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.”

Benelli Coming Back to the USA

04/17/2015 @ 12:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Benelli-Tornado

In an interview with Cycle World’s Bruno de Prato, Yan Haimei, the CEO OF Benelli, announced that the historic Italian brand will be returning to American soil.

Haimei says that Benelli will make its US return by the end of 2015, though she was not clear on what models the Chinese-owned brand would make available.

“Returning to a market as competitive and selective as the American one will require that we further refine and increase our efforts, adding more personalized models and looking back to our history,” explained Haimei to Cycle World.

A Naked Yamaha YZF-R25 Is Coming Soon?

03/18/2015 @ 4:49 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

yamaha-mt-blur

If you believe the reports coming out of India and Southeast Asia, Yamaha is working on a naked version of its YZF-R25 sport bike.

Presumably to be call the Yamaha MT-25, the naked bike would continue Yamaha’s trend of making naked version of its fully faired sport bikes, similar to the recently released Yamaha MT-125 that is available for the European market.

Kawasaki Trademarks “Ninja R2” with USPTO & Others

03/04/2015 @ 7:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

2015-Kawasaki-Ninja-ZX-6R-30th-Anniversary-06

Let the rumors fly as to what Kawasaki has up its sleeve, because Team Green has registered “Ninja R2” with the US Patent and Trademark office, as well as similar offices internationally.

The trademark application is fairly broad in what the name can be used for, but knowing Kawasaki’s product line, a new motorcycle can be expected from the “Ninja” name.

What that motorcycle could be, is up for debate. Some draw a line between the “Ninja R2” name and the recently revived “Ninja H2” model, and thus see another supercharged machine to come from Kawasaki. Others hear the whispers of a small-displacement sport bike, perhaps one with a stratospheric rev-limit (our pick).

Benelli BN251 – Return of the Small-Displacement Italian

11/03/2014 @ 2:28 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Benelli-BN251

Brands like Ducati, Vespa, and Benelli can trace their roots back to post-WWII Italy, where infrastructure and roads were shattered, and the country desperately needed a cheap, reliable, and effective way to navigate from Point-A to Point-B.

Enter the rise of the motorcycle to meet those needs; and from that, what has become over half a century of motorcycle culture in Italy. The first Italian motorcycles were really just bicycles with motors, and as more proper machines came into being, they were still tiny in displacement.

Therefore, the quintessential Italian motorcycle was what we would call today a small-displacement bike. Benelli is getting back to those roots now, introducing the Benelli BN251 at this year’s EICMA show.

2015 Suzuki GW250F — A Fully-Faired 250cc for the USA

10/02/2014 @ 12:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

2015-Suzuki-GW250F-1

Suzuki has finally brought a full-faired small-displacement machine to the US market, announcing today the 2015 Suzuki GW250F. As the name implies, the Suzuki GW250F is really just the GW250, with full-fairing bodywork.

The move is perhaps the mother of necessity, as Suzuki doesn’t have a proper motorbike to go head-to-head with the Kawasaki Ninja 300, Honda CBR300R, or Yamaha YZF-R25.

With the small-displacement war well underway in the United States, Suzuki Motor America surely felt that something beyond just the Suzuki GW250 was needed, and hence the GW250F was born.

Kawasaki Working on a 250cc Four-Cylinder?

06/24/2014 @ 2:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

four-cylinder-kawasaki-indonesia

According to the Indonesian publication TMC Blog, Kawasaki is working on a performance-oriented 250cc four-cylinder…and they have the supposed photos to prove it. The news should be well-received by those who remember the high-revving small-displacement Japanese machines of just a few decades ago.

Southeast Asian markets, like Indonesia’s, are driven by graduated taxes on motorcycle displacement. For the Indonesian market, machines 250cc to 500cc in displacement receive a 60% tax rate, while machine over 500cc are taxed at 75%. Unsurprisingly then, bikes under 250cc are accounting for the lion’s share of motorcycle sales.

Working against that taxation plan is the growing middle class in these regions, with consumers able to purchase more expensive motorbikes, and looking for more performance in the process. This trend is what helped bring the Yamaha R25 to market (and production) in Indonesia, along with the slew of other ~250cc machines we’ve seen from Honda, Kawasaki, and KTM.

Yamaha YZF-R25 Debuts in Indonesia

05/19/2014 @ 11:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

Yamaha-YZF-R25

The wait is finally over, as the Yamaha YZF-R25 has been revealed to the world, at a press launch in Indonesia. Based aroun a fuel-injected 249cc parallel-twin engine, which makes 35.5hp and 16.7 lbs•ft of torque, the YZF-R25 is Yamaha’s response to the newly revived 250cc sport bike category, which Honda and Kawasaki have been dominating, as of late.

Built in Indonesia, and being released into that market in July of this year, Yamaha sees 12,000 units being sold worldwide in the next 12 months for the R25 — a number we suspect will grow as more markets added.

Yet Another Look at the Yamaha YZF-R25

05/14/2014 @ 11:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

yamaha-yzf-r25-low-res

There is only a week until Yamaha reveals its 250cc sport bike, the Yamaha YZF-R25, but glimpses of the machine continue to make their way onto the internet. We skipped the completely unidentifiable tail light photos, but have already brought you some good looks at the YZF-R25’s front-end.

Today, we bring you an unfortunately low-resolution look at the R25’s profile, in its entirety. How will this Indonesian-made parallel-twin compare to bikes like of the Honda CBR250R and Kawasaki Ninja 250R? Only time will tell.

Yamaha YZF-R25 Launched Confirmed for May 20th

05/09/2014 @ 8:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

yamaha-yzf-r25-teaser

Yamaha Indonesia has spilled the beans on when the Yamaha YZF-R25 will be available, and that date is just a few days away: May 20th.

Yamaha is pitching the Indonesian-built, 250cc, parallel-twin sport bike as a miniature Yamaha YZR-M1, thus making a link between the R25 to Yamaha’s MotoGP racing program — a smart move considering how wildly popular MotoGP is in Indonesia currently.

Small-Displacement BMW Motorcycles Debuting in 2015

05/08/2014 @ 2:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

tvs-draken-concept

I had to check the date on when we last talked about BMW and TVS partnering up to build small-displacement motorcycles together, and it looks like it was almost exactly a year ago. In that timeframe, the two companies have been quietly working, but rumors have started to heat-up as to when we could see a sub-500cc BMW motorcycle.

A cynic’s response might be that BMW doesn’t want to be perceived as late to the small-displacement party, especially since its sub-500cc machines won’t be ready until Q3/Q4 of 2015.

With Honda, Kawasaki, and KTM already debuting their 250cc & 300cc  models, and Yamaha & Triumph set to debut 250cc machines shortly, it seems the only manufacturer without a small-displacement offering either available or in the works is Ducati.