MV Agusta, originally Meccanica Verghera Agusta, is a motorcycle manufacturer founded on 12 February 1945 near Milan in Cascina Costa, Italy. The company began as an offshoot of the Agusta aviation company formed by Count Giovanni Agusta in 1923. The Count died in 1927, leaving the company in the hands of his wife and sons, Domenico, Vincenzo, Mario and Corrado. Count Vincenzo Agusta together with his brother Domenico formed MV Agusta at the end of the Second World War as a means of saving the jobs of employees of the Agusta firm and also to fill the post-war need for cheap, efficient transportation. The acronym MV stands for Meccanica (mechanics) Verghera, the hamlet where the first MVs were made. The company manufactured small-displacement, café racer-style motorcycles (mostly 125 to 150 cc) through the 1950s and 1960s. In the 1960s, small motorcycle sales declined, and MV started producing larger displacement cycles in more limited quantities. A 250 cc, and later a 350 cc twin were produced, and a 600 cc four-cylinder evolved into a 750 cc.
Count Vincenzo and Domenico Agusta had a passion for mechanical workings and for motorcycle racing. Much like Enzo Ferrari, they produced and sold motorcycles almost exclusively to fund their racing efforts. They were determined to have the best Grand Prix motorcycle racing team in the world and spared no expense on their passion. MV Agusta produced their first prototype, called "Vespa 98", in 1945. After learning that the name had already been registered by Piaggio for its Vespa motorscooter, it was referred to simply by the number “98”. In 1948, the company built a 125 cc two-stroke single and entered Franco Bertoni in the Italian Grand Prix. Bertoni won the event held in Monza and instantly put the new motorcycle manufacturer on the map.
In the 1949 season, the 125 cc, or ultra light weight class, gained new prestige. More motorcycle manufacturers were competing in the inaugural world championships that were held in Switzerland, Netherlands and Italy. The Mondial 125 cc DOHC design dominated the 1949 season. The MV riders placed ninth and tenth in the final standings. In 1950, Arturo Magni and Piero Remor joined the company after working with Gilera. Magni was the chief mechanic and Remor was chief designer. The 1950 season and 1951 season were development years, as the company adopted the 125 Dohc four-stroke engine. Racing efforts only produced a fifth-place finish at the Dutch TT in 1950. The 1951 results were only slightly better.
The 1952 season saw the introduction of telescopic forks, full width alloy brake hubs and a sleek fuel tank on the 125 race bike. Power was 15 bhp (11 kW) @ 10800 rpm. Britain's Cecil Sandford piloted the new MV 125 to a 1952 Isle of Man TT victory and went on to win MV Agusta's first world championship.
With the success of the 1952 season, independent or "privateer" riders could now purchase a "catalog" version of the 125 DOHC, now available through the company. The Sport Competizione racer had many of the same features as the factory bike. These included a multi-plate clutch, gear-driven oil pump, Dell'Orto 27 mm SS1 carburetor and remote float chamber. The bike was nicknamed the "Boy Racer". In 1953, the race engineers adopted the Earles-type forks to help with handling problems on the works racers. The 1953 season saw the introduction of the 350 Four. MV’s racing efforts now included the 500 cc, 350 cc and 125 cc class.
Nineteen fifty-three saw the introduction of a new 175 cc overhead cam model. MV Agusta produced the 175 CST and CSTL (Turismo Lusso) for street use and soon developed a sportier 175 cc version with larger carburetor, a larger cylinder head with bigger fins, aluminum wheel rims and plenty of glossy red paint. The first year version (1954) of the 175 Sport featured a beautifully sculpted fuel tank that quickly earned it the unofficial nickname "Disco Volante" (flying saucer) as, viewed from the front, the tank shape was reminiscent of a flying saucer. Soon after, MV began offering a very limited-availability racing version 175 cc "Super Sport" for MSDS racing (production club racing) equipped with unusual Earles-design front forks. In 1955, it was superseded by a new and improved Super Sport model with radical new styling and a five-speed gearbox. Its design earned it the nickname "Squalo" (Shark). This 175 cc racing machine was very popular in Britain in the mid-1950s, where tuners learned to bore it out to over 200 cc capacity. Racers including Micheal O’Rourke, Derek Minter, and Bob Keeler raced the 175 and 125 Sport Competizione around Europe with a great deal of success. The marketing strategy of "race it on Sunday, sell it on Monday" was adhered to, and it worked. MV street motorcycles enjoyed immense popularity throughout Europe. In 1958 American rider Dave Schuler, riding a borrowed and barely modified MV 175 Sport street bike, won the 175 class at the famed Catalina Island GP off-road race, in California.
After the 1957 season, the Italian motorcycle manufacturers Gilera, Moto Guzzi and Mondial jointly agreed to withdraw from Grand Prix competition due to escalating costs and diminishing sales. Count Agusta originally agreed to withdraw, but then had second thoughts. MV Agusta went on to dominate Grand Prix racing, winning 17 consecutive 500 cc world championships. Count Agusta's competitive nature usually saw him hire some of the best riders of the time, namely Carlo Ubbiali, John Surtees, Mike Hailwood, Giacomo Agostini, Phil Read, among others, and having the best engineers, most notably Arturo Magni. The three- and four-cylinder race bikes were known for their excellent road handling. The fire-engine red racing machines became a hallmark of Grand Prix racing in the 1960s and early 1970s.
With the death of Count Domenico Agusta in 1971, the company lost its guiding force. The company won their last Grand Prix in 1976 and by the end of the season they were out of racing. The company's precarious economic position forced MV Agusta to seek out a new financial partner. A solution was found in the form of public financing giant EFIM (Ente Partecipazioni e Finanziamento Industria Manifatturiera), which demanded that MV Agusta exit the motorcycle industry if were to have any chance of straightening its finances. However, they continued to sell bikes until 1980, when the last machine in the Cascina Costa warehouses was bought up.
Cagiva purchased the MV Agusta name trademarks in 1991. In 1997 it introduced the first new MV Agusta motorcycle. The new bikes were four-cylinder 750 cc sports machines, the F4 range, which included a series of limited production run models, such as the all black paint work SPR model (Special Production Racing) which was featured in the movie I, Robot. In 2004 they introduced their first 1,000 cc bike. 2004 marked the end of production for the 750 Sport machines, with limited production of 300 SR (Special Racing) models in the traditional red and silver livery.
MV Agusta also made a limited number of F4 750 cc and F4 1,000 cc Senna editions in memory of the late Formula One champion, Ayrton Senna, an avid Ducati and MV Agusta collector, in aid of the Instituto Ayrton Senna, his charity foundation in Brazil for children and young people. Three hundred of each model were made in the early 2000s.
They also produce a range of 750 and 910 naked bikes called the Brutale. Production is limited, as it is the policy of the company to produce an elite machine similar to Ferrari in motor cars. They do not compete directly with Japanese manufacturers, whose motorcycles typically sell for considerably lower prices; rather, they compete with other Italian models such as Ducati's sports bikes 996, 998, 999, 1098, and the naked Monster. In 2005 MV Agusta introduced the Tamburini 1000, which is named after its creator, Massimo Tamburini, who had previously worked for Ducati, where he designed the Ducati 916. Cycle World and Australian Motorcycle News magazine named it the best sportbike in the world. Tamburini designed the Ducati 916 sports bike (predecessor of the 748 and 996 series) which marked the return of Ducati as a successful motorcycle manufacturer in the early twenty-first century. The MV Agusta F4 refined the innovative design of the 916. Claimed power of the new F4 312R model is 183 hp (136 kW). In 1999 the Cagiva group was restructured for strategic purposes and MV Agusta become the main division, comprising Cagiva and Husqvarna.
Heavily in debt, the manufacturer was bought by Malaysian car maker Proton in December 2004 for €70 million. In December 2005, Proton sold MV Agusta to GEVI SpA, a Genoa-based financing company related to Carige, for a token one euro excluding debt. By 2006 GEVI SpA, with 65% of the share capital, had refinanced MV Agusta allowing the company to continue operating in its native Italy.
In July 2007, MV Agusta Motor SpA sold the Husqvarna motorcycle brand to BMW for an undisclosed amount. According to MV Agusta president Claudio Castiglioni, the sale was a strategic step to concentrate all of the company's resources in order to expand MV Agusta and Cagiva's presence in the international markets, having more financial resources for new model development.
Following years of stalled ownership, the Guggenheim's "Art of the Motorcycle" icon, the F4 model, was ready for a refresh, but the financial status of the company did not allow it. On July 11, 2008, Harley-Davidson announced they had signed a definitive agreement to acquire the MV Agusta Group for US$109 million (€70m), completing the acquisition on August 8, 2008.
On October 15, 2009, Harley-Davidson announced that it would divest its interest in MV Agusta and on August 6, 2010, it announced that MV Agusta had been sold to Claudio Castiglioni and his wholly owned holding company, MV Agusta Motor Holding, S.r.l.
MV Agusta announced that for the first three months of 2010 bike sales increased by 50%.
On October 31, 2014, Mercedes-AMG announced a long term partnership with the motorcycle brand and the acquisition of a 25% minority stake. This followed similar acquisition strategy by rival Ducati, now in partnership with Audi.
Towards the end of March 2016, media reports started to appear which indicated that MV was again experiencing serious financial problems (including a debt of €40 million) and that it had obtained a concordato in continuita order which would, in the short-term at least, protect it against creditor claims whilst it attempted to find new sources of capital. This was followed in early April by reports that MV was negotiating the repurchase of AMG's 25% stake in the company and looking for a new major investor, whilst retaining the majority shareholding of the Castiglione family. Even of greater concern, were reports that MV were not delivering any spare parts and that the factory might have ceased production.E Refinance announced October 2016. Funds from Black Ocean Group.
The name of MV Agusta became popular in 1948 when Franco Bertoni won the 125 cc in the Italian Grand Prix. By that time MV Agusta adopted the commercial slogan: "Racing experience at the service of mass production".
The manufacturer won its first world championship in 1952 with Cecil Sandford in the 125 cc class. Starting a domination in all classes, MV Agusta won the 125 cc, 250 cc, 350 cc and 500 cc titles simultaneously in 1958, 1959 and 1960. The Italian manufacturer made an impressive streak conquering all 500 cc class riders' championships between 1958 and 1974.
MV Agusta retired from Grand Prix racing at the end of the 1976 season, having won 270 Grand Prix motorcycle races, 38 World Riders' Championships and 37 World Constructors' Championships with legendary riders such as Giacomo Agostini, Mike Hailwood, Phil Read, Carlo Ubbiali, Gary Hocking and John Surtees.
MV Agusta won the following world titles: