Moto Guzzi, the iconic Italian maker of stylish and decidedly offbeat motorcycles, released the first official photos of the new California this week, and the reception this iteration gets in the marketplace will likely determine the future of the company for good or ill.
The new Guzzi is the latest version of a model which dates back to 1971 and has served as the flagship of the Moto Guzzi marque generating solid (if hardly spectacular) sales over the years.
The latest offering from the company was designed by Miguel Galluzzi, the Argentine designer best known as the man behind the ground-breaking Ducati Monster during the early 1990s, and he’s once again taken a step away from tradition in his work on this venerable machine.
“All you need is a saddle, tank, engine, two wheels and handlebars,” went the Argentine designer’s famous maxim at the time he took on the Ducati project.
While Galluzzi stopped short of the kind of extreme design brevity he showcased with the Monster, he did pare away many of the design elements of previous Guzzis in his quest to re-invigorate the marque.
“The Guzzi crowd is extremely conservative, but if we only concentrate on those, we are going to lose eventually, so these bikes are looking into the future,” Galluzzi said. “The advantage Guzzi has versus Ducati is that Ducati makes sportsbikes, Guzzi can do anything it wants because they’ve been doing it a long time and on all sorts of bikes. We are not in a box, we can do anything we want as long as we are able to make it.”
The blocky, retro style of the latest Moto Guzzi is a departure from the California’s traditional rounded cruiser feel – and the changes are not without risk. Moto Guzzi buyers have traditionally been a dedicated group of conservatives who like their machines to be, well, different, so this machine could cause them some consternation,.
The California’s features another step away from tradition with an all-new 1,400cc, air-and-oil-cooled V-twin powerplant which, while it retains the look of previous California engines, is another departure. Currently, Moto Guzzi buyers will now have a choice of three engine offerings: a 750 available in the V7 series, a 1200cc which is the mainstay of Moto Guzzi’s larger motorcycles, and the new 1400 set to hit the showrooms during the autumn months 2012 and debuting in the California.
As for Galluzzi’s next move, he says he’s off to Pasadena, California to take up a position as head up a new Piaggio Group design studio.
Piaggio CEO Roberto Colaninno is betting the farm that Galluzzi’s magic will be just the ticket for his firm,
“Setting up a research centre in California opens a window on the changes that will be taking place in our society, way of life, and urban and metropolitan mobility models in the next few years,” Colaninno said of the appointment.
Colaninno is intent on boosting sales of his company’s machines in the US as Piaggio marques Aprilia and Vespa sold a modest 10,000 motorcycles in the US during 2011 .