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.”

Recall: 2015 Zero Motorcycles

09/19/2016 @ 12:10 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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Zero Motorcycles is recalling a number of models from its 2015 lineup, all for issues with DC-DC converter, which takes direct current electricity from one voltage and converts it to a different voltage.

According to the recall documents, when under high-power demands the DC-DC converter can suffer from insufficient output, which in-turn can cause the anti-lock brake system (ABS) not to function properly.

Since the failure of the ABS can lead to an increase in the risk of a crash, Zero Motorcycles has issued this recall, and while this recall affects the SR, S, DS, and FX motorcycle lines, only 96 motorcycles are actually being recalled under this notice.

Report: Traffic Fatalities Increased in 2015

09/13/2016 @ 4:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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National crash statistics for 2015 have just been released, and overall, the news is not good. After decades of seeing road fatalities drop, 2015 saw an 7.2% increase in fatalities across all vehicles.

The increase comes primarily from an increase in miles driven by Americans, but the data also shows an increase in the number of crashes per mile driven, suggesting that the trend isn’t just from drivers being on the road more.

For motorcyclists, 2015 was especially bad, with motorcycle crash fatalities increasing by 8.3%, though motorcycle crash injuries were down 4.3% last year.

Ducati North America Has Record Sales Year in 2015

02/01/2016 @ 12:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Ducati North America is reporting a record year for sales, selling 12,132 motorcycles in 2015 – this number includes all Ducati sales in the USA (9,674 units, +10%), Canada (1,458 units, +12%), and Mexico (1,003 units, +85%).

The news is perhaps not surprising, since Ducati sales grew globally by 22% last year, for a total of 54,800 motorcycle sold in 2015.

Ducati North America’s numbers continue a six-year trend of solid sales growth, with last year’s sales being fueled primarily by the Ducati Scrambler.

Crunching the Numbers of BMW’s Record Sales Year

01/22/2016 @ 3:55 am, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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BMW Motorrad set another record year of sales in 2015, seemingly along with all the European motorcycle manufacturers (Husqvarna, Ducati, & KTM). BMW quotes that 136,963 motorcycles and maxi-scooters were sold last year, and thankfully the Bavarian brand is fairly forthright with its sales data.

This allows us to make some interesting points of observation about BMW Motorrad, the most potent of which is the brand’s success in the sport bike market, which accounts for 16% of all BMW motorcycles sold last year.

Equally interesting is the fact that BMW’s boxer-engine machines, the R-Series, accounts for over half of BMW Motorrad’s sales (see the chart above) – a strong signal to the power of BMW’s iconic past.

Husqvarna Has Another Year of Record Sales

01/20/2016 @ 1:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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In case you missed it, KTM as a company is doing extremely well, selling over 180,000 units last year. KTM the company now has two brand of motorcycles under its roof though: its namesake, and then also the Swedish brand of Husqvarna.

The latest report from Mattighofen suggests that the sales success of KTM isn’t due solely to the KTM brand, and that Husqvarna had a very strong 2015 as well.

As such, Husqvarna is reporting that it sold 21,513 units in 2015, an increase of 31% over last year’s figure of 16,337. This means that 2015 was another record for Husqvarna, the best in the company’s 112 year history.

BMW Motorrad Sold 136,963 Motorcycles in 2015

01/11/2016 @ 11:04 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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After hearing of the sales growth from BMW Motorrad USA for 2015, we speculated that we would soon here from the German marque on its yearly results internationally, and it seems we were right.

As such, BMW Motorrad is happy to report its fifth consecutive all-time best sales year, with 2015 seeing 136,963 motorcycles and maxi-scooters sold by the German brand. That figure is an impressive 10.9% gain over the sales from 2014, and BMW shows no signs of slowing down.

BMW Motorrad Grew 9% in the USA for 2015

01/08/2016 @ 3:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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News from BMW Motorrad shows that the Germans did quite well in the United States last year, selling 16,330 units in 2015. That figure is up 9.3% from the 14,945 units that BMW Motorrad sold in 2014, in the USA.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, BMW Motorrad USA’s best model was its liter-bike offering, the BMW S1000RR, which accounted for 13.3% of BMW’s total sales in the USA – roughly 2,170 units.

The S1000RR has often rivaled the BMW R1200GS for the top-billing in the US market, with the R1200GS Adventure taking 12.2% of BMW sales and the R1200GS with 11.5%, (roughly 2,000 units and 1,900 units, respectively).

Rating the Riders: Dani Pedrosa

12/30/2015 @ 8:41 am, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS

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Dani Pedrosa, Honda, 4th, 206 points – Score: 8

If you wanted the very definition of a roller coaster career, look no further than Dani Pedrosa. Three world championships in the junior classes, and one of the most successful riders in the premier class.

He has never won a championship, but he has come within a whisker in 2012, winning more races than the eventual champion Jorge Lorenzo. Injury has dogged him, breaking most of the bones in his body, and fracturing his collarbone so often there is hardly a piece left intact.

His collarbone nearly ended his MotoGP career once, the plate fitted after his practice crash in Motegi in 2010 causing Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, causing numbness and weakness in his left arm, making it almost impossible to last a race.

He suffered through 2011, until the removal of the plate on his collarbone fixed the problem. He was back with a vengeance in 2012, winning seven races and getting close to beating Jorge Lorenzo. That experience stood him in good stead in 2015.

Rating the Riders: Marc Marquez

12/29/2015 @ 11:55 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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Marc Márquez, Repsol Honda, 3rd, 242 points – Score: 8

This was Marc Márquez’s worst season in Grand Prix racing since 2009. From 2010 onwards, in 125s, Moto2, or MotoGP, Márquez has finished as either champion or runner-up.

Not only did Márquez finish outside the top two for the first time since finishing eighth in 2009, but this was also his worst championship points total since that year. You could say this was a very bad year for the Repsol Honda rider.

Yet it was also undoubtedly the year in which Márquez learned the most in his Grand Prix career. This was the year in which Márquez changed his approach, and gained a deeper understanding of how to win a championship, rather than just races.

Márquez crashed out six times in 2015, fully one third of the races. Four of those crashes were entirely on his own, and completely his own fault.

Rating the Riders: Valentino Rossi

12/28/2015 @ 11:39 pm, by David Emmett18 COMMENTS

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Valentino Rossi, Movistar Yamaha, 2nd, 325 points – Score: 9.5

British MotoGP commentator Julian Ryder has one cliché he uses about Valentino Rossi all the time. “Never write Valentino Rossi off.” It may be a cliché, but in 2015, Rossi showed once again why clichés exist.

At the age of 36, he was past his physical prime, and not capable of keeping up at the front. Twenty seasons of top level racing had dulled his desire to compete.

Two seasons at Ducati and a poor return to Yamaha proved he was past his prime. With more money than he will ever need for the rest of his life and a fashion model girlfriend (who rides motorcycles), there was nothing to fire his motivation.

The VR46 racing team was proof Rossi was looking to his retirement, not another championship.

There was at least some truth in all of those statements, voiced by pundits and fans across the world. But they overlooked one crucial fact: you can never, ever, write Valentino Rossi off.