The Italian motorcycle manufacturer MV Agusta celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. A look back on a company history full of ups and downs.
On 19 January 1945, when the war was almost over in Italy, the Agusta family founded Meccanica Verghera Srl. in Cascina Costa, near today’s international airport Malpensa (Milan). Aircraft construction, once the main business of the Agustas, was no longer a viable business model for the foreseeable future. So they shifted to motorised two-wheelers.
The first model was a machine with just under 100 cubic centimetres, the MV98, which was shown at the Milan fair in 1947, a forerunner of the EICMA.
The golden age
As a motor sports fan, company boss Count Domenico Agusta was keen to give his products a sporty image. With great skill he selected the most talented drivers who helped the brand to a total of 37 world championship victories. The list of factory drivers reads like a who’s who of the racing elite of the 1950s to 1970s. Franco Bertoni was followed by Arcisio Artesiani, Carlo Ubbiali, Leslie Graham, Cecil Sandford, Fortunato Libanori, John Surtees, Mike Hailwood, Gianfranco Bonera, Giacomo Agostini and Phil Read.
At about the same time as Domenico Agusta died in 1971, not only had the company reached the zenith of its sporting successes, but it was also becoming more and more economically unstable. In 1980 the motorcycle production was completely stopped.
The first Castiglioni era
MV Agusta had a new start in 1992 when Cagiva, under the management of Claudio Castiglioni, acquired the brand. Production was moved to the current location in Schiranna near Varese. The 750 four cylinder F4, was the first motorcycle of the new era. In addition to Superbikes, the concept of the Naked Bike was also significantly developed in Varese.
In 2008 Castiglioni sold the MV Agusta Group (MVAG) to the American motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson. Design head Massimo Tamburini, who was also responsible for the F4, left the company at the end of 2008.
Now that Harley itself was in financial difficulties, Claudio Castiglioni bought the company back from Harley-Davidson for the symbolic price of one dollar in summer 2010.
Exclusivity and new markets
Claudio Castiglioni passed away just one year later in August 2011, when his son Giovanni took over the management of the company and sought new ways to further increase the brand’s reach and appeal. These include partnerships with world-class brands such as Pirelli and Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton.
Giovanni Castiglioni also stands for a sharpening of the brand image through equally radical and exclusive motorcycle concepts such as the Naked Bike Brutale and the F3, an uncompromising super sports car in the medium displacement segment. With the Turismo Veloce, Castiglioni opened up the brand to the attractive touring segment.
Despite all efforts, MV Agusta could not continue to exist under its own power. After a brief intermezzo with a participation of the Mercedes subsidiary AMG, fresh capital came in 2017 from the Black Ocean investment fund of the Russian entrepreneurial family Sardarov, who first acquired the 25 percent of the shares held by AMG and then took over all shares. Timur Sardarov took over the position of CEO from Giovanni Castiglioni, who now serves as President and heads the operational business.
The new owners plan to cautiously expand the product range to include new types of motorcycles without sacrificing the premium claim. The long-term goal is to achieve an annual output of 10,000 motorcycles.
The sales network is also to be expanded and service improved in order to build long-term customer relationships.