KTM is most commonly known for its off road motorcycles though in recent years it has expanded into street motorcycle production.
The company was founded in 1934 by engineer Hans Trunkenpolz in Mattighofen. It started out as a metalworking shop and was named Kraftfahrzeug Trunkenpolz Mattighofen. It wasn't until 1953 that KTM began production of motorcycles. With just 20 employees, motorcycles were built at the rate of three per day. In 1955, a businessman Ernst Kronreif became shareholder of the company, on acquiring a sizable portion of the company. It was then renamed Kronreif & Trunkenpolz Mattighofen. Trunkenpolz died unexpectedly in 1989. During these early years of motocycle production at KTM, almost all components for the motorcycles were built in-house by KTM.
Throughout KTM's history, they have been on the leading edge of motorcycle technology. They were the first manufacturer to produce a liquid-cooled four-stroke motorcycle engine for an off road motorcycle, a design which has since been replicated by all other manufacturers (KTM even supplied radiators to Suzuki in their early water-cooling days). In 1986, KTM became the first motorcycle manufacturer to include both front and rear disc brakes on an off road motorcycle. In 1998, they offered a linkless rear suspension, dramatically reducing the un-sprung weight of the bike (KTM was the first major manufacturer to do so, although ATK, a small market, niche brand did so as early as 1987). They were also the first to offer hydraulic clutch mechanisms on all models of motorcycles, and were the first to offer a competition-ready supermoto bike.
Since 1990, KTM motorcycles and automobiles (X-Bow) have been designed by KiskaDesign, a Salzburg-based design firm with over 100 employees that offers transportation, product, environmental, identity and branding to an international clients. It is responsible for the overall branding for KTM; including the design of the vehicles, shops, exhibits and printed material. The firm applies a method IDD (integrated design development) to all of its client projects. Gerald Kiska is the principal.
In the fiscal or business year ending in 2005, KTM Sportmotocycles AG delivered 80,000 motorcycles worldwide and began a partnership with Polaris Industries. Under the terms of the agreement, the two companies will help one another to extend their brands into the other's home market, KTM extending their reach into North America, and Polaris extending into Europe. This partnership is a two year trial arrangement, at the end of which both parties are giving the option of merging the two companies into one. In 2006, KTM announced that the partnership with Polaris had been ended early, and would instead only supply their 450 cc and 525 cc RFS engines to the ATV manufacturer. KTM also announced their intention to enter the ATV market with either a late 2007 or 2008 model-year release.
In November 2007, Indian two-wheeler manufacturer Bajaj Auto Ltd. acquired 14.5% stake in KTM Power Sports AG (holding company of KTM Sportmotocycles AG). The two companies have signed a cooperation deal, by which KTM will provide the know-how for joint development of the water-cooled 4-stroke 125 cc and 250 cc engines, and Bajaj will take over the distribution of KTM products in India and some other Southeast Asian nations. In December 2007, Bajaj increased their stake to more than 20%.
Bajaj Auto currently holds 31.72% stake.
The Swedish motorcycle company Husaberg AB and Dutch WP Suspension are now subsidiaries of the KTM Group.
KTM began in motorsports with Motocross Racing. In the last few years KTM has gained more success in motorsports by dominating rally-raid events such as the Paris-Dakar Rally and the Atlas-Rally. In 2003, KTM started sponsoring and supporting Road racing in various capacities, with the most successful results stemming from their SuperMotard or Supermoto efforts. KTM's new road racing focus will soon grow to include Superbike competition with the help of their newly developed V-Twin engine dubbed the LC8 as employed in the 950 Adventure dual-sport motorcycle, and more specifically the 2005/2006 990 Super Duke followed by the superbike contender known as the 1190 RC8. The Super Duke will have a higher output, second generation version of the LC8 engine, geared for high rpm peak power as required in road racing and superstreet applications while the RC8 will sport a 1190cc version of the LC8 for more midrange.
KTM offers a range of different engines for its larger motorcycles, all liquid-cooled.
KTM's official company/team colours are Orange, Black and Silver. To create a strong brand identity, all competition-ready KTMs come from the factory with bright orange plastic with "KTM" emblazoned on the side of the radiator shrouds. All KTM bikes also come from the factory with a Motorex sticker on the outside of the motor. All first fills of oil come from Motorex as well. Some official KTM teams use different colors for their bikes, most noticeably in the Dakar Rally.
The term off-road refers to a driving surface that is not conventionally paved. This is a rough surface, often created naturally, such as sand, gravel, a river, mud or snow. This type of terrain can sometimes only be travelled on with vehicles designed for off-road driving (such as SUVs, ATVs, snowmobiles or mountain bikes) or vehicles that have off-road equipment. The KTM is well equipped for these environments and is popular among many off-road riders. The design of this motorcycle is well suited to this sport and the weight of the motorcycle is another advantage. KTMs come stock ready to race, with a hydraulic clutch, full adjustable WP front and rear suspension and powerful engines requiring no modifications prior to racing. The KTM has won every Dakar Rally since 2001.
Motocross - The 2008 SX line includes 65, 85, 105, 125, 144 and 250 cc two-stroke models, and 250, 450 and 505 four-stroke models. In 2005 KTM released the new 250SX-F to the general public. For the 2007 model-year, all of KTM's four-stroke SX motors were re-designed similarly to the 250 SX-F, in a dual-overhead cam 4-valve line dubbed the "RC4". The SX-F's are KTM's new racing motocross range introduced in 2007.
KTM now produce a 150SX (144 cc), which was developed to take advantage of AMA (American Motorcyclist Association) rule changes in the amateur classes. KTM and TM are the only manufacturers to develop a 144cc motorcycle.
Cross-Country The XC line includes 65, 85, 105, 200, 250 and 300 two-strokes, and 250, 450 and 505 four-stroke models. The XC line updates and replaces their old MXC bikes. They feature a close-ratio gearbox, stiffer suspensions, and the four-strokes have a shorter-stroke design, mimicking their SX line. In 2007, they introduced the 250XC-F which is based on the 2006 SX model.
KTM's XC-W offroad bikes are 200, 250 and 300 two-strokes, and 250, 400, 450 and 530 (actually 510cc) four-strokes. They feature plusher suspension and a wider-ratio transmission than their XC line counterparts. The XC-W replaced their old EXC two-strokes, a move the company made in order to comply with EPA restrictions in the United States. Two-strokes are still designated as EXCs in Europe markets.
Enduro The 2009 EXC line consists of 250, 450, 530 (actually 510 cc) four-strokes, and 125, 200, 250 and 300 cc two strokes. The EXC line has been a long-time favourite for Enduro market, and outsell other larger-volume brands to Enduro racers. The RFS motor (2000-2007) was replaced with the XC4 motor for the 2008 model year.
Super Enduro consist of 690 cc and 950 cc machines, mix between an enduro and a trail bike. Supermoto KTM produces several supermoto race bikes with displacements ranging from 450 (a supermoto version of the 450sx-f) to 565 cc. They also make four non race-oriented models in 625, 654, 950 and 990 cc displacements. KTM was the first manufacturer to offer a competition-ready Supermoto bike to the public, and their sponsored racers currently sit atop the US Supermoto racing circuit. The new LC8 SuperMoto 950 has received rave reviews from all the bike magazines and newspapers in the United Kingdom.
Dual-sport Adventure bikes offered with both the LC4 Engine (Adventure 640, 640R) and the LC8 Engine (Adventure 950, 950S, 990), the 640R is the base of the Rally 660 which has won many Dakar Rallies.
Since the major rule changes in Motocross to make 4-stroke bikes more competitive in motocross and being given a 125 cc 2-stroke to 250 cc 4-stroke advantage the cheaper, simpler and faster 2-stroke bikes have been dying out.
Since other manufacturers have decided to discontinue their 2-stroke models, KTM has continued with creating and improving their 2 stroke models and taking up a very high proportion of the 2-stroke bike market.
KTM has also created a new 2-stroke MX bike with 144 cc to comply with the 2008 AMA motocross class changes. This change has been made to bring back the 2-stroke bikes to encourage more entry to the market as the 2 stroke bikes are cheaper to maintain and repair than the expensive 4-stroke bikes.
Environmental agencies have tried to remove 2-stroke machines because they produce more pollution than 4-strokes. However with newer advances in technology 2-strokes have begun to burn cleaner and pass green sticker standards.
In recent interviews KTM has revealed that they will continue to produce and improve 2-stroke bikes and have already begun looking at EFI (Electronic Fuel Injection). EFI will benefit the 2 stroke bikes because they will become more fuel efficient and will also produce less waste.
Beginning in 2006, KTM has begun the development with a lightweight street legal (Europe) car known as the X-Bow. It will use an Audi engine and a Dallara sourced chassis, and have a weight of less than 1,400 lb (640 kg). This new car will seat two people. On the 8 January 2008, Bajaj announced that it would jointly develop two new 125 cc and 250 cc bikes for Europe and the Far East. The bikes would be badged 'KTM'.