There was a time when KTM motorcycles were an obscure European brand with moderate penetration in the off-road market and effectively none in the motocross world.
Then Rod Bush came along.
Bush, who passed away in 2005, helped lead KTM North America through its formative years, serving as company president from 1987 until his death in 2005. Under his leadership, the Austrian company grew from a small European alternative into an off-road racing powerhouse. KTM factory rider Ryan Dungey won the 2012 AMA Pro Motocross National Championship.
“So much of the success KTM has seen in North America is built on the foundation that Rod worked so hard to create,” says KTM North America President Jon-Erik Burleson. “As a mentor and friend of mine, his leadership and success were, and continue to be, great inspiration to continue to push forward. The AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame represents the pinnacle of those who have achieved so much for our sport and industry. I am deeply happy for his family and his legacy for him to be honored with such prestigious recognition.”
While leading KTM, Bush also made numerous contributions to U.S. teams in national and international competition, helping advance American off-road racing in general. A major influence in developing both rules packages and minicycle technology, Bush’s efforts helped revolutionize youth competition in America in the 1990s—a development that has continued to fuel the steady advancement of American motocross and off-road racers.
Bush is survived by his wife, Cheri, who says his influence went beyond tangible milestones.
“Rod had a tremendous amount of integrity, honesty and fairness,” she says. “He lived every day to the fullest, and everything he did involved motorcycles and KTM. KTM and the people who worked for him truly were a part of his family. I think that was recognized even at the highest levels of the company. His opinions were valued greatly in Austria, where they had great faith in Rod and what he was doing in America, and I think that was reflected when he was appointed one of three managing directors for the parent company.”
Born July 6, 1955, in Huntington, W.Va., Bush rode his first hare scrambles in 1970 and three years later opened a Penton dealership in Parkersburg, W.Va., with his father. Bush started taking his racing seriously, and began competing in the International Six Days Trial in 1974, ultimately winning gold medals in later ISDTs. In 1976, Bush started working for Penton Imports as a sales representative.
In 1978, Bush left Penton Imports to help form KTM America, later KTM North America, with Jack Lehto. In 1987, Bush took the position of KTM North America president when the company was selling about 2,500 motorcycles a year.
When Bush died in 2005, KTM North America sold approximately 28,000 units annually and had 140 employees. During his tenure at KTM, Bush was elected as a partner and one of three managing directors of KTM Group, as well as a member of the AMA Board of Directors.
Bush is also survived by his son, Robbie, his daughter, Stacy, and granddaughter, Amaris.
Rod Bush was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2012.