Savic Motorcycles powers ahead

While the world’s ‘most locked-down city’ lay dormant, silently groaning under the weight of a pandemic-induced hibernation, there’s been a steady hum of activity behind closed doors at Savic Motorcycles.

The Melbourne-based electric motorcycle start-up has been busily readying itself for production. And while COVID-19 has undoubtedly slowed the firm’s trajectory, it hasn’t been able to arrest its development program, nor dampen the unbridled enthusiasm shared by founder and entrepreneur, Dennis Savic, and his dedicated team.

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Dennis Savic (pictured) and his team are fast realising their vision of an Australian designed and assembled e-motorcycle

First making headlines at Melbourne’s Moto Expo in late 2018, where the company displayed its road-going concept machine, the company recently secured a major injection of Federal Government funding which, together with capital from an array of its own backers, will allow the Savic Motorcycles C-Series to enter production in 2022.

It will be a major milestone for the brand but also one of many, as the company ramps up its production and its range to, it hopes, eventually rival some of the world’s great motorcycle brands.

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The Savic C-Series has gone down the café racer route but more designs for future models are in the pipeline

Entrepreneurial spirit

At 29 years of age, there are parallels that can be drawn between Dennis Savic and some of the world’s great tech entrepreneurs. But while Savic Motorcycles may not have the size and scale of operations like Amazon, Atlassian or Tesla et al, it seems Dennis Savic isn’t left wanting when it comes to drive, motivation, or passion.

Born in Sydney but growing up in Perth, Savic completed an engineering degree at the University of Western Australia and immediately set about building a motorcycle. But he struggled to raise the money he needed for the idea to take flight, so he started an MBA (Master of Business Administration) to become “more business savvy”, completing it at the ripe old age of 25.

Then, after visiting several major automotive museums in Italy, including those at Ferrari, Lamborghini and Ducati, he noticed that the founders of these iconic firms had all completed stints in the auto industry before establishing their own companies. Savic then moved from Perth to Melbourne, and a successful nearly-three-year stint at Ford Australia followed.

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Savic Motorcycles recently acquired over $650,000 in Government funding to hasten its path to production

Savic Motorcycles C-Series

Savic Motorcycles was registered as a company in October 2016, although Dennis had been working on the project for almost two years before that. And since then there have been plenty of twists and turns along the way.

“Initially we thought we would build a 200kW monster,” says Savic, “but then we learned that the market for that sort of bike was very small. As a result we couldn’t get any investment and the cost to manufacture was going to be $60,000 to $70,000.”

Savic says the company then looked at bikes that would attract a larger market, before settling on a model that sees its café-racer-style C-Series platform available in three formats, comprising the entry-level Omega, mid-spec Delta, and range-topping Alpha.

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The motor, battery and chassis are all Savic designs but there's big-name component brands in there too, like Brembo, Bosch, Pirelli, YSS and Wilbers

While essentially sharing the same frame, styling and running gear, the three bikes each feature different performance levels and range capability.

Priced at $12,990, the C-Series Omega has an output of 25kW and 110Nm, a weight of 190kg and a city range of around 120km, plus a two-hour charge time (from 20 per cent to 80 per cent of battery capacity) and acceleration of 5.5 seconds from 0-100km/h.

Stepping up, the C-Series Delta is $16,990 and puts out 40kW/140Nm and weighs 210kg. It has a city range of 150km, with a comparative three-hour charge time and a 0-100km/h time of 4.5 seconds.

The flagship C-Series Alpha, meanwhile, comes in at $23,990 and packs 60kW/180Nm in a package weighing 230kg. It has a 200km city range, a four-hour charge time, and a blistering 0-100km/h time of just 3.5 seconds.

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The flagship Savic C-Series Alpha boasts superbike performance but a relatively modest $24k price tag

Savic powertrain

The entire range is built around a Savic-designed chassis with a Savic-designed custom powertrain, including the Savic SM1 three-phase AC motor and battery pack.

“We haven’t engineered the cells, we buy the cells, but we engineer the battery pack, the motor is all custom engineered, and the frame is all done in-house,” says Savic.

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Savic says the battery will be good for a city range of between 120kg (C-Series Omega) to 200km (C-Series Alpha)

Then there are Brembo brake calipers, a YSS monoshock and a Wilbers fork, although Savic points out that the latter will be an up-spec factory option, and will only come standard on the first four ‘Founder Edition’ bikes.

The bikes can all be charged from a standard Australian wall socket, although they have the capacity to be charged more rapidly via an automotive charger if desired.

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That's a YSS monoshock; the Wilbers inverted fork is an up-spec option, but will come standard on the first four 'Founder Edition' bikes

Melbourne assembly

With the various components sourced from numerous countries, including China, India and Italy, among others, the bikes will initially be assembled at the Savic Motorcycles facility in West Melbourne, and will be sold with a three-year manufacturer’s warranty.

“It will be a cell-based assembly system to start with because of space limitations,” says Savic.

And while the firm is yet to announce how its sales and aftersales network will look, Savic says it’s likely to eschew a traditional dealer network model in favour of a more direct manufacturer-customer relationship, something closer to how Tesla operates with its car division.

“We’re working on plans for the serviceability to be available to customers very conveniently and we’ve got some innovative things happening in the background to ensure that,” Savic says.

“But I won’t go into too much detail just yet – I don’t want to give ourselves away! But yes, you’ve test-ridden the vehicle somewhere that’s nearby, you order it online, and it gets delivered to your home or you’re able to pick it up at a local location.”

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The neat 'n' sweet cockpit layout, with cool café-racer style underslung bar-end mirrors

Production timeline

So, when can you buy one? And when, once you do, will it be delivered? Not too long, as it turns out...

“We’re looking at Q3 next year [for the start of production], which may bleed into Q4 depending on the global COVID situation,” says Savic.

“We are kicking off manufacture of our first couple of test vehicles now and we’ll have them built by December or certainly early January. That’s when our ABS development program kicks off with Bosch, as does our ADR compliance in parallel, so that’s what is driving the whole thing. And we’re looking at September [2022] for our first [production] vehicles.”

Initial production runs will take place at the Savic Motorcycles base in West Melbourne, but Dennis Savic already has plans to scale up to an appreciably bigger production facility

Savic says the firm’s first production run of 50 bikes is already sold, as is a further 50 of the second run.

“We plan on releasing 200 more pre-orders for the second production run; the support from customers in Australia has been phenomenal,” he says.

And it is Aussie customers the firm will focus on – at first, anyway.

“For the most part we’ve decided not to accept international orders,” says Savic.

“We’ve had interest from a few and we have said yes to one in the US and one I think in New Zealand, but we’re trying to keep it in Australia so that if there are any issues in the field with the bike, we can address them really quickly and ensure our customer experience is good.”

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Committed team

Behind Dennis Savic lies a committed, hardworking and passionate team. A mixture of relatively young but driven individuals and older, experienced veterans, it’s a diverse mix that Savic says is paying dividends.

“Over the course of this month we’re growing from five full-time employees to 13, but in total – because we’ve got contractors and sweat-equity-type arrangements with really passionate people – the whole team size is around 40,” he says.

“That includes advisors. They’re all seasoned, they’re all highly experienced in their field, and they provide guidance to all us young, keen, energetic guns. Actually, the entire team is so talented, and they put in so much time. They’ve got so much potential, it’s just awesome.”

And it’s that team, and the company’s backers, on which Savic will be relying to help him take the firm to ever greater heights...

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Savic Motorcycles has a young but passionate and committed team (from left): Vehicle Engineering Manager, Adrian Vinovrski; Software Engineer, Kim Suandee; CEO and founder, Dennis Savic; Creative Designer, Sam Carter

Scaling up

From those relatively modest initial production runs, Savic says he has his sights set on far loftier goals.

“What we’re planning out at the moment is the transition to have a capacity for 5000 vehicles a year,” he says.

“We do want to grow this into a decent-sized business; that’s been my dream all along. We looked at other companies that are in the same volume, so I guess our first production volume target is going to be similar to MV Agusta, and then onwards and upwards from there.

“I think the end goal over the next 20 years is to try and get to 20,000 or 30,000 units a year, like Indian Motorcycle, or I think Ducati does something like 60,000, which would be the next target after that. But, baby steps – obviously it’s going to take a bit of time.”

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Savic says the next major step will be to expand the company’s production capability here in Melbourne, with exporting a key part of that plan.

“Our target in five years is to have a large assembly facility in Melbourne,” he says.

“Our team is not only based all over Australia now, but we’ve got people on the ground in India and now in China, so we will probably grow those teams out to support the supply requirements.

“But we also plan on distributing globally, or in a few key international markets. I won’t say which just yet, but to get to 5000 units a year we are going to have to export from Australia, which I think is going to be a really cool thing to be able to do in our industry.

“We’re looking at exporting to around 10 international markets but shipping all the parts into Australia, assembling all the vehicles and then exporting them. Once we start to grow past that, that’s when we start looking at assembly partners in Asian countries, and things like that.”

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Solid backing

Of course, none of this is possible without the backing of investors, which have also helped propel the company from an idea to the final stages of a production motorcycle.

“The four key ones are [venture capitalist] Artesian Alternative Investments, the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre, the Victorian CleanTech Fund, and Invest Victoria, the latter with the Government loan they’ve provided us with,” says Savic.

“We also have a collection of 20 or so other individuals who have supported us through the process, from the mums and dads and family friends through the early days, to some high-net-worth individuals.”

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Watch this space

Despite all the usual and considerable challenges of establishing a volume-production motorcycle company, and with the added complexity of negotiating a global pandemic, it seems Savic Motorcycles is poised to make its mark.

The road ahead for the Aussie firm will invariably be long and winding but, like the new breed of buyers attracted to its innovative products, Savic Motorcycles will relish the ride.

Only time will tell if, in our own backyard, we’re witnessing the birth of the two-wheeled equivalent of a Tesla, but Dennis Savic and his team are giving it a red-hot go, and rapidly turning a dream into a road-going reality.

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With production commencing in 2022 and a heap of innovations on the way, Savic Motorcycles is one to watch...


CREDITS: Rod Chapman