After discovering late last night that Diamo USA was bringing Italjet scooters and motorcycles to America, we were stupefied, excited, and to be honest, a bit skeptical. Diamo has a fairly good reputation among scooter dealers and riders, but were they the right company to re-introduce the legendary Dragster to the U.S.? Where were these bikes coming from, and how did Italjet rise from the dead seemingly overnight? We contacted DiamoUSA early this morning, and we heard back this afternoon from Mathu Solo, who very candidly answered our questions:
2SB:Can you tell us more about how you got involved with Italjet and how this distribution deal came about?
Solo: DiamoUSA has always sought to improve our company by always seeking the highest quality products. Doing business in China was a learning experience and it has taken several years to build our product line so that we now only sell the best quality coming out of China. Our warranty claim rates are less than 3%, which is actually in line with the Japanese and other name-brand manufacturers. As part of our focus on quality, we always had plans to seek out manufacturers from other countries (preferably Italy) for us to distribute their products. I personally have always admired and appreciated the design and quality that Italy produced. However, due to the weakness of the US Dollar against the Euro with the currency exchange, it has been extremely cost-prohibitive to import products from Italy. Italjet is taking a new approach to their business and have worked hard to get their pricing competitive. As a result, we started discussions with them about bringing the brand back to the USA. We are confident we can make the Italjet brand successful this time. 2007 is going to be an very exciting year for Diamo, as we roll out more than 6 new models and re-launch the Italjet line. We are also now in negotiations with another manufacturer who wants us to distribute their product based on what we have accomplished in the U.S. market. I hope to have that finalized before Dealer Expo.
Our plan is to officially re-launch the Italjet brand at Dealer Expo in Indianapolis next month. I don’t have a lot of details to provide before the official launch, but I am glad to answer your questions.
2SB:Is Diamo involved in the production of the Italjets, or are you solely acting as the US importer? Is Diamo involved with Italjet in any other markets?
Solo: We are not involved in the production. We will act as the exclusive importer and distributor for Italjet. We are looking at other several other markets for the Italjet brand, and are hopeful in developing those markets before the end of 2007. However, our main focus is the U.S. market. It is important that we are succesful in the U.S. first, before we branch out. We took the same approach with Diamo and just began to branch out into other countries in the past year.
2SB:Does Italjet have their own production facility, or are they being manufactured under contract? Are they being manufactured in Italy or in Asia?
Solo: Each product that Italjet produces will be unique. Italjet is establishing partnerships with several parts suppliers and manufacturer’s to bring Italjet-designed products to market with competitive pricing, without sacrificing the quality. The intent is that all products will be produced at Italjet in Italy, however there are several models that could end up with final production in other countries. The Griffon 650 motorcycle could possibly be built at Hyosung in Korea, but that is not final yet. The Dragster models (50cc and 250cc) will be produced at Italjet in Italy and a new 50cc model called the Roller Craft will be built in Italy.
2SB:The prototype photos depict the Dragster with a 250cc Piaggio Quasar engine, Will Piaggio supply engines for the production model as well?
Solo: Three models are definitely going to have Piaggio engines, the Dragster 50cc and 250cc, and also the Roller Craft.
2SB:Italjet was notorious in the past for poor parts and spares supply, a problem amplified by their U.S. importers. Your current dealers tell me you have a solid operation and supply chain, so even though problems on your end seem unlikely, what steps have you taken to ensure Italjet can supply you with bikes, parts, spares, and service information?
Solo: I have heard about the previous problems with the Italjet and the U.S. supply chain regarding parts and service and there is no doubt we will change that. I think that was a strong reason that Italjet chose to work with our company. We are getting ready to move into a brand new facility in March that is 90,000 sq. ft. It will increase the capacity we have to inventory parts. I am confident in saying that we have one of the largest parts inventories in the USA for importers. We are the only company that offers a parts guarantee to our dealers and customers, for Diamo, and we hope to be able to offer the same thing for Italjet. We invest heavily in parts before we ever distribute the first product to insure we can meet demand. If our warranty claim rate is less than 3% then we try and keep a parts inventory on hand of at least 10%. Diamo USA prides itself on providing the best customer service in the industry. We have worked hard to build a brand that stands out among the overwhelming number of current importers in the market. Our commitment to quality and service comes at a cost but we feel it is a long term investment that will pay off and we are already seeing the positive results through the dealers who we support. We are already working to finalize the owners manuals, parts catalogues and service manuals for every product we will import before we start selling the first model. Italjet is a family-run business. The founder’s son, Massimo Tartarini, has now taken over the business, and he has a completely new approach. He is a very intelligent person and definitely has a good understanding of the industry and a vision for the future. He is fully committed to making sure there is a better system and platform to supply parts and service through the supply chain. Diamo is committed to making sure we can support any product that we distribute to our dealer network and this will apply to Italjet also. I hope to be able to provide parts support for past products also.
2SB:Support for older Italjet products would be amazing! there’s still demand for spares.
Where do you stand as far as the U.S. DOT/EPA homologation process ? Do you forsee any changes to the prototype to meet DOT or EPA specs?
Solo: Everything is being finalized and we hope to be able to start distributing product before April. We do not anticipate any problems and everything has progressed smoothly so far.
2SB:Are you able to shed any light on what sparked Italjet’s surprisingly fast rebirth, and how their return will affect Kinetic’s licensing of several of their designs?
Solo: I think what sparked the fast rebirth of Italjet was the commitment by the son, Massimo Tartarini, to return to the company and re-launch it. He has a clear vision of what it will take to make Italjet succesful again. He wants to take the company in a new direction that is very promising. Italjet has always been known as a being radical and agressive in their model designs and this will be evident in new models like the Roller Craft but I think you will see this same philosophy carry through into the way they are now operating the company.
The deal with Kinetic will not affect our distribution of Italjet. When Italjet filed bankruptcy, they sold the molds and rights to 7 Italjet models. Italjet kept the rights to their name and brand. Kinetic and Italjet have always had a great working relationship, and that will continue moving forward. Kinetic has plans to bring those models to the U.S., but I have no idea where they are with that as it has already been several years. The models we distribute under the Italjet brand will be completely different from Kinetic. We are looking at developing brand new designs and models with Italjet and I can tell you there are some great ideas on the table.
2SB thanks Mathu Solo for his quick response, and we’ll hopefully have a lot more to report from the Indianapolis Dealer Expo in February.