Honda & Hitachi Join Forces on Electric Vehicle Motors

News out Japan sees Honda and Hitachi starting a joint venture that will focus on providing motors for electric vehicles. The two companies signed today what they call a “memorandum of understanding, which is the Japanese business version of getting a promise ring to start a future company together. The still unnamed joint venture will be located in Hitachinaka City in the Ibaraki Prefecture, and be initially capitalized with ¥5 billion (~$44 million). Honda Motor Co. and Hitachi Automotive Systems hope to finalize this deal by March 2017, and the new company will have subsidiaries in China and the United States – both of which will have sales and production capabilities.

US Lawmaker Introduces Bill to Close the EPA by 2018

A bill has been presented to the United States House of Representatives that would seek the closure of the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) by 2018. Proposed by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R – Florida), HB 861 will likely be a mixed bag for motorcycle enthusiasts, as it will deregulate environmental restrictions set at the federal level, leaving states to draft or adopt their own provisions, which will likely have a fracturing effect on the regulatory market for motorcycles. But, it will also mean the abolition of EPA regulations that many motorcyclists oppose, like the blending of ethanol in our fuel, and restrictions on noise, emissions, and vehicle modifications.

KTM Invests in Heads-Up Display Company NUVIZ

Heads-up display (HUD) company NUVIZ just took a strategic investment from Pierer Industrie AG, the company behind KTM, Husqvarna, WP Suspension, and others. Today’s news is quite a catch for the San Diego based technology startup, and it bodes well for NUVIZ to bring its heads-up display technology to market. As such, NUVIZ hopes to have a heads-up display unit and connected rider system available in the first half of 2017. NUVIZ has raised roughly $9 million to date, via equity and debt, and our sources tell us that KTM’s purchase into the company has contributed to the lions’s share of that amount – upwards of $5 million, along with a seat on NUVIZ’s board of directors.

Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team Debuts

In an airplane hangar in Austria, Honda’s World Superbike team unveiled its wings…that is to say, the Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team debuted in the energy drink’s Hangar-7 facility in Salzburg today. As the name implies, Red Bull will be the title sponsor for Nicky Hayden’s and Stefan Bradl’s World Superbike title bid this year, on the updated 2017 Honda CBR1000RR SP2. This is the first time that Red Bull has been a title sponsor in the WorldSBK paddock, though the energy drink company’s livery can be seen on variety of bodywork throughout motorsport. “It’s a new year with a new bike, new title partner and new teammate, so there are definitely many changes ahead and a lot of things to look forward to,” said former MotoGP Champion Nicky Hayden.

PJ Jacobsen Gives His First Impressions of MV Agusta

PJ Jacobsen will once again be the sole American representation in World Supersport this year. The New Yorker had his first taste of his MV Agusta F3 in the dry while at the Jerez test, and came away suitably impressed by the bike that has won eight races in the hands of Jules Cluzel in recent years. The 23-year-old tested the bike in Jerez last year in what was seen as a shootout for the ride, but on a damp track he didn’t get a real feel for the bike. “Today was my first day on the bike this year,” said Jacobsen. “I did half a day on the MV last November in Jerez, but it was half wet, half dry so today was good to get out there. It was fully dry so I learned a lot and I’m quite happy with it. The bike is totally different to what I’ve ridden in the past, but the team works really well and they’ve impressed me.”

Check Out the 2017 Honda RC213V

The MotoGP launch season is still upon us, and now that we have seen the teams and bikes from Ducati, Suzuki, and Yamaha – it is time for Honda to take the wraps off the team its campaigning for its title defense. Debuting the 2017 Honda RC213V at a press event in Indonesia, not much has changed outwardly for the 240+ horsepower GP bike, though there a subtle differences to be seen, if you look closely and compare it to last year’s bike. The Repsol Honda fairings cover the biggest change that we know of, as reports from the test tracks confirm that Honda is experimenting with a “big-bang like” firing order on its V4 engine, a change from the “screamer” configuration of last season, which was handful for Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa to manage.

2016 Was A Very Good Year for Husqvarna

Last year proved to be a tough year for many brands, especially those with operations in the United States, but that wasn’t the case for Husqvarna. The rebooted Swedish brand is seeing good life while under its Austrian ownership. Making 2016 a very good year for Husqvarna, the brand is reporting a sales increase of a whopping 43% over 2015’s sales numbers. That is no small feat for Husqvarna, as 2015 was already a record year for the dirt-focuses brand, where it saw a 32% increase. Of course in many ways, up is the only direction Husqvarna can go, after its purchase by Pierer Industrie AG. Still, Husqvarna’s figure of 30,700 sold motorcycles in 2016 is a marked improvement from the near 10,000 units it was producing while part of BMW Motorrad.

2017 Suzuki GSX-RR Debuts in Malaysia

Debuting this weekend in Malaysia, the ECSTAR Suzuki MotoGP team has unveiled its team and livery for the 2017 season, which will see Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins riding the update Suzuki GSX-RR race bike. Suzuki has already shown that it has a bike capable of hunting for podiums; and on its best days, it can be a race-winner as well. For the 2017 season though, the Japanese brand hopes to build upon its success in 2016. As such, the ECSTAR Suzuki team has high hopes with the arrival Andrea Iannone, hoping that “Maniac Joe” can add some more wins to Suzuki’s tally. Looking long-term too, the addition of Alex Rins could be strong investment by Team Manager Davide Brivio, with Rins being one of Moto2’s top talents.

OEMs Are Trying to Block “Right to Repair” Laws

Asphalt & Rubber readers should be familiar with how attempts have been made to use the Digital Millennium Right Act (DMCA) as means of limiting how you can work on your vehicles, including your motorcycle. These attempts first started in 2015, and were pushed heavily by John Deere and the automobile lobby. Thankfully, last year the the Librarian of Congress allowed exemptions for vehicles to be applied to the DMCA, which will be in effect for the next two years. Now, the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) – a group that represents the interests of motorcycle manufacturers in the United States – is putting pressure on state legislatures and encouraging them to block “Right to Repair” bills that would codify the exemptions made to the DMCA.

EBR Motorcycles Shutting Down, Yet Again

EBR Motorcycles is closing its doors…again. Yes, you heard that right. America’s superbike brand will be winding down its production operations, starting next week, and is looking for a strategic investor to takeover the brand. Liquid Asset Partners (LAP) attributes its decision to shutdown EBR Motorcycles to the company’s difficulty to secure new dealerships, and thus increase sales. As a result, LAP says that its production volume for 2016 and 2017 was below expectations. The company then finishes its explanation for closing EBR Motorcycles with the following line: “the combination of slow sales and industry announcements of other major OEM brands closing or cutting production only magnified the challenges faced by EBR.”

Jorge Lorenzo’s 2012 MotoGP Championship: A Triumph Of Consistency – Part 1

12/15/2012 @ 5:58 pm, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

What does it take to be a world champion? A little bit of luck, certainly. A whole heap of talent, for sure. But above all, it takes preparation: physical, mental and mechanical. That, most of all, is the lesson of Jorge Lorenzo’s 2012 MotoGP championship. The 2010 champion came better prepared to the title chase, and ground down his opponents with his sheer consistency.

Lorenzo’s assault on the 2012 championship started in Yamaha’s racing department in 2011. The new 1000cc M1 may have been visually almost identical to the 800cc 2011 machine, but beneath the similarities was a very different machine. Yamaha’s engineers had made the bike longer to cope with the extra torque and horsepower, and completely redesigned the engine to cope with the new rules. Modified electronics improved traction, while better wheelie control meant the bike lost less time in acceleration. The improved wheelie control alone cut a tenth of a second from the lap times.

It was obvious to Lorenzo that the 2012 bike would be competitive as soon as he rode it for the first time during the post-race test at Brno in August 2011. Where on the 800cc bike, he had been nearly half a second slower than Casey Stoner during Sunday’s race, the day after, on the 1000cc M1, he was immediately within a tenth of the Australian on the Repsol Honda. Yamaha had done their homework, and Lorenzo knew that the rest was down to him.

Lorenzo’s own preparation began during the winter of 2011. Knowing that the additional power and weight of the 1000cc bikes would make different demands on the rider, he focused his training on coping with that. At the Sepang tests in February, while the rest of the grid sat in their garages waiting for the sweltering afternoon heat in the tropics to subside, Lorenzo was pounding out the laps, running full race simulations to test his endurance and the behavior of the bike. He wanted to be sure he was ready for the first race of the year in Qatar. He was not as fast as Casey Stoner during pre-season testing, but he knew he could be competitive.

Just How Big of a Sales Hit Was the Ducati 1199 Panigale?

12/10/2012 @ 1:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

It is no secret that Ducati had high hopes for the Ducati 1199 Panigale when it debuted the machine at the 2011 EICMA motorcycle show, and the Italian superbike certainly has proven itself to be popular with new motorcycle buyers in 2012. Selling 7,500 units worldwide so far this year, the Panigale is one of Ducati’s best selling motorcycles ever, and accounts for roughly 17% of the Italian company’s sales for this year (2012 being Ducati’s best sales year ever).

Trackside Tuesday: Hang Loose

08/14/2012 @ 6:09 pm, by Daniel Lo16 COMMENTS

The corkscrew is widely considered to be the masterpiece of Laguna Seca, and few would argue that there is a more iconic turn in all of motorsports. For race fans from around the world, a pilgrimage to the world-famous California track doesn’t truly end until they have reached the corkscrew.

However, Turn Five is what holds a special place in my heart, as that is where I first stumbled off a bus five years ago as a starry-eyed first-time race attendee. Having only experienced motorcycle racing on various television and computer screens up to that point, I will forever remember my jaw dropping to the ground as I finally witnessed firsthand the awesome and terrifying presence of MotoGP machines.

KTM Sells 50,000+ Motorcycles in the First-Half of 2012

07/23/2012 @ 1:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

KTM has crunched the numbers on it sales for the first half of 2012, and the Austrian company has some very impressive news to share. Selling 50,233 units in the first six months of the year, KTM’s increase in sales is 36% over last year’s figures for the same time period, a gain due mainly to the company’s efforts in emerging markets like India.

Though this is the first time that Bajaj’s selling of the KTM Duke 200 has been included in KTM’s half-year report, the Austrian brand wasn’t fueled solely by its Indian sales, as KTM’s European sales were up 41% as well, giving KTM a total marketshare in the EU of 7%.

Recall: 2011 & 2012 Zero Motorcycles

07/11/2012 @ 2:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Zero Motorcycles has submitted a recall with the NHTSA that includes units from its entire line-up, built for the 2011 & 2012 model years. The issue stems from a faulty brake light switch, which may not illuminate the rear brake light when the front brake lever is pressed without strong force.

The recall affects 450 units of Zero Motorcycles’ on-road units, which includes the following machines: 2011-2012 Zero DS, 2011 Zero MXD, 2011-2012 Zero S, 2012 Zero X, 2011 Zero XD, 2011-2012 Zero XU. Because the brake light may not illuminate while the motorcycles are under braking, Zero Motorcycles will recall the affected units starting around July 16th.

Don’t Call It a Comeback: Honda Q1 2012 Sales Up 39%

05/11/2012 @ 12:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

The untold story of the global economic collapse, Honda was on a worrisome three-year downward spiral during the recession. Posting sales of 453,000, 320,000, & 189,000 powersport units in 2008, 2009, and 2010 respectively, Honda’s 2011 fiscal year sales figure of 200,000 units posts a 8.1% gain for the Japanese company, and a new healthier trajectory.

Helping the company turn that corner, Honda has reported that its Q1 2012 (Q4 2011 fiscal) sales were up 39% over last year’s figures. Selling 53,000 powersports models in the last three months, Honda is projecting that its 2012 fiscal year will see 255,000 units in North American.

MIC Forecasts Motorcycle Sales Decline for 2012

03/15/2012 @ 2:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

The Motorcycle Industry Council’s Business Advisory & Forecast group has issued a report that predicts a sales decline in the US new motorcycle market for 2012. The news comes fresh on the heels of the 0.3% gain that the motorcycle industry’s leading brands experienced in 2011 in the American market, and is the first time that the MIC has forecasted future new motorcycle sales for the United States.

Adding some validity to the report is the fact that the MIC, in conjunction with the Institute for Trend Research, accurately predicted 2011’s modest sales growth. This news is interesting to note, as it goes counter to news about the recovering economy and the increased national average gasoline price, both of which have been linked to previous bumps in volume for motorcycle sales.

BMW Motorrad Sales Up 5.6% YTD, But Where?

03/07/2012 @ 1:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

BMW Motorrad released yet another glowing sales report, as the German brand continues to build steam and market share in an otherwise luke warm and uncertain marketplace. Boasting a 1.8% worldwide sales increase in February and a 5.6% year-to-date (YTD) sales increase, BMW Motorrad has sold 12,078 motorcycles worldwide thus far in 2012. While the gains are modest at best, the news that BMW has found a way to grow despite the economy is something we have talked about ad nauseam. As such, I almost skipped this press release all together for our coverage, but then I saw a quote from Hendrik von Kuenheim, BMW Motorrad’s General Director.

The Eleven of 2011 – A Year in Review

01/02/2012 @ 5:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Well, 2011 as a year is finally over, and for the motorcycling community it was quite a year. As we begin 2012, we here at Asphalt & Rubber are of course not immune to the desire to summarize and highlight the passing of 2011. So we accordingly assembled 11 of the most important events that shaped motorcycling this past year and changed the way the sport, the industry, and the community will grow in the years to come.

Picking only eleven moments in a single year is no easy feat, though some of the events in our selection are obvious choices because of their magnitude. However, some of the less obvious picks (and we are sure there will be suggestions for alternatives in the comments), stem from the theory that 2011 saw moments whose importance has yet to be fully appreciated at this point in time. Enjoy and a Happy New Year to our loyal A&R readers.

FIM Releases 2012 e-Power Championship Calendar

12/22/2011 @ 12:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

The FIM has released its 2012 calendar for the e-Power Championship, the motorcycle racing authority’s electric racing series. Disappointingly, though perhaps not surprising, the five-stop schedule is very Euro-centric, with only the Laguna Seca breaking the e-Power Championship out of the Europe. Similar to last year, e-Power will piggyback off other FIM events, and will share its race weekends with the FIM Endurance World Championship, FIM Sidecar World Championship, and MotoGP.

Finding a way to justify double-dipping in France, at the start and end of the series, there was hope that the FIM would bring more events to the US for 2012, especially considering how many potent projects are underway in the United States, especially on the west coast. With two MotoGP opportunities and one World Superbike stop in 2012, it is a shame that the FIM did not add another event at either Indianapolis or Miller Motorsports Park for the e-Power Championship.