The Aprilia RS660 and 660 Tuono middleweights are almost here, but now the rumour mill is back to work with talk of another new platform from Aprilia, in the 300-400cc range.
Everybody’s doing it—building a motorcycle in a developing Asian country. The Japanese OEMs all have subsidiaries in southeast Asia or India, or both. Harley-Davidson is re-badging Chinese motorcycles for overseas markets, and has overseas factories. Even the Euro brands, for all their talk about heritage and old-school workmanship, are following this pattern. Triumph and Ducati build machines in Thailand, BMW has a deal with TVS in India, and KTM has extensive connections in India and China.
But, at this point, the Piaggio Group (Aprilia’s parent company), hasn’t done much manufacturing in Asia. Sure, it sources components from all over the world. It even rebadges some Chinese machines for other markets, but most its bikes are made in the plant in Noale, Italy (some of the Piaggio Group’s step-throughs are made in Asia, for that market). So when a Piaggio Group bigwig told Zigwheels that his company is looking at a new 300-400cc machine, with manufacturing taking place in India, it’s significant.
The reality is, a combination of decreased buying power in the developed world, increased buying power in the developing world, and constantly-tightening emissions standards all over the globe seem to point to 300cc-400cc bikes as the future of motorcycling. These are machines that can be sold in almost every country, and they work on smaller roads in India and larger roads in North America or Europe. They’re cheap to make, cheap to buy, and offer affordable running costs.
Aprilia knows it’s got to build these machines, to stay in the game, just like everyone else does. So, the project is supposedly underway already. Zigwheels says it’s two or three years before these machines will actually be in production. No word yet on whether they’ll be singles or twins, but expect Aprilia’s usual aggressive naked bike styling.