MUSEOWEB dell'economia varesina

Officina meccanica di Claudio Pierobon

Historical Profile

The establishment of the business

Beniamino Pierobon, who was originally from the Italian region of Veneto, worked as a mechanic for a company in Solbiate Arno during the 1930s.

During the Second World War, he became an aircraft engine mechanic for count Corrado Agusta, an individual who would have a significant influence on the course of his life. During the post-war period, in fact, Corrado Agusta decided to take advantage of Pierobon's technical experience when he began manufacturing motorcycles.

Beniamino, who was not intrigued by the idea of working as an employee, began his own small business in 1950 at his brother in law's tool shop in Oggiona con Santo Stefano, not far from the company's current location.

After a few years, due to the need for additional space, Pierobon built the current production facilities, which combined the owner's residence with the company's workshop. The business immediately focused its energies upon racing motorcycles: during these years, Pierobon maintained a close relationship with Agusta and directly participated in the history of MV Agusta motorcycle racing. A plot of land adjacent to the workshop was even used as a helipad in order to accommodate Agusta's helicopters which, during their test flights, would stop by on a daily basis to load and unload various motorcycle parts.

The Sixties and Seventies

The 1960s marked a period of extreme difficulty for the business, which was suffering the effects of the more general crisis in the motorcycle sector as a result of the more widespread use of the automobile as a means of mass transportation.

The collapse of the sector eventually led Agusta to abandon motorcycle manufacturing and racing altogether. This decision coincided with a structural crisis for Pierobon's company, which was attempting to convert and expand its production activities to other sectors.

The crisis was made even worse due to the fact that it coincided with the onset of an illness for Beniamino Pierobon. From 1966 onward, Pierobon was flanked by his son Claudio, who had lived in direct contact with the workshop since his childhood.

In 1971, Claudio Pierobon became his father's business partner and the enterprise was transformed into a de facto company. In 1974, however, Beniamino left the company due to health issues, leaving the workshop to his son, and the company went back to being a sole proprietorship under the name of "Pierobon Claudio".

Although Claudio had completed high school, he had no specific technical training and, without his father's help, was forced to lead the company forward in a manner which he could personally take charge of. The company therefore abandoned its collaboration with Agusta, as this would have meant getting involved in helicopter mechanics, a leap that he was not yet ready to take.

With the help of his father's friends and acquaintances, Claudio initially focused upon the motorcycle sector, in order to make the job easier.

He specialized in chassis components, working primarily for Aermacchi (components for Ercolino vans) and later for Cagiva Group. By the late seventies, the company had established itself in the field and had become quite important and well known. Economic development led to an increase in turnover and the motorcycle began to make a comeback as a pleasure vehicle.

These years were also marked by significant rivalry on behalf of Japanese brands, but the Italian industry was able to abate the competition by focusing on higher quality production. Some of the company's main clients included the likes of Ducati, Cagiva, Aprilia and Gilera.

It was also in the 1970s that Claudio Pierobon was asked to produce bicycle components. The company thus entered the bicycle industry and, over the years, production for this sector came to equal and even surpass that which was carried out for the motorcycle sector.

In 1978, Claudio Pierobon married another entrepreneur, Celestina Noacco, who owned a company that sold air conditioning units.

From the 1980s to the present

By the 1980s, the company's bicycle division was undergoing an intense phase of expansion thanks to the production of components for a number of major Italian and foreign manufacturers (Colnago, De Rosa, Pinarello and Specialized), as well as the development of innovative designs which helped the company establish a position on the forefront of the national and international markets for a number of years. Production volumes were high, partly because Claudio Pierobon chose not to impose his own brand name on the market. This decision allowed the company to supply various clients, as well as to customize the required components based on the customers' needs and desires.

During the mid-1980s, Claudio Pierobon also decided to take part in an industrial association, holding increasingly important positions for Confartigianato (the general federation of Italian crafts). He left these posts after fifteen years due to the increasing necessity to follow the expansion of his own business more closely.

In 1992, however, the company entered a new period of crisis that blocked its phase of expansion. The crisis suffered by Cagiva Group, in fact, took away a good portion of Pierobon's share in the motorcycle industry. Furthermore, delayed payments led the company into a difficult financial situation, which was also due to a lack of adequate banking coverage.

These difficulties were able to be overcome thanks to the continued expansion of the bicycle sector, which even forced the company to rely on external suppliers in order to cover the increased production requirements. Starting in the year 2000, however, production volumes began to drop due to competition on behalf of newly industrialized Asian countries.

The roots of this new and much more radical crisis stem from the unexpected effects of industrial relocation, which have led Italian companies to export their technological know-how to foreign nations, which were once behind but have now turned into fierce competitors.

Developing countries are no longer limiting themselves to the production of semi-finished or intermediate products: today, finished products which are good enough to exclude Italian products from the market are beginning to make an appearance.

The competition is also becoming unsustainable due to the new producers' capabilities of immediately duplicating technological innovations, thereby frustrating continued efforts at designing and presenting new models, which are often copied within the span of the same season. The situation is so complex that Pierobon must now carefully evaluate whether or not to involve his son, Marco, within in the company. On the one hand, he has developed his technical knowledge and shares his father's passion for motors. On the other hand, Claudio is glad that Marco is considering the possibility of enrolling at university in order to pursue his professional training regardless. Over the past three years, the reduced number of orders in this sector has pushed Claudio Pierobon to rethink the company's strategy, focusing on quality improvements that will lead the company towards involvement in the aviation industry.