Gas Gas: Re-Energized!
The Torrot Group is a large Spanish company that’s in the business of selling electric mobility vehicles and Scully Helmets. It has also pioneered a popular B2B scooter-sharing program across Europe, and recently launched a three-wheeled vehicle called the Velocipedo. But where does the 2017 acquisition of Gas Gas motorcycles fit into that business mix, and what plans does Torrot have for this core, race-oriented Spanish enduro brand that’s been around since 1985?
To get an insight into what’s in store for the rejuvenated Gas Gas, we spoke with Torrot Group’s Business Development Manager for the Asia Pacific region, Melbourne-based Phil Wilkinson, at the recent media launch for Gas Gas’ 2019 enduro models.
TM: The Torrot Group acquired Gas Gas almost two years ago now. Explain the background to that deal for us, Phil.
PW: A few years back, Gas Gas went into liquidation. In Spain, when a business goes into liquidation, it’s a unique situation because both the government and the company’s employees – or the union, if you like – have to agree on who the purchaser is. There were other manufacturers who showed an interest in acquiring the brand, but both the employees and government decided that they wanted Gas Gas to remain in the hands of a Spanish company. So when the Torrot Group’s Rafael and Ivan Contreras – together with a large Spain-based investment group – came along, the resurrection of Gas Gas as a brand began. And it’s been a real success story from that point onwards. For 2018, the ‘Phoenix’ was the new platform for Gas Gas’ new-generation enduro machines; most notably different for their all-new single-backbone chassis and Kayaba suspension.
“When the time comes, we’ll be there with fuel injection. But for the moment, we believe the carbureted bikes do a better job of meeting the performance and ‘feel’ expectations of consumers in the market for a two-stroke enduro bike.”
You’ve always been into the off-road scene. So it must have been music to your ears when Torrot purchased Gas Gas.
It was. I’ve been with Torrot Group for more than two years, and because I was formerly with Zero Motorcycles here in Australia, I’ve been involved with the electric side of the motorcycle game for quite some time. Electric vehicles are a big part of what Torrot does, and I’ve had a long-standing passion for off-road riding, so the job was a really good fit for me because Gas Gas has given me the opportunity to combine the two.
What countries does your role in the Asia Pacific region involve?
Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Thailand, China, Japan and Taiwan. It’s a pretty broad region, and includes long-standing partners in both China and Japan, who’ve made big commitments on both the enduro and trials bike side for Gas Gas. I’m based out of Melbourne, but the role means I travel a fair bit. I work very closely with the guys in Spain, and also with our subsidiary distributor in the USA, which means I’m across almost every time zone. It definitely keeps me on my toes.
“Both Australia and New Zealand are an important part of Gas Gas’ overall strategy, and will have a key influence in terms of future product development.”
What was Torrot’s core strategy in acquiring Gas Gas?
Torrot saw Gas Gas as a big opportunity because it’s very strong brand with good technology. It was apparent that Gas Gas’ previous-platform enduro bikes – with the perimeter frame – had been around for a while and were in need of an update. There are some historical components that were carried into the new-generation Gas Gas machines – the 2018 models onwards, that is – but from a design point of view, they’re essentially all-new models that have brought us to the forefront of the enduro bike market segment. And they’ve been incredibly well received. In terms of enduro pedigree, Gas Gas has a long and passionate history. Its purchase has meant a big investment for Torrot, and one the business is committed to driving forward long-term.
The new-gen bikes’ frame has prompted comments that the Gassers now appear more similar to KTMs and Huskys. Fair?
We were always confident that our development program would result in a really good bike that’s priced well and would give people a great experience. So for us, at this point, those objectives are more important than trailblazing new technologies. Sure, when it comes to critical features and must-haves, we’re there. But for now, we focused on building really good bikes that keep customers happy.
How much of an effect did the recent factory fire have on production?
The Gas Gas factory – based in Gerona, Spain – had a small fire back in May, which mainly damaged spare parts. Sure, it was a setback. But from a production point of view, it wasn’t too bad because it came at a time when the factory was transitioning between 2018 and 2019 year-models. We’re back on track now.
The Australian media launch for the 2019 EC models was served with a Spanish flavour, complete with seafood paella!
What is Gasser’s philosophy when it comes to two-stroke fuel injection? Isn’t introducing this technology inevitable, given the increasingly stringent emission regs associated with the Euro4 and Euro5 laws?
When the time comes, we’ll be there with fuel injection. But for the moment, we believe the carbureted bikes do a better job of meeting the performance and ‘feel’ expectations of consumers in the market for a two-stroke enduro bike. Part of the ‘former’ Gas Gas was a brand called Ossa, which produced fuel-injected two-stroke trials bikes. So we’re not unfamiliar with the technology. In fact, Gas Gas was one of the first in that space.
Phil Wilkinson (left) with Gas Gas’s Commercial Manager, David Martinez, and the brand’s Japanese distributors at the EICMA show.
Speaking of trials bikes and new technology, Gas Gas has recently enjoyed some real success, right?
Absolutely! For the past two years, Gas Gas has won the World Trials Championship title in the electric class. Gas Gas shoehorned an electric motor into their trials bike chassis and fitted a clutch and transmission to the thing. It’s an amazing machine and an important project for the brand. And, up against the likes of Yamaha, it’s a serious feat to take those two world titles. It also demonstrates the brand’s passion and capacity to utilize new technology in a successful way very quickly. We know that electric-powered bikes will be a big part of the future, and Gas Gas is well positioned to take advantage of it.
This launch for the 2019 models has focused on the EC, or enduro, models. But it has to be said that the all-new ECRanger promises to be a pivotal model for the brand.
Absolutely. I was speaking with Miki Arpa – who runs the R&D program for Gas Gas – and he says he can cut laps on his enduro test track faster on the ECR than the EC. Yes, the ECR is lower and detuned, but it remains a serious motorcycle. We’re excited about how it will be received because, as a more forgiving machine that’s aggressively priced, it will help open the sport up to more people. That’s why we’re making it available in 200cc and 300cc options, and I believe they’ll start arriving in Australia around Christmas time.
“As a more forgiving machine that’s aggressively priced, the all-new ECRanger will help open the sport up to more people. That’s why we’re making it available in 200cc and 300cc options.”
What does Australia and New Zealand mean to the Gas Gas brand?
As part of my appointment, a big priority was to create a meaningful presence for Gas Gas in the strong off-road markets of Australia and New Zealand. Both countries are an important part of our overall strategy and will have a key influence in terms of future product development. We have strong distributors across enduro and trials in these markets, and confidence in our network to ensure that Gas Gas owners have the support they demand.
More on Gas Gas