Terra Motors & Zero Motorcycles – A Cautionary Tale

01/31/2014 @ 4:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

Terra Motors & Zero Motorcycles   A Cautionary Tale terra motors kiwami 635x423

It must be hard to be a legitimate motorcycle manufacturer, because the market seems to be flooded with ripoff artists in every corner. Every year at the EICMA show, we see the Italy’s Guardia di Finanza haul out scooters and motorcycles that the trade regulator deems are too close to those of Italian brands.

Now granted, we suspect there is more to that story than meets the eye (if you were an Italian OEM, wouldn’t you want to keep out the budget-priced scooters from your market?), and some of these confiscated designs truly don’t seem infringing to my eye, but I digress.

With the case of the Terra Motors Kiwami though, what it seems we have here is that the Japanese brand has repurposed a Zero S electric street bike from California’s Zero Motorcycles for its own purposes.

We had a couple people in the industry email us about this gem of a story, wondering if Zero had licensed its design, or even sold an excess of inventory. to the Japanese company,  which plans on selling the Kiwami in the Indian market. However, before we could do some digging though, our good colleague Domenick Yoney at AutoBlog Green got the scoop on what is up.

AutoBlog Green says the story is a simple one: Zero’s Vice President of Global Marketing Scot Harden confirmed that the electric motorcycle OEM has no licensing or supply agreements whatsoever with Terra Motors, save for the fact that Zero sent the Japanese company a few drivetrains and a complete Zero S to test the waters with for prototype development.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, as the saying goes, and now we see that the Terra Motors Kiwami has the same frame, swingarm, motor, and presumably other bits as the Zero S — kinda makes you go “hmmm” huh? Check out AutoBlog Green’s gallery for the full extent of what we are talking about.

Debuting the Kiwami at Rs 18 lakh (over $28,000 USD), Terra Motors is charging quite the premium for “its” electric motorcycle, which comes complete with ‘1,000cc superbike-level acceleration.’ With only 10 kW quoted for the motor power, we are a bit dubious about that claim (not matter what gearing is involved), as we are with the entire project.

According to AutoBlog Green, Zero Motorcycles is sending the Terra Motors a cease-and-desist letter, and exploring its other legal options — as it should.

The lesson here for Terra Motors is quite obvious, but there is one here for companies like Zero as well: be wary with who you get into business with — Zero isn’t the first electric motorcycle maker to find their IP sampled by a Asian manufacturer, and likely won’t be the last.

Source: AutoBlog Green

Comment:

  1. FafPak says:

    A little confused…is Kiwami a Japanese or a Chinese company?

    |…what it seems we have here is that the Japanese brand …

    |…save for the fact that Zero sent the Chinese company a few drivetrains …

  2. KWW says:

    I suspect this is what happens when you outsource the bulk of your manufacturing overseas. I have no sympathies if that is the case. This is the difference between a manufacturer and an assembler of components.

  3. From what I understand, that scenario KWW really isn’t what happened here.

  4. Looter says:

    I’d expected this from a Chinese manufacturer; surprised its the Japanese this time

  5. Richard Gozinya says:

    I still can’t figure out why. It’s like copying off a C student’s test. Zero’s bikes are utterly unremarkable in every way imaginable. For the amount of effort it would take to reverse engineer one of their bikes, it seems like it would be about the same amount of work to come up with your own design.

  6. Doug says:

    “…be wary with who you get into business with …” but earlier you write this:

    “… Zero’s Vice President of Global Marketing Scot Harden confirmed that the electric motorcycle OEM has no licensing or supply agreements whatsoever with Terra Motors, save for the fact that Zero sent the Japanese company a few drivetrains and a complete Zero S to test the waters with for prototype development.”

    That to me doesn’t sound like they are getting into business with anyone aside from someone buying a zero as if they were a regular customer. Does the above not sound foolish to anyone else!

  7. FafPak says:

    @Looter hence my confusion….initial typo aside, that has since been corrected…couldn’t believe it was a Jap company that stooped so low…

  8. Doug says:

    Based on the post above, I can’t believe an American company would be so stupid

  9. Woodlandrider says:

    It makes no difference whether Zero sent them a bike or not – regardless of how stupid that was. If a company wants to rip off your design, they’ll just go and buy one and reverse engineer it. IP protection on a Worldwide scale is expensive and virtually powerless. I don’t see how a $28k copy is going to do that well anyway. If it were $10k it would be a different story.

  10. I agree with Woodlandrider, it doesnt make no difference!

  11. Doug says:

    Yes, it does make a difference. The more this “give up” attitude in your comment goes on, the harder it gets for everybody. Other countries want a higher standard of living by playing a role in the global economy? Well, that comes with price tags on things such as (worker) rights & intellectual infringement consequences….Might be a pipe dream now, but eventually the global economy will not work without those other costs.

    Sure it’s expensive and difficult to combat, especially when you’re small, but that doesn’t mean you make it easier. It also doesn’t help to have contradicting statements like the above which gives you less of a chance in court if you pursue it and looks foolish from a PR perspective

  12. Doug says:

    …and we’re not talking about a developing country that is not a member of the WTO. Some type of agreement probably would have made this situation easier to pursue.

  13. paulus says:

    It is not so easy to control suppliers… especially from China.
    Any international supply is expensive to deal with then things don’t work out.

    If the supplier sold Zero IP made from Zero tooling, it is clearly an infringement issue. However, fighting it will be expensive and difficult.
    If Zero bought third party supplier parts, then that factory has the right to sell to whoever it wishes.
    If Kiwami went to the same manufacturer with their own drawings and paid their own tooling…. it is a grey area. Kiwami would be at fault for the infringement, the factory just making to specification.
    Also… did Zero pay their bill? Did Zero pay for the development, or did the factory pay in advance, hoping to recover from promised orders? All of these (and more) affect the legal right to sell the product.

    It pays to have a clear and legally enforceable contract when dealing with ANYWHERE internationally.

  14. Uncle Tod says:

    “Imitation is the sincerest form of incompetence.”

  15. twoversion says:

    @Looter – it’s not uncommon for any county to pilfer, replicate or even steal. The big red did it in the early 70’s with its first car that look an awful lot like a small British car of the same era.