Husqvarna has been around much longer than most people realize, their recent resurgence under the KTM Group has seen them become a household name today, but there is a lot more to the company than their current model line.
The Swedish company has seen several ups and downs in its past, having had to relocate its headquarters and, by extension, its manufacturing plant, on two separate occasions, splitting up, reuniting and almost completely disappearing. In recent times they have become more and more powerful with their conquering off-road motorcycles and have turned many heads with their radical designed road bikes.
Used to make muskets
If we were to delve into the history of different brands, we might assume that very few would be able to trace their history as far as Husqvarna.
Their story began when the Swedish king commissioned a metalworking company to produce muskets in 1689. They are literally as old as the hills.
One of the oldest motorcycle manufacturers
After having literally existed for hundreds of years, they turned their attention to the growing market for motorized bicycles.
In 1903, Husqvarna motorcycles were created, making them the second oldest motorcycle manufacturer with uninterrupted production.
Isle of Man Experience
By the early 1920s motorcycle racing had become popular across Europe and the Isle Of Man TT had established itself as one of the biggest events.
Husqvarna raced in the event between the 1920s and 1930s, gaining crucial experience in developing motorcycles, something that would hold them in good stead after the war.
Got off the road early
Seeing a growing trend in the 1950s, they bravely launched the Silverpilen, the very first purpose-built off-road motorcycle.
Although it looked a lot like a regular contemporary motorcycle, it had a slightly longer travel and a raised exhaust, which made it more off-road friendly.
Their first bike might not have looked much like a motocross, but in the 60s they were making the first true long-distance suspension mountain bikes.
For a time they were untouchable on dirt tracks around the world, winning 14 world motocross titles and 24 European enduro championships. At the time, their performance attracted all the most talented riders from around the world, including a certain Hollywood star.
McQueen was an avid motorcycle enthusiast, collecting and riding several different motorcycles.
His love for dirt riding drew him to Husqvarna, and when he saw Swedish motocross champion Bengt Åberg’s bike, he simply must have had it. He bought his championship winning bike after the race, that same bike was recently auctioned off for crazy money.
By the early ’80s Husqvarna had fallen behind, although they were one of the early leaders in innovation, they had become stagnant and paid the price, slow racing bikes and low sales.
They invested their resources in what was at the time a revolutionary 500cc 4 stroke motocross, they had beaten the trend for over a decade and the bike never really took off without any class to compete. By the end of the 1980s, they were no longer profitable, and it seemed the business was doomed.
Cagiva was making a lot of money in the 80s and buying several brands, including Husqvarna. Without their investment and move to Italy, this would have been the end of the line for Husqvarna.
This was indeed the end of the chain for the company as it was known at the time, the core group split up and became Husaberg, using their old tools and facilities. While Husqvarna produced bikes in Italy, they were apparently still the underdogs, but still made fast and competitive dirt bikes.
After 20 years in Italy under Cagiva, the Italian group faces its own financial difficulties and sells Husqvarna to the BMW group.
While this partnership produced some interesting bikes, most notably the Nuda 900, it was short lived. BMW apparently got what they needed from the deal and sold the Husky brand to KTM in 2013 while the Varese plant is said to be sold to a Chinese automaker.
What KTM has since done with the brand is easily one of the smartest marketing decisions we’ve ever seen in the motorcycle industry. Essentially, Husqvarna died in the 80s and limped in the 90s.
Today they are the blue and white alternative to the orange KTM. With pretty much all of the same undercarriage, a few minor tweaks to the interior, and a completely different design language, KTM gained access to a market that otherwise wouldn’t have given the Orange marque a second look.
Husqvarna has manufactured some of the highest quality products on the market. One of these offers is the FE350 approved for the street.
About the Author