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Ilya Khait: We export over 95% of all Ural motorcycles

General Director of Irbit Motorworks Ilya Khait fills Motonews.ru in on the global expansion of Ural motorbikes, its dynamics, and the profile of an average buyer of Russian motorcycles.

How many motorcycles are you selling in Russia, and how many are exported?
Before the crisis, we produced roughly 1,000 bikes a year. Over 95 percent of all Ural motorbikes are actually exported. Our main markets include the United States (50 percent of total sales), the European Union, Canada, Japan, and Australia. Last year, we sold 17 motorcycles in Russia. This year, since we’re seeing more demand in Russia, we expect to sell more here.
We’re essentially selling motorcycle combinations, and 80 percent of the total is motorcycles with a driven sidecar wheel.

How does that compare to the previous years’ results?
Last year (2009), we had an extremely rough time: our sales nearly halved compared with those of 2008. This year we’re performing much better, though, and we expect to return to 2008’s level, or at least close to it.

How would you describe the average Ural motorbikes customer?
Married men aged 40-55, with a higher or incomplete higher education. As a rule, they have extensive experience in dealing with motorcycles, and they tend to have one or two bikes of other brands in their garages. Since we sell mostly two-wheel drive motorcycles with sidecars, a lot of our customers are interested in motorcycle adventure touring. Recently, literally just a year or two ago, we noticed an increase in the number of buyers between 25 and 30 years old.

How many Ural dealers do you have in Russia?
In Russia, we sell ex-works directly.

What new Ural models can we look forward to seeing in the near future?
In a few months, we’re launching a new version of a solo motorcycle (sT) with an upgraded undercarriage and suspension.

Do you follow any motorcycle sporting events?
The Paris Dakar Rally, semiprofessional and amateur rally-raids (Baja, Mexicana, etc.).

Are there any grey dealers? How do you fight them, if at all?
We don’t have that problem.

What’s the pricing policy of the Ural brand?
We set fairly high prices on all markets. In Russia, a Ural motorbike costs $9,000-10,000 on the retail market, and between $10,000 and $14,000 in Europe and the United States, depending on the model and configuration.

What do you do to encourage customers? Do you run any special promo offers?
We do almost nothing to attract customers, and we don’t hold any promo events. All we do is produce the number of motorcycles we’re capable of selling.

Do you personally drive a motorcycle? Do you have the Category A license? =)
I sit on a bike almost every day. But I use a car to get around. :-)

What do you think motorcycles will be like in 10 years?
They’ll be even more complicated and boring: ABS (which is a nearly standard option even now), airbags, automatic transmission and so on and so forth. Service and maintenance will be more and more like computer maintenance, meaning that the motorbike owner will become more and more dependent.
Universal motorcycles will fade into history, and contemporary motorcycles will be customized more and more. Electric motorcycles will certainly take a prominent, if not leading, position.

Against this gloomy background, the purely mechanical Ural will be looking more and more advantageous.
To recap, we’d like to remind you that Irbut Motorworks (IMZ-Ural CJSC) is based in the town of Irbit, in the Sverdlovsk region. The plant became an open joint-stock company in May 2000. Its share capital amounts to RUB 280m. The plant itself, however, dates all the way back to 1941, when it was relocated to Irbit from Moscow after World War II broke out. In 1950, the company rolled its 30,000th motorcycle off its production line. The year 1953 saw the launch of foreign expansion of Irbit bikes – they were mostly exported to developing countries and Eastern Europe, mainly to cater for the needs of the army and law enforcement authorities. In May 1967, IMZ produced its 500,000th motorcycle, shortly followed by the 1,000,000th bike in 1975. In October 1993, it topped the benchmark of 3,000,000 motorcycles produced.

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