Ducati North America announced today that sales figures for the first quarter of 2011 are up 68% compared to last year’s numbers. The third month in a row of positive sales growth, Ducati’s North American market is clearly recovering from the recession, with all models in the company’s line showing positive growth. “We have had an outstanding start to the year,” said Cristiano Silei, CEO of Ducati North America. “We expect our growth to continue strong for the rest of the year with our most sought out newest product, the Diavel, just hitting dealer showrooms in late March.”
BWM Motorrad continues to post impressive sales growth numbers for its product line, and is making a strong showing for 2011 already. With sales up 22.5% last month compared to the same time period in 2010, BMW sold over 6,700 motorcycles in February. BMW-owned Husqvarna posted even stronger numbers than its parent company, with sales up 47% for the same time period, and selling just over 900 motorcycles last month.
BRP is recalling 160 Can-Am Spyder RT SM5 trikes for a faulty drive train that could allow the Spyder to be shifted into reverse without depressing the reverse button. Affecting certain 2011 models, the problem occurs during downshifting, and is caused by a defective reverse actuator cable. The defect could lock and stall the motor while under power, or if stationary could put the trike into reverse without the rider knowing it, thus leading to an accident.
Releasing its 2011 World Superbike livery today, Yamaha had to unveil its YZF-R1 with a profusion of the color blue, and total lack of a title sponsorship. Not renewing its contract after the 2010 season, Italian milk producer Sterilgarda is notably absent from the team livery. It might have been assumed that Sterilgarda would stay on to sponsor Italian rider Marco Melandri, but the once promising MotoGP rider obviously did not have the drawing power for the Italian brand.
This lack of corporate sponsorship is a worrying trend for the Japanese motorcycle manufacturer, as Yamaha has yet to announce a sponsor for its MotoGP team, after Fiat exited with its bags of money when Valentino Rossi left Yamaha for Ducati Corse (there’s considerable talk that when Yamaha debuts its MotoGP livery in Sepang later this month, it’ll be with corporate colors as well).
While the KTM RC8 R will be taking over the price point of the now defunct RC8 for 2011, the track-only 2011 KTM 1190 RC8 R Race Spec will in-turn take over the RC8 R’s role as the top-spec “ready to race” machine in the Austrian company’s line-up. Debuting at Intermot, details were scarce about the RC8 R Race Spec (called the RC8 R Track at the time), but we knew it would come sans headlights, turn signals, license plate holders, and anything remotely resembling sanity in a street bike.
Officially announcing the KTM RC8 R Race Spec for the American market, we see that this track weapon comes with a bevy of extra items to help justify its nearly $20,000 price tag. Assembled at KTM Factory Racing Department, the RC8 R Race Spec comes with a Akrapovic Evo 4 titanium exhaust, slipper clutch, quick shifter, and upgraded suspension among other track-oriented goodies.
Yamaha Racing has just announced that it will debut its 2011 MotoGP team livery at the Sepang test on February 21st. Yamaha has been without a title sponsor since the departure of Valentino Rossi, as Italian car manufacturer Fiat dropped its support of the Japanese team when Rossi went to Ducati Corse for this upcoming season.
Despite having the reigning MotoGP World Champion Jorge Lorenzo, the 2010 MotoGP Rookie of the Year Ben Spies, and being the team to beat in 2011, Yamaha has reportedly struggled to find a title sponsor for the upcoming season, that is until now.
Fresh off its latest $2 million fundraiser, we get more news from Zero Motorcycles, as the Santa Cruz, CA company has released its 2011 line of electric motorcycles. Immediately noticeable is new livery and color schemes, but we think it’s the technical changes that will get people truly excited. Most prominant in the model year unveiling is the fact that every bike in Zero’s 2011 line-up can have a quick-charge option installed.
A major highlight, the quick-charge system will allow Zero Motorcycles with the add-on feature to be charged in nearly half the time of the standard version. Also a part of this technology’s allure is the ability for Zero Motorcycles to be charged off the J1772 public charging stations, which municipalities are starting to install in public parking spots.
Harley-Davidson has instructed its dealers not to talk about how sales have been throughout the recession, but the news that 36 dealerships have closed in the past year, and more closures are expected in 2011, speaks for itself on how sales have been. On a conference call with analysts CFO John Olin said, “This contraction was expected and in-line with our desire to modestly consolidate our U.S. dealer network in response to lower overall volume since the economic downturn took hold,” which is a very glossed over way of saying that American brand has become too bloated over the past years, and needs to go on a diet.
Harley-Davidson expects to ship between 221,000 & 228,000 motorcycles worldwide in 2011, which is up 8% over last year’s figure, but still pales in comparison to the numbers the Milwaukee brand was posting before the economic collapse (303,479 in 2008). Since 2006, sales at Harley-Davdison have continued to slide, but the most dramatic affect was in 2010, where sales were down 30% compared to before the recession (over 36% in the domestic market).
Posting the fastest time of the official World Superbike test in Portugal, Jakub Smrz was the fastest man at Portimao. A feat in its own right, Smrz’s accomplishment is compounded by the fact that the Portuguese track saw three days of continuously changing weather. In a climate that kept the bikes off the track, and the riders bored in the garages, Jonathan Rea and Eugene Laverty rounded out the fastest three riders at Portimao, with times set also on Wednesday afternoon. The first day was fair, though conditions worsened greatly overnight, making Thursday morning entirely unappealing for test laps. Luckily, Friday dried out through the afternoon, but no one was able to best Smrz’s early mark of 1:43.503 during the testing sessions.
All too often winter testing provides plenty of data for the teams and riders, but not nearly enough for journalists and fans who wish to prognosticate. While teams might focus on a certain sector during one lap and another the next, they hide their own flaws and keep their best performances to themselves. Combined with poor weather conditions, a rider sitting out to recover from surgery (Chris Vermeulen), and an entire team testing at another location, the WSBK winter test leaves very little actual story to tell before the start of the racing season.