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.”

MotoGP: Jack Miller Has Plate Removed From Shoulder

12/02/2014 @ 2:45 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on MotoGP: Jack Miller Has Plate Removed From Shoulder

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With testing now over, Jack Miller has joined the ranks of riders undergoing surgery in the off season. Flying back from Sepang to Barcelona, Miller had an operation to remove four loose screws from his right collarbone, the aftermath of an old injury sustained at Indianapolis in 2013.

That injury was fixed with a plate, but preseason crashes on the KTM Moto3 bike caused a number of complications for the Australian.

With testing completely, Miller now has time to have the remaining screws removed from his shoulder, and allow it to heal. Miller will be unable to train for five days while the scar heals, but will be able to resume his training program after that.

Ducati Sets Sales Record in 2013 with 44,287 Bikes Sold

03/04/2014 @ 4:49 pm, by Aakash Desai14 COMMENTS

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When you tell most people that you ride a motorcycle, their usual question is “so, what do you ride, a Ducati?” The only other brand name so synonymous with motorcycling would be Harley-Davidson.

The famed Italian brand’s distinctive Euro-styling and cultural cachet seemed to resonate with nearly 45,000 people in 2013, as the brand from Bologna sold a record 44,287 motorbikes worldwide last year.

Sales in South Asia rose by 26% with 5,200 motorcycles sold, while the United States, Ducati’s top market, accounted for 24% in sales, followed by Italy at 11.3% and Germany at 10.7%.

US Motorcycles Sales Up 3% in 2013

02/04/2014 @ 12:45 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on US Motorcycles Sales Up 3% in 2013

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The motorcycle industry continues to make steady progress on recovering from the recession, with the overall US two-wheeled market up 1.4% over last year’s sales figures. Taking scooters out of the equation, which were down a staggering 15.5% last year, proper motorcycles were up 3% overall in the United States.

Breaking that number down further, dual-sport machines were up 7.8%, off-highway bikes were up 5.7%, and on-highway motorcycles were up a modest 2%. The Motorcycle Industry Council says that 465,783 units were sold in 2013, up from the 459,298 sold last year.

Harley-Davidson Sales Up 4.4% for 2013

01/31/2014 @ 5:47 pm, by Aakash Desai25 COMMENTS

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The brand that seems to polarize motorcyclists worldwide but is inextricably tied to the image of “the biker”, did quite well in 2013. Hot off the presses of Harley-Davidson’s Accounting and Finance department in Milwaukee is the 2013 sales report detailing their growth in worldwide new motorcycle sales.

For 2013, H-D sold 5.7% more bikes in the fourth quarter and 4.4% over the full-year compared to the previous year.  Full year net income was $734 million on consolidated revenue of $5.9 billion. Compared to 2012 when the net income was $623.9 million on consolidated revenue of $5.58 billion.

Half of Ural Motorcycles Sold in 2013 Came to America

01/20/2014 @ 4:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Ural Motorcycles has posted its sales figures for 2013, and 95% (1,151 units) of the company’s 1,206 motorcycles built were exported outside of Russia. Given Ural’s cult status here in the United States, it is perhaps not surprising that half of Ural’s total output came to the United States, with American dealers selling 604 units in 2013.

Making both two and three-wheel bikes, Ural is best known for its sidecar platform, which accounts for 98% of the company’s total sales. One of the few makers of a two-wheel drive sidecar, Ural’s 2WD models account for over 70% of the Urals sold in the United States. After the USA, Ural’s largest markets are Germany, France, Canada, and Australia — in that order.

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Bradley Smith – 8/10

01/11/2014 @ 1:07 am, by David Emmett18 COMMENTS

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In the final chapter of our series running down the top ten finishers of the 2013 MotoGP season, we come to Bradley Smith. Here’s a look at how his first year in the premier class went. To read the rest of our reviews of last year, you can read part 1, Marc Marquezpart 2, Jorge Lorenzopart 3, Dani Pedrosapart 4, Valentino Rossipart 5, Cal Crutchlowpart 6, Alvaro Bautistapart 7, Stefan Bradlpart 8, Andrea Dovizioso; and part 9, Nicky Hayden.

Pity poor Bradley Smith. The young Englishman came in to MotoGP as a rookie, and did exactly what he was supposed to do: learn slowly, not crash too much, see his times and results improve gradually throughout the season. In any other year, Smith would have received quiet praise for the steady job he did.

But this was not any other year. This was the year that Marc Marquez moved up to MotoGP, destroying records and utterly redefining what is expected of a rookie. While Smith was steadily improving to go from finishing in the top ten to ending in the top six, Marquez was amassing podiums, wins, and well on his way to taking the title at the first attempt.

Smith found himself being compared to the phenomenon that was Marquez, rather than the more realistic comparison with the rookie seasons of other MotoGP riders.

Take Marquez out of the equation – an almost impossible exercise, admittedly – and Smith looks a lot better. Map Smith’s season against that of Stefan Bradl in 2012, and the Englishman’s performance looks much better. Smith finished his year with 116 points, while Bradl took 135 in his first year.

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Alvaro Bautista – 7/10

01/08/2014 @ 5:16 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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In part six of our series looking back at 2013, we reach Alvaro Bautista. Below is our view on Bautista’s season in MotoGP. You can catch up with the rest of this series here: part 1, Marc Marquezpart 2, Jorge Lorenzopart 3, Dani Pedrosapart 4, Valentino Rossi; and part 5, Cal Crutchlow.

Alvaro Bautista is arguably MotoGP’s most under-appreciated rider. A former 250cc champion, the Spaniard has been on a downward trajectory since moving to MotoGP, through no real fault of his own. First, he signed with Suzuki, making him a factory rider with MotoGP’s weakest factory.

After Suzuki left, Bautista moved to Gresini, where he rides for a pittance, and is forced to earn his keep as a test rider for Showa and Nissin. Left to fight against the industry standard Ohlins and Brembo on his own, Bautista does not get the recognition he deserves even when he is punching above his weight.

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Cal Crutchlow – 8/10

01/08/2014 @ 10:58 am, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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The fifth part of our series looking back at 2013 sees us turn to Cal Crutchlow. Here’s a perspective on his 2013 season. You can catch up with this series here: part 1, Marc Marquezpart 2, Jorge Lorenzopart 3, Dani Pedrosa; and part 4, Valentino Rossi.

In 2011, Monster Tech 3 boss Herve Poncharal cursed the day he signed Cal Crutchlow to a two-year contract. The 2010 World Supersport champion was struggling to get to grips with MotoGP, finding the tires harder to deal with and the level of competition higher than he expected.

In 2012, Poncharal’s took back most of what he said about the Englishman, and in 2013, Crutchlow rewarded Poncharal’s patience in spades.

This was the year of the great British motorcycle racing revival. Cal Crutchlow looked to be the first Brit to win a premier class race since Barry Sheene in 1981, and Scott Redding looked to be the first British Grand Prix champion since Sheene in 1977. Neither man would succeed in their objective, but they generated a surge of enthusiasm for the sport back in their home country.

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Valentino Rossi – 8/10

01/07/2014 @ 3:46 pm, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

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In the fourth part of our series looking back at 2013, we take a look at Valentino Rossi’s season. To catch up with previous instalments, you can read part 1 on Marc Marquezpart 2 on Jorge Lorenzo, and part 3 on Dani Pedrosa.

Valentino Rossi left Ducati at the end of 2012 with a palpable sense of relief. At last he would be back on a bike with a front-end he could trust, and could get back to being competitive. The goal was to test himself, to see if he could still run at the front with the Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa, he repeatedly told reporters in the preseason.

Testing looked promising. Rossi was a little way behind the Hondas, but so was his teammate Jorge Lorenzo, and that was the man he had to measure himself against. At the first race, Rossi was straight onto the podium, dishing out a lesson in racecraft to Marc Marquez along the way. It looked like he was finally back in business.

Qatar turned out to be something of a false dawn. Rossi struggled in Austin, and could only manage a distant fourth at Jerez. That was an omen of things to come, Rossi racking up a grand total of 8 fourth places during the season, only getting on to the podium when one or other of the top three were injured or otherwise struggling.

Despite the difficulty, the wily veteran still managed to bag himself a win at Assen, his first in nearly three years. It was a moment of release for the Italian, but even during the press conference, he conceded that his win was in no small part due to his teammate’s injured collarbone. Rossi cemented his place in the MotoGP hierarchy: the fourth best rider in the world.

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Dani Pedrosa – 9/10

01/07/2014 @ 10:02 am, by David Emmett14 COMMENTS

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In part three of our series looking back at 2013, we review the performance of Dani Pedrosa last season. If you missed the first two instalments, you can read part 1, Marc Marquez, and part 2, Jorge Lorenzo.

Dani Pedrosa – Championship Position: 3rd – Rating: 9/10

At the end of the 2013 season, some sections of the media took great delight in writing off Dani Pedrosa, after he failed yet again to secure a MotoGP title at his eighth time of trying. Surely Pedrosa’s days at the Repsol Honda team were numbered, as he consistently fails to deliver on the promise he showed in the 125 and 250 classes?

It is easy to dismiss Pedrosa as MotoGP’s ‘nearly man’, and consign him to the dustbin of history, but to do so is to ignore Pedrosa’s actual results.

Dani Pedrosa won three races in 2013, was on the podium a further ten times, moved ahead of Kevin Schwantz, Wayne Rainey and Kenny Roberts in the all-time MotoGP rankings, and now has the same number of second- and third-place finishes as Valentino Rossi. After Assen, Pedrosa was leading the championship by nine points.

What stopped Pedrosa was the one factor which has dogged his career throughout: ill fortune. The crash at the Sachsenring can be put down to Pedrosa’s own mistake, the Spaniard getting caught out by conditions after a brief rain shower.