Guy Martin Racing A Mugen Electric Bike at Isle of Man TT

Guy Martin’s return to the road racing at the Isle of Man TT continues to draw big headlines, and while we already know that the Lincolnshire man would partner with John McGuinness on the factory Honda Racing team of this year’s TT, that’s not all. Today, we learn that Guy Martin will partner with John McGuinness on another team as well, and he will once again take the seat on an electric bike for the TT Zero class in the process. As such, Martin has been confirmed as Team Mugen’s second rider, replacing Bruce Anstey in the squad. Both McGuinness and Martin will race on the new Mugen Shinden Roku electric superbike – the sixth iteration of the Japanese outfits TT Zero racer – and they will be looking to break the 120 mph barrier for electric motorcycles at the Isle of Man TT.

What the Sepang MotoGP Test Tells Us About Race Pace

What conclusions can we draw from the first MotoGP test of 2017 at Sepang? Well, it’s the first test of 2017, and the factories still have the best part of two months to refine their bikes before the season starts in earnest in Qatar. Any conclusions we draw are at risk of crashing headlong into reality at the end of March. But with all that data from the test available, it is hard to resist the temptation to dive into it and read the tea leaves. To make some sense of the timesheets from Sepang, I examined the lap times of the fastest thirteen riders at the end of Wednesday. The reason for selecting Wednesday was simple: as it was the last day of the test, the riders were all fully up to speed, and the teams were putting together the lessons they had learned on the first two days.

Piaggio Gita, An Autonomous Two-Wheeler for the Future

When you think of the Piaggio Group, in terms of its two-wheeled creations, your thoughts probably conjure up images of motorcycles made by Aprilia or Moto Guzzi, or maybe a scooter with a Vespa badge on it. Surely, the Gita is not what first comes first to your mind, but it might be the most impactful idea from the Italian brand to-date. Sure, the brightly colored self-balancing rolling cylinder doesn’t seem like much of a novel creation, even with its ability to follow its owner, or autonomously navigate a prescribed route. But then again, you have probably been carrying stuff around in our arms, or on your back, like a big sucker.

2018 KTM 790 Duke Spotted in the Wild

We know that we can expect a finalized version of the KTM 790 Duke at this year’s EICMA show in Milan, so it shouldn’t be surprising to hear that the streetfighter model has been caught testing by spy photographers. The bike’s parallel-twin engine can clearly be spotted in the pictures, tipping us to its model, and many of the lines from the prototype machine remain, as further clues. Though, noticeable differences include a new tail section design, different exhaust, as well as a headlight. The headlight is clearly derived from KTM’s new design language, and its shape mimics what we’ve seen already added to the Duke, Super Duke, and Adventure lineup. The KTM 790 Duke prototype hinted that we would see a similar face in the new hoon-machine, so no surprises there.

Ducati’s 2017 World Superbike Team Debuts

Race teams continue to debut their 2017 liveries and riders, and this time around we feature the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike squad that will race in the World Superbike Championship. Chaz Davies of course returns to the team, and this season he will be joined by Marco Melandri. The duo will be an interesting pair to watch this season, with Davies holding onto his impressive form from the last-half of the 2016 season, and Melandri making his return to motorcycle racing, after sitting out last season. With 2017 to be the penultimate season for the Ducati Panigale R in the World Superbike Championship, the v-twin superbike has shown itself to be an extremely mature machine on the race track.

Imagining the 2018 Suzuki RM-Z450 Supermoto

It is a tremendous shame that the options for a road legal supermoto for are so limited, with the venerable Suzuki DR-Z400SM being the only offering in the 450cc on-road class. For virtually a decade, Suzuki has left the DR-Z basically unchanged – as it has done with many of its sport models – so we would love to see Suzuki and other manufacturers give this space more attention (a hat tip to Husqvarna for bringing the track-only FS450 to market, long with the 701 Supermoto). Although you can wake-up the DR-Z400 with a few simple modification, and there are a bevy of aftermarket kits that can punch the 398cc machine out in size, what we really want from Suzuki is a proper 450cc street supermoto – one that doesn’t stray too far from the brand’s current strong motocross offering. So, when we saw this little bit of Photoshop work by the folks at the German Suzuki dealership of DSR-Suzuki, we got a little excited.

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.

Audi Says “Ducati is NOT FOR SALE”

06/16/2016 @ 3:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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After much buzz and fanfare regarding the future of Volkswagen, which in-turn called into question the future of Ducati, today we finally get a glimpse into how VW is going to soldier forth from the fallout of its “Dieselgate” scandal.

Instead of announcing how the company was going to restructure itself, and review its current business holdings and ventures, as was reportedly widely in financial circles, instead today saw Volkswagen strongly staking its future in electric and autonomous cars.

As the Wall Street Journal reported, this announcement failed to impress analysts investors; but for Ducatisti, some good news does emerge, as Ducati certainly won’t be leaving its home in the Volkswagen Group.

To drive that point further, a Ducati representative confirmed and conveyed to Asphalt & Rubber the words of Audi Chairman Rupert Stadler, who said emphatically that “Ducati is NOT FOR SALE” which is as straight and to the point as you can get.

More Talk of Volkswagen Unloading Ducati

06/15/2016 @ 7:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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It seems to come in waves, every time the news cycle picks up Volkswagen’s plight in dealing with “Dieselgate” that talk then shifts to the German powerhouse unloading its smaller holdings, one of which being Ducati Motor Holding.

This latest go-around comes courtesy of Bloomberg, which has Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller saying that the automaker’s current portfolio of companies and its overall corporate plan will be re-evaluated over the coming weeks and months.

Tomorrow (Thursday), Volkswagen is slated to make public what this new business plan looks like, but sources say that VW will put all its assets under review, which includes Ducati.

Could this lead to Ducati being divested from Volkswagen’s holdings? The answer is of course murky, but we would be very surprised by the news.

Ducati Sold 54,800 Bikes in 2015 – Another Record

01/14/2016 @ 6:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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As expected from earlier sales reports, Ducati Motor Holding is posting a banner year for 2015. The Italian motorcycle maker says that it sold 54,800 bikes last year, a 9,683 unit (+22%) increase over the number of bikes sold in 2014.

Helping break the 50,000 units barrier, the Ducati Scrambler line accounted for virtually all of Ducati’s sales growth in 2015, with over 16,000 Scrambler models sold worldwide. As we have reported before, this paints an interesting picture of what is going on behind Borgo Panigale’s walls.

“The record sales of 2015 are the result of our company’s courage and skill,” said Claudio Domenicali, CEO of Ducati Motor Holding.

“Ducati closes 2015 with record volumes and also a substantial growth of 22% over 2014. During the year Ducati not only launched successful new motorcycles, but also a new brand, Ducati Scrambler, which immediately won global acclaim with over 16,000 sales worldwide.”

Ducati Reaches 50,000 Units Sales Mark for First Time Ever, And Other Red Herrings

11/11/2015 @ 3:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

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Ducati Motor Holding is reporting that it has sold over 50,000 units to customers, for the first time ever. This is a substantial improvement over the 40,650 units that Ducati delivered at this time last year, and the 45,100 units the company sold to customers in 2015.

This news is a bit of a red herring though, as the sales increase comes due almost solely because of the addition of the Ducati Scrambler line, which in the first three quarters of the year was at 13,609 units sold.

As we have reported before on Asphalt & Rubber, the sales increase being posted by Ducati is a bit of red herring with the brand. While the Scrambler line has shown strong growth for Ducati, the rest of the model lines have been weak for the year.

Has Ducati’s Success Flat-Lined?

02/27/2015 @ 4:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler47 COMMENTS

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The saying goes that one time is a fluke, two times is a coincidence, but three times…three times is a trend. Looking at Ducati’s last three years of sales (2012-2014), which spans only a 2% margin of growth, by definition one has to conclude that the Italian company is experiencing sales stagnation.

Granted each of the last three years have been record years for the Italian motorcycle company’s sales figures, but each year has been a nudging over the last, seemingly at the cost of Ducati dealers who have found more and more inventory on their showroom floors.

But it shouldn’t surprise Ducati followers to hear the recent departure of Cristiano Silei, Ducati’s now-former Vice President of Sales and Marketing. With Ducati seemingly hitting a wall on expansion and model diversity, Silei’s departure may have been expected in some circles, and certainly all eyes will be on his successor Andrea Buzzoni, to see what he can do with the role.

Is all of this a sign that Ducati has lost its magic, seemingly during the leadership transition from Gabriele del Torchio to Claudio Domenicali? Or is there growth to be had from the Italian brand, now that it is owned by Audi AG? We examine that thought in more detail, after the jump.

Ducati 1299 Will Have “Tiptronic-Like” Shifting

10/16/2014 @ 8:05 am, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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If there is a common thread for Ducati’s upcoming EICMA reveal, it is the influence and benefits of owner Audi AG. We have already seen the German car manufacturer’s variable valve timing technology find its way into the Testastretta engine, in the form of Desmodromic Variable Timing (DVT).

Our sources say that the all-new Ducati Multistrada, which will debut in just a few weeks’ time, will be the first model equipped with DVT. While Ducati ups its ante in the ADV market, our Bothan spies have tipped us off to another piece of Audi tech that will find its way onto a Ducati motorcycle, as the 1299 will received a “Tiptronic-like” gearbox that allows for touch-button upshifts and downshifts.

Ducati Q1 2013 Sales Drop 5% – Audi Dishes the Details

05/08/2013 @ 6:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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Ducatisti: do you want the good news or the bad news first? The bad news is that the market for motorcycles 500cc and up is down 17% worldwide for the first quarter of this year, which means the “good” news is that Ducati is only down 5% for Q1 2013.

Not exactly the start out of the gate that Audi was hoping for its newly acquired two-wheeled brand, but what are you going to do? Western Europe is a mess, with Spain and Italy continuing to go down like a…well, you know.

Even the American market is on a slight decline for the first quarter, after showing signs of hitting rock bottom earlier last year. Accordingly Ducati sold 1,605 units in the USA — it’s the largest market by volume.

So why are we a bit giddy here at Asphalt & Rubber? Well while we don’t enjoy the misery of motorcycle brands, the fact that Ducati Motor Holding is now under the Audi AG umbrella means that we get far more detailed quarterly and yearly reports from the two-wheeled marque.

Want to know which Ducati model is out-selling them all? How about how many of each model were produced versus how many were sold? We’ve got the digits after the jump.

Ducati Anticipates 20% Growth by the End of 2012

11/15/2012 @ 2:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

Although Ducati hasn’t closed out the year yet, CEO of Ducati Motor Holding Gabriele Del Torchio was confident when speaking to the press at EICMA that the company would top last year’s record numbers, with a solid 20% grow margin. Expected to take the company to 44,000 units sold worldwide, 2012 is the best sales year by volume in the history of the company, and comes just after the company’s acquisition by Audi AG.

Doubling its marketshare worldwide, the Bologna Brand says it has made a 10% increase in what it calls its “Ducati Relevant Market” – the company’s core demographic of buyers (or what Mitt Romney would call, the brand’s 53%). For fun facts, nine out of ten Ducatis made in Borgo Panigale are destined for foreign markets (read: Italy now accounts for 10% of Ducati’s sales). We already knew that the US is Ducati’s top stronghold, with the American market growing by double-digits this year.

Who Actually Owns Ducati? Lamborghini Paid €747 Million

08/01/2012 @ 10:43 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

Audi AG has released its 2012 Interim Financial Report, and in it the German automaker has released some interesting details about its acquisition of Ducati Motor Holding. Confirming our report that the Audi Group has bought 100% of Ducati’s shares, Audi however discloses that it paid much less for the Italian motorcycle brand than was previously reported.

Disclosing a buying price of €747 million ($980 million at the exchange rate at the time of sale), perhaps the most interesting news in Audi’s report is that Ducati was actually bought by Lamborghini, making Ducati a subsidiary of the boutique Italian car-maker. This news would explain Ducati CEO Gabriele del Torchio’s appointment to the Lamborghini Board of Directors earlier last month.

Audi Reconfirms Gabriele Del Torchio as Ducati CEO

07/19/2012 @ 7:28 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

With the acquisition of Ducati Motor Holding by Audi AG, the German car manufacturer was bound to do some shuffling in the Italian motorcycle company’s executive ranks. Announcing that it has formed a new Board of Directors, Audi CEO Rupert Stadler has unsurprisingly been name President of the Board, while Horst Glaser and Axel Strotbek (best names ever) from Audi have also been given seats on the Ducati’s Board.

Giving Audi AG a 3-to-2 controlling interest of over Ducati’s Board of Directors, the new board is also comprised of Gabriele Del Torchio and Claudio Domenicali. In an interesting move, Del Torchio has been reconfirmed by the new Board of Directors as CEO of Ducati Motor Holding, with Audi also appointing the Italian to the Board of Directors at Automobili Lamborghini SpA.