ny knowledgeable motorcycle enthusiast will tell you WP is a Dutch suspension manufacturer. That was true once, but in the nearly four decades since the firm was established, it has become more. Much more, as I discovered during a tour of the Austrian factory.
WP was founded in 1977 by Wim Peters, whose initials purportedly gave the company its name. That’s only part of the story, however, because for many years WP went by White Power. This made sense for two reasons: First, the company’s spring vendor manufactured hospital beds, so the only paint color it had was white. And second, throughout the 1980s and ’90s the US importer was White Brothers. At some point, however, someone realized that “White Power” had certain racist implications, so the name was changed to WP.
In 1999, KTM acquired WP, but it wasn’t until a decade later that manufacturing was moved to a huge new factory in Munderfing, Austria, a few kilometers from KTM headquarters in Mattighofen. (The original WP facility in the Netherlands is now used solely for race support.) The following year KTM became a subsidiary of WP, and two years after that the firm took over production of KTM’s frames and exhaust systems. Today, WP Performance Systems is wholly owned by Stefan Pierer’s Cross Industries, which controls slightly more than 50 percent of KTM. The balance is owned by Bajaj Auto, which manufactures KTM’s lightweight Duke and RC models in India. Consider the fact that a record 100,000-plus motorcycles rolled off the Austrian assembly line in 2014 (and more than 1.2 million since production began at the current plant in 1999) and you’ll get an idea of how many parts WP produces. And that’s not counting the firm’s other clients: Every European motorcycle manufacturer and a number of carmakers utilize some WP components.
Yet despite that increased emphasis on manufacturing, WP remains a leader in suspension technology. The semi-active system on the top-of-the-line KTM Super Adventure is truly state of the art. And while WP does not yet have an air fork in production, it has been developing both air forks and shocks. Other WP innovations include the 4CS (four-chamber) fork, cone-valve damping, and the simple-yet-clever Trax system, which reduces shock rebound damping to nil when the rear wheel is unweighted.
Stateside, one fairly recent development is the establishment of WP Factory Services (wpfactoryservices.com), located a stone’s throw from the KTM and Husqvarna headquarters in Murrieta, California. There’s also a new nationwide network of WP Authorized Centers to handle parts sales and service work. And, yes, components are available for brands besides KTM and Husqvarna. In fact, the French CLS Kawasaki team with MX2 World Champion Jordi Tixier runs WP suspension.
WP’s company motto is “Parts of Your Success.” While that’s a little awkward grammatically, you can’t dispute the sentiment. In racing and in sales, KTM and Husqvarna are experiencing unprecedented success, and WP plays a big part in that.