Proton eyes stake in Italian bike maker


  • Business
  • Wednesday, 29 Oct 2003

BY SA’ODAH ELIAS IN PUTRAJAYA

PERUSAHAAN Otomobil Nasional Bhd (Proton) is eyeing at least 50% equity in renowned Italian motorcycle manufacturer MV Augusta Motor SpA in an effort to accelerate its own motorcycle programme. 

A 50% stake in MV Augusta will not only give Proton the controlling stake in a company internationally acknowledged as being the manufacturer of “Ferrari of motorcycles,” but also its distribution rights. 

To seal the plan, Proton chief executive officer Tengku Tan Sri Dr Mahaleel Tengku Ariff and MV Augusta founder and owner Cloudio Castiglioni yesterday signed a letter of intent to evaluate that possibility at Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad's office in Putrajaya yesterday.  

Dr Mahathir witnessed the ceremony. 

Speaking to reporters later, Dr Mahathir said this was the right move for Proton as it would enable the company to improve its cars, motorcycles and bicycle products. 

“The world is becoming so competitive, so we have to keep looking all the time for niches so that we can become first class in these niche areas. 

“Motorcycles manufactured by MV Augusta are first class. So we want to manufacture it here and market it all over the world,” Dr Mahathir said. 

MV Augusta is the only non-Japanese motorcycle manufacturer that produces motorcycles in each segment of the market, including the Cagiva and the Husqvarna.  

Tengku Mahaleel said MV Augusta's engineering technology, its award winning designs and styling for its three brands of products, stoked Proton's interest in the company that was known globally. 

“When they approached us, we saw it as more than just an investment opportunity and instead we will be looking into forming a very unique alliance. 

“That means identifying how both companies can leverage each other’s strengths and integrate our programmes like how MV Augusta can help hasten our own motorcycle programme, especially in accessing Italian design and flair and how we as a manufacturer with Lotus’ input can help MV Augusta attain higher productivity and efficiency at mass production level,” he said. 

Tengku Mahaleel said Proton’s acquisition of Lotus Group International in 1996 had given the company the engineering capability and expertise to venture into the development of a full range of transportation solutions from motorcycles and watercraft to light aircraft and military vehicles. 

“With the ongoing reorganisation in Proton, it is fair to say that the future of the company will not be single-handedly dominated by car manufacturing,” he added. 

Established in 1978, MV Augusta is the most successful name in motorcycle road racing and has won more championships than any other motorcycle brand.  

No other motorcycle manufacturer has equalled its record of 75 world championships, 270 Grand Prix victories and 3,027 victories in various biking disciplines.  

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