EPA Slaps Harley-Davidson with $12 Million Fine

The EPA DOJ have just come to a settlement agreement with Harley-Davidson, which sees the American motorcycle manufacturer agreeing to pay a $12 million fine for its Screamin Eagle “super tuner” devices. Also in the agreement, Harley-Davidson agrees to spend $3 million to mitigate air pollution (through a project to replace conventional woodstoves with cleaner-burning stoves in local communities), as well as to stop selling, buy back, or destroy any illegal devices that increase air pollution from the company’s motorcycles. While not quite the Dieselgate scandal that caught Volkswagen circumventing EPA emission standards, Harley-Davidson’s “super tuners” do provide an aftermarket solution for motorcyclists to circumvent the emission devices on their motorcycles.

Moto3: Sky VR46 Fires Romano Fenati

As expected, Romano Fenati has been formally released from his contract with the Sky VR46 team. The Italian was suspended from the team after an incident at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. That was a temporary measure, but it has now been made permanent. Fenati was released for behavioral issues. The Italian had been abusive towards members of the team, and had not behaved in a professional manner. The incident in Austria was just the latest in a long line of breaches of behavioral conduct, which included confirmed reports of verbal abuse and unconfirmed and unsubstantiated reports of physical conflict. The Sky VR46 team have announced that they will be bringing Lorenzo Dalla Porta in to join Andrea Migno and Nicolo Bulega in the Moto3 team.

Two New BMW R nineT Models Coming

Filings with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) suggest that BMW Motorrad has two more variations of its retro-styled motorcycle line coming to the USA: the BMW R nineT Pure and the BMW R nineT Racer. These two bikes would join the other two air-cooled models we have already seen from the Germans, the base model BMW R nineT and the recently released BMW R nineT Scrambler, which debuted at EICMA last year. Our friends at Motorcycle.com spotted the CARB filings, and believe one of the machines will be based off the BMW Lac Rose concept – an ADV throw-back to when the Dakar Rally actually raced to Dakar. The other model though, could be anyone’s guess, as BMW hasn’t dropped any other concepts or hints in the past months.

Q&A: KTM On-Road Technical Director Sebastian Risse – The Development of the KTM RC16 MotoGP Bike

Sebastian Risse is the man behind the KTM RC16 MotoGP bike which was presented on Saturday at the Red Bull Ring. An automotive engineer by training, Risse has been with KTM since 2008. He started out as a crew chief and chassis analyst on KTM’s now defunct RC8 Superbike project, but when KTM returned to Grand Prix racing in 2012, Risse took charge of the Moto3 project, which has gone on to be the benchmark in the class. Risse is currently head of all of KTM’s roadracing activities, and has overseen and led development of the RC16 MotoGP bike. After the KTM RC16 was presented, we spoke to Sebastian Risse about the differences and design choices which went into the bike.

Here’s a Custom Ducati XDiavel by Roland Sands Design

In the event’s 76-year history, this year marks the first time that Ducati has ever participated at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally – the Italian company hoping to showcase its Harley-Davidson alternative, the Ducati XDiavel. Helping fuel that fire was a collaboration between Roland Sands Design and Ducati, which has given way to the creation of a one-off XDiavel with the usual RSD touches. This means a flowing single-piece body, the addition of a 19″ front wheel, and shotgun-style exhaust are added to the already stylish XDiavel. The RSD Ducati XDiavel is then finished off with metallic flake paint job, along with the usual bits and bobs from the RSD catalog. There is a lot of “Southern California” transmitted through RSD’s design into the Italian-born XDiavel.

2017 KTM RC16 Officially Debuts

The Austrian GP might be tomorrow, but today the news is all about MotoGP’s newest entrant, KTM Racing. The Austrian team used its home to debut officially its MotoGP program, showing the KTM RC16 MotoGP race bike in its officially Red Bull livery for next year. The livery itself is what you would expect between at KTM/Red Bull collaboration, with the same blue and orange paint scheme as can be found on the Red Bull KTM Moto3 squad. The big difference of course is the rumored fire-breathing, 270hp, V4, engine, which Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro will attempt to tame. The bike’s next outing will be at Valencia, where Thomas Lüthi and Mika Kallio will ride with the MotoGP-regulars once again, competing as wild card entries.

MotoGP Considering Team Communication via Dashboards

Dorna is considering allowing communication between teams and riders via the dashboard. At a meeting today between Dorna and the teams, initial discussions took place over a system to allow teams to pass very brief messages to the dashboard of the bikes. The ability to pass messages between team and bike has been made possible thanks to the transponders currently being used in MotoGP. Those allow for a very limited and very short burst of communication as the bikes pass the timing loops at the track. Race Direction is currently using the system to pass signals to the dash in the case of a red flag, black flag or ride through penalty, but the system would also allow teams a limited ability to pass messages to the riders.

Norton Announces V4 Superbike, Again

A year ago, to the day, Norton announced that it was working on a street-going superbike that featured a 200hp, 1,200cc, V4 engine. Now, Norton confirms that news, saying that we will see the limited-production (200 units) machine later this fall. Yay. On the bright side, Norton posted a concept drawing of the new bike to its Facebook page, giving us at least something new to whet our appetites on the new motorcycle. The concept looks very similar to the sketch we saw last year, making today’s new a little bit about nothing. But, our friends at MotoFire report that Norton is still working on a 650cc project, which will debut later this year as well.

Is This the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6?…Nope

Someone is trying to pass off the above photo as the eagerly awaited 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 – unfortunately, it’s a fake. I’m actually surprised this piece of photoshop has some legs, and is making its way around the internet, considering how obvious the forgery. To verify its authenticity, all one would have to do is to compare the above photo with photos of the current generation Yamaha YZF-R1. Contrasting the two, it’s clear that the chassis and exposed parts of the engine are right off the Yamaha YZF-R1 (it’s easiest to see on the swingarm). The real smoking gun though is that the forger used a Yamaha press photo as their base. I was able to find the base photo, which clearly shows that the five-spoke wheels on the alleged R6 are in the exact same ones from a R1 press photo.

Former Skully Employee Alleges in Lawsuit that Executives Used Corporate Funds as “Personal Piggy Banks”

A former Skully employee, Isabelle Faithhauer, is bringing suit against Skully and its founders Marcus Weller and Mitchell Weller. Faithhauer is the former-assistant to Skully CEO Marcus Weller, and for a time, served as the company’s bookkeeper. In her complaint she alleges that Skully wrongfully terminated her, and brings several other causes of action that are related to that wrongful termination. However in her filing with the court, Faithhauer also lists a number of incidents where Marcus Weller and Mitchell Weller allegedly used company funds to buy exotic cars, rent expensive apartments in San Francisco, and travel around the world.

Why Today is the Most Important Day for Ducati…Ever

01/24/2012 @ 4:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

The first Ducati 1199 Panigale rolled off the assembly line at Ducati’s Borgo Panigale factory today, officially starting production of the Italian company’s flagship model. While maybe the the production of the first Panigale is not the most newsworthy of subjects, make no mistake at how important this motorcycle is for both Ducati and sport bikes in general going into the future. Featuring a new step in production motorcycle chassis design, we’ve also already talked at length about the number of firsts that the 1199 Panigale is bringing to the production motorcycle market.

With a hybrid chain/gear-driven camshaft, titanium valves, a wet slipper clutch, a ride-by-wire throttle, rider-selectable “riding mode” system, and 15,000 mile major service intervals, the Superquadro v-twin motor alone is a major step for Ducati with its Superbike engine design. And, if you add in the first full-LED headlight on a produciton motorcycle, the first electronically-adjustable suspension on a sport bike, the first motorcycle engine braking control system, as well as the first GPS-assisted data acquisition system for a production motorcycle, the total package of the 1199 redefines the word “superbike” and takes the next logical technological step forward in this market segment.

However features aside, what will truly be the most important aspect of the Ducati 1199 Panigale is whether or not the flagship model can live up to the hype that has been generated around the machine. While most of the attention to-date regarding the Panigale has centered on whether Ducati’s monocoque chassis design can work on the production motorcycle, after it has failed so miserably in MotoGP, the real issue for the Italian brand has nothing at all to do with the 1199’s race track prowess.

Harley-Davidson Makes the Interbrand 100 for Another Year

01/17/2012 @ 11:03 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Every year Interbrand releases a list of the Top 100 global brands — ranking each company on its brand value and then assigning a dollar amount to that value. As such over the years, the Interbrand 100 has become the de facto metric on the strength of a company’s brand. For some time Harley-Davidson has been a stalwart of the Interbrand 100, with the Bar & Shield brand regularly getting the nod from the consultancy’s specialists — after all, how many brands are responsible for enthusiasts tattooing its logo on their body? However the past few years have seen a worrisome trend, as slowly Harley-Davidson has fallen farther and farther down the Interbrand 100 rankings.

The Chrysanthemum and the Sword

12/22/2011 @ 9:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler105 COMMENTS

Talking to a colleague the other day, we came to a frank discussion about how the European motorcycle brands weathered the recession better when compared to their Japanese counterparts.

While there are many factors at play in this statement, there is at least a component of truth to the idea that strong brand integration helped spur the Europeans into setting record months, quarters, and years during a global economic downturn, while companies like Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha saw their businesses virtually collapse.

It is not that the Japanese manufacturers don’t have strong brands, it is just that their brands stand for something fundamentally different from those being forged by the Europeans.

While companies like Ducati, KTM, and Triumph are building entire communities and lifestyles around their motorcycles (hat tip to Harley-Davidson for showing them how), the Japanese continue to hang their hats on the attributes of their products.

Well-engineered, bulletproof, and relatively cheap, Japanese motorcycles tick all the right boxes when one is objectively measuring a motorcycle, but they are sufficiently lacking when it comes to creating lasting ties to their owners.

Valentino Rossi Finally Joins the 21st Century & Twitter

10/11/2011 @ 9:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

For being a motorcycle mega-brand in his own right, Valentino Rossi has been slow to adapt to this crazy new thing called the internet. A series of tubes, the internet has been a remarkable breakthrough on a variety of levels, changing the paradigm of how we eat, sleep, and waste our lunch breaks at work. Helping teenage girls gossip about their latest crushes, aiding in the massive distribution of pornography to middle-aged men who hide in their basements from their wives and children, and allowing no-talent journalistic hacks to masquerade around as proper motorcycle journalists, there is literally no telling how the internet will change our lives next, and what industries it will turn on their head.

Well get ready for another shockwave ladies and gentlemen, as the G.O.A.T. himself, Valentino Rossi, has hopped on this interweb bandwagon with full 0 & 1 force, first by finally creating his own official website, and now by signing up for a thing called Twitter. Tweeting, twatting, twittering so far in only Italian, Rossi was one of the last hold-outs of MotoGP riders to embrace the micro-blogging service (Randy de Puniet just got on Twitter this week too we might add. Thanks Lauren). Rossi’s move is sure to create a stir with the VR46 crowd, as his legion of fans can now take time out from their busy days of lathering neon yellow paint all of their bodies, and hang onto every one of Rossi’s 140 character messages.

So far, Rossi has tweeted about go-karting, his injured finger, and traveling to Melbourne. We wait with bated breath to see what photo the nine-time World Champion first tweets from his account. Bellissima.

The Business Case for the Husqvarna Nuda

09/20/2011 @ 2:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Not too different of an analysis from the one I did regarding the Ducati Diavel, the business case surrounding the Husqvarna Nuda is all about extending brand attributes, reaching new demographics, and putting more volume into sales figures. While I will reserve judgment on what the Nuda 900 is as a motorcycle for when A&R actually gets a chance to swing a leg over one, the positioning and reasoning behind Husqvarna’s first true-blooded street bike can be analyzed by us before the Nuda hits dealership floors early next year.

A Swedish brand based in Italy and owned by German company, there can be little wonder as to why Husqvarna suffers from an identity crisis. When the small, but eclectic, dirt bike manufacturer was brought into the folds of BMW, many loyal to the Husqvarna brand wondered and were concerned about what was in store for the company.

If brand loyalists were waiting for the first shoe to drop, then surely the release of the Husqvarna Nuda 900 & 900R is that moment. A departure from a history of motorcycles that like to get grime under their fingernails, the Nuda 900 represents Husqvarna’s attempt at a pure-street offering — a move both Husqvarna and BMW hope will pave the way for more street models, and thus more sales volume. The positioning and branding of the Nuda 900 is also especially interesting, as adding a street dimension to the Husqvarna name is certainly a new dynamic to the brand, but how to do so with parent company BMW looking over one’s shoulder is another affair all together.

I’m Ducati Superbike 1199 Superquadrata, Bitch.

08/05/2011 @ 5:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

The tale that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s business card at one point read “I’m CEO, Bitch” is in fact true. Perhaps tired of dealing with investors and businessmen that didn’t take him seriously, or perhaps the young entrepreneur faced a tough time telling industry specialists twice or three times his age how the world was about to change, ol’Zuck was surely responding to the titles others had placed on him. Enervated at hearing phrases like “that kid” or “the Harvard dropout”, Zuckerberg’s “I’m CEO, Bitch” business card was not only about the young CEO having an equal seat at the table, but also about his personal brand, and reminded whomever held the card that were talking to the creator of one of most popular websites ever on the internet.

If we can stretch that metaphor a bit further, the new Ducati Superbike has its own identity crisis in the eyes of the public. Like the Ducati Vyper and Ducati Cayenne that came before it, we were first introduced to Ducati’s new flagship with its internal name: Xtreme. Whether out of the desire to drive webpage hits by creating controversy, or just actually being that gullible/naive about the story, mainstream outlets began using the nomenclature as if the Bologna brand had adopted product names that tugged on a common heart strings from the Twilight faithful.

Cleverly deciphering Ducati’s secret model numbering scheme, more educated publications latched onto the more likely Superbike 1199 verbiage. There was over course precedent for this +1 trend, after watching the Superbike 998 become the 999. Knowing that Ducati would be releasing a ridiculously over-square v-twin motor with the new Superbike, we also learned early on that the new power plant would be known as the Superquadrata, which sounds far more clever in Italian than its translated English. With all these different names being banded about for the same machine, we wanted to definitely put the business card wars to bed, and say conclusively that the new flagship from Bologna will be called the Ducati Superbike 1199 Superquadrata.

Brand Confusion? Brand Reversion by Graham Smith

07/19/2011 @ 4:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Artist Graham Smith is helping play with our brand awareness today, as the British graphic designer has done up several companies’ logos with the name of another (usually a competitor). The effect is an interesting one, as your mind tries to sort out the shapes it recognizes with the name it actually sees, much like the Stroop Effect in psychology studies – an interesting phenomena where names of colors were shown in a font whose color was different than the name. When subjects were asked to say out loud the color used for the font, it often resulted in the tendency to want to say word shown instead. We had the same effect looking at Smith’s work, making this an interesting take on logo design and a bit of fun psychology all wrapped-up into one. Examples after the jump.

Moto Morini Finally Sold at Auction – €1.96 Million

07/19/2011 @ 1:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Finally finding a purchaser at its second auction, Moto Morini has seemingly been given a new lease on life after finding a pair of investors willing to back the Italian brand. Buying the company’s assets, but not the property where it resides, entrepreneurs Sandro Capotosti and Ruggeromassimo Jannuzzelli paid €1.96 million for the Moto Morini name, IP, and other proprietary assets.

With both investors saying they have an emotional tie to Moto Morini motorcycles, they also both come with some serious business acumen. For instance, Capotosti is the former chairman of the Banca Profilo and Jannuzzelli was the former VP and Group CEO of Camuzzi, an Italian energy group.

The Indian Gambit – Polaris Puts Harley-Davidson on Notice

04/20/2011 @ 6:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

Before yesterday afternoon, I had a hard time getting excited about Polaris. I think they make snowmobiles…but I’m not sure. This is how engaged with their brands I was, but of course this has all changed with the news that Polaris Industries, Inc. has acquired Indian Motorcycle for still undisclosed terms. Covering the business strategy side of motorcycling for the past two and a half years, I can tell you that there are few moves or decisions that strike me as truly inspired, but that events of the past 24 hours are surly Mensa-worthy.

Before I can talk about Polaris and Indian, I have to talk about another motorcycle company: Harley-Davidson. Kingdoms are fated to topple, but looking at Harley-Davdion and its dominance in the American motorcycle scene, let alone in popular culture, the legacy of the Milwaukee company seems assured to endure the test of time. So many companies have tried to be the next Harley, and all of their failures reinforce that concept that no company does “Harley” better than Harley-Davidson. Virtually creating the the legacy cruiser segment, and Harley-Davidson’s success in this regard is also the double-edged sword that is slowly prostrating the Milwaukee brand.

If I had to give one piece of advice to a company wanting to compete with Harley-Davidson, it would be real simple: don’t. Seemingly at the risk of painting itself into a corner, Harley-Davidson has refined its marketing message so thoroughly that it has honed in on a particular type of rider, and exhibits such a distinct persona of motorcycling that the company’s identity has found itself heading full-speed down a one-way street of branding. Thus the low-hanging fruit of competing with Harley-Davidson is to go after the brand where it cannot go.

Ducati’s Deal with the Devil: A Business Case for the Diavel

03/07/2011 @ 4:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler35 COMMENTS

If you had told me a few years ago that Ducati would build a cruiser-segment motorcycle, I probably would have called you a couple cylinders short of a v-twin. Up until recently, mentioning the thought of the Bologna brand chasing after Harley-Davidson riders would have invited fisticuffs in most Italian motorcycle cafés. And even despite the launch of the Ducati Diavel, you can start a heated debate among loyal Ducatisti by bringing up Italy’s latest power cruiser.

Make no mistake, the 2011 Ducati Diavel is a controversial motorcycle…and that’s putting things lightly (at worst it’s a complete dilution of the Ducati brand). If the Diavel is Ducati’s deal with the Devil, then let me play the Devil’s advocate for a moment, and put forth the business case about why this motorcycle had to be built, and what it means to the Ducati brand — minus the pandering to the Ducati faithful.