UR: French customs have also been very active. We also immediately reacted to the first seized shipment and ever since have enjoyed excellent relations with them. But the number of seized products in France is quite large. IA: Last year some 50 to 60 counterfeit exhausts were intercepted in Slovenia alone. The question is how large a percentage that is. But that is all good. The more such products you stop, the more people get to know about that and then don’t buy them. On the other hand, this is also a cost for those who ordered them and those who produced them. A cargo container of copies of our exhausts was stopped in Taiwan. A whole container! This is a lot of lost money for the person who made them, only to see them seized and crushed by the customs. UR: Other popular forgeries, apart from bike exhausts, are car exhaust tailpipes. I ordered one as a test from China and it arrived in a copy of our packaging, equipped with our logo and complete with Made in Slovenia. It wasn’t made from titanium, rather from stainless steel, but its carbon part sported our manufacturing code, logo and matt coating. The whole shebang! This was of course before our customs started systematically stopping these shipments. IA: People know if a copy is poor. But if it is decent, let’s say at 70 %, and if the price is right, they will buy it. But then the thing falls apart and you are faced with a complaint and an angry customer. This is why we put a lot of effort into the brand and into educating people. We will soon introduce product registration, giving our buyers the chance to check whether they bought an original Akrapovič or not.
UR: We have unified serial numbers and will activate the system this year. We will get product traceability. Managing a company like Akrapovič is surely comparable to top racing as exemplified by Jorge Lorenzo, for example. How do you, the CEO, the owner and your management team manage to keep working in the red section of the speedometer?
IA: If I compare how management worked then and now, we used to be a speedboat. Now we are a ship. I used to have 20 employees. We sat down and we agreed that “this is the bike that’s going to be top”. We got the bike and were selling the exhausts in two weeks time. You could basically turn on a dime. But now that we have over 900 people, it’s turned into quite a large boat and we need to see far ahead. We need to anticipate what can happen so as to make timely course corrections. But this requires a lot of data. This is why all departments submit their information at board meetings, so that everybody knows everything that is going on. Based on that we then try to make conclusions and, finally, plot a course. I try to get as much information as possible on what’s going on around the world, the motorbike and car trends and everything else. You must think about all of that throughout the day. UR: You need more sensors than you used to. More data. More anticipation. A large ship must not turn into an unwieldy tanker. You must run a flexible and organised company. Flexibility is of the essence when quick decisions have to be made.
You must observe what’s going on. Trends always come from other industries as well. You must keep an eye on technical innovations which are global in certain areas and impact your business. We know that aviation developments will have a big impact on us in the coming years, as emission and noise regulations at airports mean that titanium usage in planes will increase 18 times. If you don’t keep a daily tab on information like that, you are clueless. It’s a way of life. Let’s conclude by taking a peep into the crystal ball. What will we see on vehicles in the next 20 years?
IA: I think that lower emissions keep increasing the efficiency of internal combustion engines. I recently saw that Mazda managed a 40-45 % energy efficiency. Materials for some parts of the engine, the piston and connecting rods, are improving. Combustion efficiency in the combustion chamber is increasing, reducing the amount of fuel and raising the temperature of exhaust gases. Ideal for a sporty road bike would be to drastically decrease its weight. An ideal motorbike would weigh around 130 kg and have 130 or 140 hp, which could be achieved through a single compressor and a 500 cc two-valve engine. You don’t need 200 or 220 hp to ride on the road. It would be better to reduce the bike’s weight by 60 kilos. It might actually provide even more pleasure on a twisting mountain road than the stronger but less agile superbikes of today.