The seventy-year-old history of the historic brand, which was already a leading motorcycle engine producer in Europe, intertwines with that of a district that gambles on talent, technology and teamwork. Identikit of the Bologna company acquired by Yamaha first and then by Fantic Motor. For FARE INSIEME, Giampaolo Colletti interviewed Vittorino Filippas, General Manager at Motori Minarelli
di Giampaolo Colletti
Photocredit: Giacomo Maestri e Francesca Aufiero.
In Emilia, there is a Pettirosso (Robin) that has never stoppedsinging and that has become part of history. But the sounds it emits in thatstretch of land that represents the southernmost part of the Italian MotorValley is very powerful. Just like the rumbling of an engine. Because toeveryone in Emilia, the Pettirosso is exactly that two-stroke two-gearwire-controlled engine that made the history of the propellers installed inalmost all European mopeds in the 1950s. An engine that rumbles and becomes amelody. And, just like in the best melodies, everything relies on teamwork. Inthe Bologna area, there is a company that has become a myth that stood outright from the start in the two-wheel engine sector. Everything began after theFirst World War: the years of recovery, of restarting, of courage and of betsto be won thanks to genial ideas, talents shared and a lively community. And soMotori Minarelli, the Italian motorcycle company founded by Vittorio Minarelli,was born in Bologna in 1956. With around twenty employees and covering over twothousand square metres, Minarelli produced almost twenty thousand engines forroad and agricultural use a year in the late 1950s, then exported to Europe andLatin America. But demand was much higher than supply. So, in 1967, the companymoved to the new factory in Lippo, part of Calderara di Reno, a town of fewerthan fifteen thousand inhabitants in the Bologna metropolitan area. This iswhere it became Motori Minarelli. A further change in gear: in the newfacility, equipped with hi-tech equipment and more space, productionsky-rocketed and, in the 1970s, reached 200,000 engines a year for road use and50,000 for agricultural use.
The boom years. A record production and records on the racetrack. Right in the1970s the best sports results were achieved: 18 world speed records in the 50to 175 cc classes, two pilot and four manufacturers’ championship wins in the125 class of the Grand Prix motorcycle racing. Then, in the early 1990s, therewas the joint-venture agreement with Japanese Yamaha. The objective was toproduce four-stroke engines and propellers with automatic variators, inpractice those suitable for mopeds. After all, the 1990s were a good decade,with the company supplying its engines to the vast majority of Europeanproducers: MBK, Yamaha Motor España, Aprilia, Malaguti. Just to be clear:Minarelli became the leading global moped producer, with average productionreaching 450,000 units a year. But there are a further two acquisitions thatmade history: in 2001 by the Yamaha group and in 2020 by Fantic Motor. Over seventy years later, the figures stillmake a difference: in 2020, turnover was €52 million, which became €67 in 2021and is estimated to reach €116 million in 2022. The company boasts 200 directand 150 seasonal employees.
Teamwork.The Minarelli story is one of love, of those lived passionately. A story ofkilometres covered in the company of those uphill roads that characterize theEmilian hills where, from the flat main road you try to climb up moreimpervious paths in the company of good travelling companions. The DNA is a mixof proactivity, discipline and immense passion. «It is the constantprocess-control method, an inheritance from the twenty years spent in thepresence of Yamaha. But it is also the huge passion that identifies the Emilianwork with teamwork. We have always been an excellent centre of skills, but thecapability of developing new increasingly-complex engines used to have itslimitations. Therefore, Mr. Giorgio Minarelli, the president and owner at thetime, said he needed a technological partner. We were a small responsiveanimal, Yamaha was a large slow one. We met and respected each other. Then theboom in 50cc motorcycles swept Europe and we became the European base forYamaha engines,” recalls Vittorino Filippas, General Manager of Motori Minarelli.The ebbs and flows of history.After many years of absence from the motorcycle world, Minarelli went back toproducing motorcycles again in 2021. Human capital and innovative technologies.Over the past few months, two new lines dedicated exclusively to the productionof engines have been added, while another two for the production of vehicles.Eight active lines will soon be reached. «Human capital is certainly what guides us,also when it comes to research and development. Because, after all, anyone canbuy a test bench, while you cannot buy people. You need to conquer them,motivate them, link them to a dream, explain that what you are doing isexceptional because it is extraordinary. You need to guide them outside thecomfort zone,”stresses Filippas. The future passes through new proposals. Among them, when itcomes to the production of engines and new projects, there is the revolutionaryinjection engine 300 2T, which will soon become available to all manufacturersand destined to become a best seller. “The future is made of electric mobilityand protection of the environment. You always need to listen to the market, totry and try again, even to make mistakes, but to make it together in the end,”concludes Filippas. An ongoing journey. Accompanied by that rumble that singslike a robin.
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