Each major motorcycle manufacturing epicenter in the world has its crown jewel; America takes pride in Wisconsin’s Harley-Davidson, Southeast Asia boasts of India’s Hero MotoCorp, while Austria’s KTM AG reigns supreme in Europe. KTM is famous for its class-dominating and race-winning motorcycles, all distinctively dressed in the brand’s signature Pumpkin and Eerie Black color scheme. KTM’s success, however, is mainly tied to its dominance in the dirt bike scene, a feat maintained with ease each year through its impeccable range of off-road bikes.
In the recent past, KTM also revealed its intention to take over the street-bike category with one of the most complete and technologically advanced lineups of road-going sporting and adventure-touring bikes for riders of different skill sets. And KTM’s inventiveness and prowess don’t seem to stop there, considering it already has its fingers in the MotoGP pie. As KTM AG continues to showcase its ambitions in multiple disciplines, most people quickly forget the deep-rooted history and journey in motorsport that ensured KTM remains hell-bent on becoming the most formidable motorcycling company in the world.
Johann Trunkenpolz, an Austrian engineer, opened a car repair shop in 1934 and named the business Kraftfahrzeug Trunkenpolz Mattighofen. Although the shop specialized in metal-working, locksmith, motor vehicle repair, and motorcycle repair, Trunkenpolz was also interested in motorcycle and automobile sales.
As the business continued to expand post World War II, it became the largest DKW motorcycle supplier in all of Upper Austria. And since engine repair jobs were on the decline after the war, the company also specialized in producing spare parts such as crankshaft bearings for motorcycles.
9 The R100 Was The First KTM Production Series Motorcycle
The post-war period offered countless opportunities for economic growth; therefore, Hans Trankenpolz transitioned his business into motorcycle development to target people that couldn’t afford cars. Using the knowledge and experience from selling and repairing motorcycles, Trunkenpolz prototyped his first motorcycle, the R100, in 1951.
Armed with a 20 employee team, Trunkenpolz began R100 production in 1953, averaging three complete motorcycles per day. Except for the Rotax engines sourced from Fitchel & Sachs, the KTM R100 used all bespoke in-house parts. The same year production begun, the company got renamed Kronreif & Trankenpolz Mattighofen after businessman Ernst Kronreif arrived as a significant shareholder and investor in KTM.
8 KTM Won A Championship Title On Its Racing Debut
The R100 was a 98cc 2-stroke lightweight motorcycle that performed surprisingly well in racing events. Trunkenpolz and his team presented the R100 during the 5th Gaisberg Hillclimb competition in 1953. Within a year of its production, the R100 performed beyond expectation and won the first three places in KTM’s first racing activity.
A year after KTM’s first racing victory, the R100 debuted at the Austrian National Championship, and the 1000th KTM motorcycle won the 125cc category for the first time. The success from this race brought forth the 125cc KTM Tourist model, which Egon Dornauer straddled to win gold at KTM’s debut in the International Six Days race. Unknown to many, this string of successes is what formed KTM’s thick backbone in racing.
7 KTM Filed For Bankruptcy In 1991
By the ’80s, KTM had achieved quite a lot. KTM was the first manufacturer to offer front and rear disc brakes, and its motorcycles were crowned champions in different race disciplines. In addition, the KTM product range was extensive, the workforce was massive, and export demand was rising by the day. Until the Japanese motorcycle wildfire arrived in the late ’80s.
Yamaha, Honda, Kawasaki, and Suzuki dominated the international motorcycle market with irresistible bikes that eventually toppled other two-wheeler giants. Unfortunately for KTM, Erich Trunkenpolz, Hans Trankenploz’s son and KTM CEO, also passed during the period. KTM was left in jeopardy and succumbed to creditor bankers in 1991.
6 KTM’s Portfolio Consists Four Separates Entities
Before filing for bankruptcy, KTM had cultivated a rich product portfolio during the ’70s and ’80s. The new lease on life involved splitting the portfolio into four independent entities. KTM automotive radiators still commanded a reasonable market share; thus, the KTM Kuhler GmbH took over their production. Other spare parts were classified under tooling manufacturing and assigned to KTM Werzeugbau.
Furthermore, the bicycle line was a solid product since 1964 with excellent market revenue and deserved its portfolio, now known as KTM Fahrrad GmbH. The motorcycle division, the core of KTM’s success all through, was diverted into KTM Sportmotorcycle GmbH. After this tumultuous period, KTM finally adopted the now-signature orange color livery.
5 KTM Has Acquired Several Companies
By 2015, KTM had already grown into Europe’s largest motorcycle manufacturer. But this was not possible without smart acquisitions along the way. In 1995, KTM absorbed Sweden’s Husaberg AB, manufacturer of two and four-stroke enduro motorcycles. Husaberg AB’s sister company, Husqvarna Motorcycles, later joined the KTM Group in 2013, although it retained the iconic blue, yellow, and white color scheme.
KTM also wholly owns WP Suspension GbmH, formerly White Power Suspension, as a subsidiary for motorcycle suspension systems. According to CycleNews, KTM acquired 60-percent of Spanish-based GasGas Motorcycles in 2019, further cementing their supremacy in Europe.
4 KTM Produces Engines In-House
KTM envisioned producing a KTM bike through and through with in-house parts. However, the achievement arrived due to many years of research, trial, and development tracing back to the 1970s. Extensive work began with in-house 125cc engines that proved pivotal to winning numerous championship trophies.
In 2002, KTM established the KTM engine plant to produce four-stroke, two-stroke, twin, and single-cylinder engines for all KTM models. The plant consists of an assembly plant, mechanical manufacturing plant, and a parts warehouse managed by the tooling division.
3 KTM Builds More Than Just Motorcycles
From its origins as a repair shop to date, KTM has always delved into more than just motorcycles. In the early 1960s, KTM had scooters and mopeds in the lineup, although they faded in the ’80s. KTM was at it again during the early 2000s sport ATV craze, fielding 450cc and 525cc quad bikes. However, KTM stopped production of the quad lineup and exited the ATV market altogether.
KTM collaborated with Dallara, Kiska Design, and Audi to build the KTM X-Bow hypercar. The ultra-light sports car is purpose-built for race and road use, and KTM has offered it in different trims since 2008. Besides taking part in racing events, the X-Bow has made multiple appearances in racing games such as Forza Horizon, Gran Turismo Sport, The Crew, Asphalt 6, and Project CARS.
2 KTM Offers Motorcycles For Numerous Markets
It’s undeniable that KTM set a high bar building off-road motorcycles in Enduro, Motocross, Cross-Country, and Free Ride categories, all race-capable right off the showroom. Nonetheless, the marque’s prowess extends into street and racetrack markets. KTM offers an all-in-one sporty adventure package capable of on and off-road work. The Travel family comprises models such as the 390 Adventure, 790 Adventure Rally, 690 Enduro R, and the 1290 Super Adventure R.
KTM ventured into the naked genre with a full range of Duke and Super Duke models, with a selection of engines and bike sizes for riders of varying experience. Furthermore, KTM delivers models such as the 1290 Super Duke GT for the Sports Tourer segment, the 690 SMC R, 625 SMC, 560 SMR for Supermoto, and the RC 390 and RC 16 for the SuperSport market.
1 KTM Bikes Have Won Multiple Competitions
KTM has remained true to its ‘Ready to Race’ mantra through building competition-spec motorcycles that have won an impressive number of off-road enduro, supercross, motocross, and rally championships. KTM currently holds 96 MX1, MX2, and MXGP world championships, 260 AMA Supercross world championships, 37 cross-country world titles, and several Dakar Rally titles.
Success has also come to KTM on hard pavement as well as off-road. It has won Grand Prix constructor’s championships and Moto3 manufacturer’s titles. 2020 was particularly historic as Brad Binder took a sensational first MotoGP victory for KTM at round three of the FIM Grand Prix World Championship. As with off-road racing, we can expect KTM to aim for the next level in MotoGP racing.
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