to make that event happen for those families, for the youth, and for people to see that product and get inspired by that product. It’s incredible. We think it’s for sure part of the future. We love motorcycles and it doesn’t matter if it’s electric or internal combustion, two-stroke or four-stroke, we love them all. We’re going to continue to invest in two-stroke technology and four-stroke technology, but electric motorcycles are part of a global trend towards electrification, and we think it’s for sure part of the future.
How important as a brand is it to have an all-encompassing approach to make sure you have something for really everybody? The young, the old, the new, the experienced riders, just everybody has something that they can hop on and go.
We actually formed a partnership with Stacyc and now we have a product for under two-year-olds to get on, balance on two wheels, twist your grip and get that sensation and feeling of riding on two wheels. And we can take it all the way through our product range through motocross, enduro, dual-sport, adventure bikes, and our street bike line to connect with riders wherever they are in their journey of motorcycling. Fun story, we just had a customer in Canada who’s 81 years old and he bought a Duke 200! And he has his wife sitting on the back of it and he has a picture of her and she’s holding this Ready To Race briefcase. At 81-years-old, it’s him and his wife with a brand-new Duke 200. At any age, under two and all the way up to 81 years old, we’ve got a product for all of them and a way to inspire and keep people riding motorcycles.
Watch Episode 1 of The Year of Jubilee below:
Main Image Courtesy of KTM Images