Is Husqvarna The Lexus Of The Motorcycle World?

Prettier, probably pricier, but still a KTM

2018 Husqvarna Vitpilen 701
2018 Husqvarna Vitpilen 701Husqvarna

When KTM purchased Husqvarna in 2013, it wasn't clear how the Austrian brand would position Husky in its lineup. Four years later, as the 701 and Vitpilen 401 models and the Svartpilen 401 are officially unveiled in production form at this year's EICMA, it seems like KTM has taken a page from the automotive world, casting Husqvarna as its more design-centric, "exclusive" model line. Does that mean Husqvarna is to KTM as Lexus is to Toyota (or Audi is to VW, to keep it more Teutonic)?

The analogy doesn’t quite hold up in the details, but it does help frame Husqvarna as more of a boutique brand, which may placate those lusting after the Swedish roadsters when they discover the prices are higher than their KTM cousins, as we suspect they will be.

More than that, it allows Kiska Design, the studio responsible for KTM's and Husqvarna's striking aesthetics, to explore ways to appeal to different consumers than the conventional KTM target. I'll use myself as an example. I've always been drawn to the 690 Duke for its technical prowess, its massive single-cylinder engine, and its sweet-handling chassis, but I haven't been able to get past its dirt bike-y looks. Actually, something about its stance reminds me of a futuristic Buell Blast, which isn't a compliment.

2018 Husqvarna Svartpilen 401
2018 Husqvarna Svartpilen 401Husqvarna

However, when dressed as the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701, I'm completely sold (having not yet seen it in the flesh, of course). Rather than dissembling its modern tech in retro clothes, as is so commonplace these days, the Vitpilen unabashedly modernizes a familiar form factor, creating its own identity in spite of its shared components. It's Mid-Century modern design at its Swedish best.

Indeed, the Vitpilen and Svartpilen are essentially the same as their KTM donors: same engines, trellis frames, WP suspension, etc. It will be interesting to see if the two brands become more differentiated in the future, beyond merely style. Still, if the motorcycle industry’s attempts at attracting new riders stretch the boundaries of design, that’s a win for all of us, especially if it actually succeeds.

2018 Husqvarna Vitpilen 401
2018 Husqvarna Vitpilen 401Husqvarna

In 2016, Husqvarna’s sales grew 43 percent, which is tremendous given the somewhat ailing state of the motorcycle industry. With the introduction of the Vitpilen and Svartpilen, we’d venture to say that 2018 will be a great year for the revived Swedish brand, motorcycling’s Lexus or not.

So if the Lexus LFA can win over Paris Hilton to the car world, who does the bike world get? True, we already have a J. Lo