Offering dealers chance to carry a quality bike at a competitive price point
[dropcap]S[/dropcap]cott Armstrong got his start as a small independent dealer in the Northeast that catered to enduro riders and off-road adventurers. His shop sold mostly “exotic” bikes and accessories, but he always wanted to do something on a bigger scale. Then came an opportunity to bring AJP motorcycles to the U.S., and he found his niche.
Armstrong says that while AJP may be new to the U.S., it is not a flash-in-the-pan company that just started. It has an almost 30-year history of producing some of Europe’s best quality, most affordable enduro dirt bikes.
“2015 was our first full model year in the U.S.,” says Armstrong. “It’s been a short history here, but our history is something people don’t realize. They see AJP and think it’s a new brand, but it’s been in business almost 30 years.”
The company was started by Antonio J. Pinto in 1987. That’s where AJP comes from. The company has been under his leadership for all these years, and it’s been producing an array of dirt bikes at its factory in Portugal and selling them mostly in Europe. But the company’s bikes have never been sold in the U.S. until Armstrong came along.
Pinto is no slouch on the racing trail either, he is a 7-time Enduro champion in Portugal. “He’s kind of the Mike Lafferty of that country,” Armstrong says with a laugh. “So it’s like if Mike Lafferty designed an Enduro bike what would it look like? Well, these bikes are sort of the European version of that idea.”
Armstrong says that’s why there’s so much high-end componentry on the new AJP models. “The fuel tank under the seat to get the weight low and centralized, the air filter mounted up high so you can go through deep water crossings, a lot of that stuff is inspired by Antonio and his experiences in racing and riding enduros over the years. That’s also why our bikes shine when it comes to handling and suspension. We don’t skimp in those categories.”
According to Armstrong, some of the early impressions from customers and dealers was that AJP bikes were like other ‘off-shore, fly-by-night’ brands. “I was even guilty of that when I looked at them a few years back. It took me a second time to come around again and get a handle on what AJP really had and what it was about.”
And what AJP is about is handling. Well, it’s the handling, the suspension and also the other quality features as well as the price point all rolled into a recreational rider-friendly package. “What it comes down to is getting folks back into dirt bike riding again on something that’s really trail worthy instead of something that’s more for putting around the yard or a field,” Armstrong says. “A lot of people compare our PR4, which is our air-cooled model to a CRF230, but I think if you have them next to each other there’s really no comparison. We’ve got full travel forks, disc brakes, we’ve got fully adjustable high-end suspension, quality tires and wheels, so we’ve got good bones. Really nice components there.”
In Europe, AJP offers about 20 different models of bikes, including Extreme and entry-level versions of the air-cooled platform – the PR3-PR4. Armstrong looked at all of the bikes and found some models that, with a bit of tweaking, would fill what he saw were some holes in the U.S. market.
“AJP is a small enough company that I can literally build a bike that I want,” he says. “I can take its whole array of suspension offerings, tire and wheel combos, controls, its billet stuff, and I can mix and match components any way I want and that’s what I’ve done.”
The challenge Armstrong had was the Extreme model of the PR4 in the U.S. would put him outside of the price point that he wanted to be in. “We would be looking at a $6,000 air-cooled dirt bike (instead of $4995 MSRP), and I just don’t see the market,” he remarks. “So that was kind of the driving force to spec our bikes the way they are (different forks and brakes than the Extreme models). And the same with the PR5. It would be easily a $7,000 retail bike (instead of $6,199 MSRP) and I just don’t see that. We would lose one of our key features, which is the low price point.”
As we go to press, Armstrong says that he has been pleasantly surprised with the amount of dealer interest in the last couple of weeks. He says that he currently has about 12-15 dealers and is ready to add a handful more. “We would like to have 50 dealers by the end of this year, and I think we can do that just by the interest we’ve seen so far, even in the middle of winter. The plan is to have at least a couple dealers in every state. And I would like to have 100 dealers in the U.S. by the end of 2017.”
With stakes firmly planted in Vermont, Armstrong and AJP look like they’ll have plenty of fertile ground to grow on American soil. He added that an adventure bike called the PR7 is in the works and will be available sometime this fall.
For more information visit: www.motoajp.com