Some Thoughts on MV Agusta & A Story About Two Letters

MV Agusta USA recently invited a slew of journalists down to Fontana, California in order to talk about the company’s new business plan, and to ride its current lineup of motorcycles on the infield course. This article is “Part 1″ of that experience, as I wanted to separate my thoughts on MV Agusta, MV Agusta USA, and the general motorcycling climate into one story, and then have my “not-a-review” of the machines for another article. Got it? Ok, let’s go. It is probably easiest to start with where MV Agusta is as a company. MV Agusta has a started a new three-year business plan, which sees the company pushing into a full-range of motorcycles, pushing outside of its Italian boundaries, and pushing out of the “luxury” brand segment.

Photos: Ducati Desmosedici GP15

The Ducati Desmosedici GP15 is a machine that has been long in the making. It represents Gigi Dall’Igna’s next step forward for the wayward Ducati Corse MotoGP team, and it is the dubious honor of holding the hopes of Ducati fans around the world, who see the machine as the silver bullet that will return Ducati to the forefront of racing prowess — no pressure. The most obvious change that can be seen on the GP15 is the re-routing of the exhaust, with the undertail pipes collecting on the right-hand side of the machine, rather than coming in from both sides and meeting in the middle. Can you spot any other changes in the high-resolution photos after the jump? Let us know in the comments.

Politics & Corruption: Why There Isn’t a Race in Indonesia

If anyone needed any further proof that Indonesia is important to the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, the fact the Repsol Honda team chose Bali as the location to launch their 2015 MotoGP project should remove any doubt. But if Indonesia is so important to the manufacturers, and to MotoGP, why is there not a race there? Over the course of the MotoGP test at Sepang, I had a few conversations with people on the subject. On the record, the story was always the same: we need a suitable track, and as soon as one exists we will be happy to go there. Off the record, however, they were much less optimistic.

A Requiem for Kenji Ekuan & The Kando of GK Design

Industrial design is not a commonly known, much less well understood, profession. To some it suggests arranging equipment inside factories, to others it means some kind of product engineering. In reality it is the search for, and expression of, human satisfaction in inanimate objects that are mass produced. That’s quite a mouthful, and to the average person it may sound like jiberish written for some pretentious coffee table book, but it is the truth. At least, it is one version of the truth as seen by the GK Design Group of Tokyo, Japan. If you ride motorcycles, then you are intimately familiar with the work of this large and internationally respected studio. Since only its second production bike, the indigenously designed YA-1, every Yamaha motorcycle since 1958 has been crafted by GK.

Are You The MV Agusta F4 RC?

What look to be official photos of the MV Agusta F4 RC have leaked out onto the internet, along with a slide from MV Agusta’s media presentation on the machine. The photos give us our first glimpse into Varese’s homologation special, complete with a special two-can exhaust by Termignoni. The leaked slide confirms some of the numbers being thrown around about the F4 RC, namely that it will have 212hp, 81.86 lbs•ft of torque, weigh 175kg dry, and cost €36,900 (we already know that the MV Agusta F4 RC will cost $46,000 in the USA). Information from a leaked slide last year has already told us that MV Agusta has radically overhauled the F4 RC’s engine, designing a new cylinder heard, new crankshaft, new camshaft, as well as adding bigger fuel injectors, lighter pistons, and titanium connecting rods.

Kenji Ekuan, Designer of the Yamaha VMAX Has Died

Mainstream news is mourning the death of Kenji Ekuan today, as the 85-year-old Japanese industrial designer is one of the most influential artists in Japan’s modern era, and is most well-known for his designing of the iconic Kikkoman soy sauce bottle. Ekuan’s lesser-known works though include a number of motorcycle designs for Yamaha, including the now 30-year-old Yamaha VMAX motorcycle, which makes his passing even more meaningful to motorcyclists around the world. Kenji Ekuan founded GK Industrial Design after WWII, and his company helped shape the way Japan rebuilt itself after the world war.

Ride Review: KTM 1290 Super Adventure

Despite its huge dimensions, not to mention a 30 liter fuel tank, the 2015 KTM 1290 Super Adventure never looks big or bulky. In fact, it is only when you mount the hard luggage that you can tell this bike can really cover long distances. Apart from a dorky little exposed wire from the heated grips near the throttle, the fit and finish is very high-end, especially the integrated curved lighting in the tank — it is quite a sight. At first glance the Super Adventure doesn’t have the massive personality and stance of its German rival, the BMW R1200GS Adventure, but that is in part due to the white color scheme and the absence of the typical beak as a front mudguard. KTM is going about things differently, and that is something that appeals to many riders…including us.

Yamaha VMAX Carbon – Celebrating 30 Years of VMAX

It is hard to believe that the venerable Yamaha VMAX has been around for 30 years (it is even harder to believe that the VMAX has only seen one design revision in that timeframe as well), and so Yamaha is bringing out a special edition model to celebrate this special motorcycle. The 2015 Yamaha VMAX Carbon is exactly as the name implies: a VMAX drag bike laden with lightweight carbon fiber. In total, the VMAX Carbon’s tank cover, front and rear fenders, and side covers are all made from carbon fiber. Yamaha has teamed up with Akrapovic as well, and as such the Slovenian company’s slip-on mufflers complete the exhaust system and the changes to this beastly drag bike.

LEAKED: Here is the 2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse

Cruisers aren’t really our forté, here at Asphalt & Rubber, but breaking stories is…so, without all the typical fanfare, we bring you the first full photos of the upcoming 2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse. The Stead is murdered out and visually appealing, with black engine covers, black fenders, black forks…hell, even the tires are black. Under the hood is Indian’s Thunder Stroke 111 engine, which is an air-cooled 1,811cc v-twin good for 73hp and 100 lbs•ft.More technical features include ABS as standard, a keyless ignition system, cast wheels, and a solo seat. Our Bothan Spies suggest an MSRP of $17,000, and more accessories (all black, natch) than you can fit into the belly of a Tauntaun. Expect to see the Indian Chief Dark Horse launch officially on February 13th elsewhere.

Washington State Weighs Pro Lane-Splitting Law

The Washington State Legislature has a pro lane-splitting bill on its 2015-2016 docket, HB 1515. The law is moderately written, adopting a 10 mph speed differential between the motorcycle and traffic, with a 35 mph speed cap, as acceptable during lane-splitting activities. Loyal Asphalt & Rubber readers will recognize these provisions as being more restrictive than the California Highway Patrol’s now defunct guidelines. Lane-splitting is a near-and-dear topic to us here at A&R, as we believe a national effort to legalize the practice should be mission #1 for the American Motorcyclist Association.

Yet Another Yearly Sales Record for BMW Motorrad

01/19/2015 @ 12:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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We already know that BMW Motorrad broke last year’s sales record…in November, so it is no surprise then that we report that 2014 was another sales record for the Bavarian brand.

Selling 123,495 units last year in total, this means that BMW Motorrad is up another 7.2% in sales — strong and steady growth for the German company, with December selling 7,032 units (+10.9%).

“We can look back on a successful year. For the first time in company history, BMW Motorrad sold more than 120,000 vehicles,” said Stephan Schaller, President of BMW Motorrad

“This is an increase of 7.2% compared to the already outstanding result of the previous year and is the fourth year of record sales in a row. I would like to express my sincere thanks to all our customers for the trust they have placed in BMW Motorrad.”

Polaris Acquires Electric Motorcycle Business from Brammo

01/15/2015 @ 4:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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Polaris Industries has acquired the electric motorcycle business from Brammo, Inc. Polaris is also acting as a leading investor in the recapitalization of Brammo, which will enable Brammo to focus exclusively on the design, development, and integration of electric vehicle powertrains.

This means that Polaris will takeover building electric motorcycles at its Spirit Lake, IA production facility, and that Brammo will continue developing EV powertrains for Polaris and other OEM partners. According to its press release, Polaris will start production of electric motorcycles in the second half of 2015.

Mercedes CEO: No Further Acquisition of MV Agusta

01/13/2015 @ 12:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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Italians are rejoicing over the news that Mercedes-Benz CEO Dieter Zetsche has made it clear that the German car manufacturer is not interested in acquiring more of MV Agusta’s private stock.

Loyal readers will remember that Mercedes-AMG purchased 25% of MV Agusta last October, for a rumored €30 million — echoing the move Audi made in Ducati.

Talking at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit though, Zetsche said “we had a past experience of cross-marketing with Ducati that was promising, but the company was acquired by Audi and the experiment ended.”

“We now have a new partnership with MV Agusta, a very prestigious brand,” the Mercedes CEO continued. “Again, we have established a cross-branding strategy between AMG and MV Agusta and we believe that the two brands are complementary. However, to avoid what happened with Ducati we point out that we have no intention to take over the business or produce motorcycles. MV Agusta can do it better than us.”

Triumph Has Its Best Sales Year Since Its Rebirth

01/13/2015 @ 11:31 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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Good news for Triumph Motorcycles fans, as the British motorcycle marque is reporting a banner year for 2014 — with 54,432 units sold worldwide.

That figure is up 4% over 2013’s sales figure of 52,089 units, which was the first time that Triumph broke the 50,000 unit mark since the company’s rebirth in 1984.

Alta Motors and Logos Technologies Win Second DARPA Award for a 2WD Hybrid-Electric Military Motorcycle

01/09/2015 @ 1:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Eight months ago, we told you about a special project that Alta Motors (formerly named BRD Motorcycles) was working on with Logos Technologies.

The project was a hybrid-electric two-wheel drive motorcycle that US special forces would use. Now called the SilentHawk, Logos Technologies has received a second DARPA award to continue development of this unique motorcycle with Alta Motors.

The Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award from DARPA means that Logos and Alta motors can begin actually building the silent, yet easily refuelable, motorcycle to the weapons cache of the US military, which they proved in concept during Phase I.

BMW Motorrad USA Posts Strong 2014 Sales Figures

01/06/2015 @ 2:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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BMW Motorrad USA has finished the books on 2014, and the American subsidiary is able to report one of its best sales years in the past decade. Up 5.4% over 2013’s sales figures, BMW Motorrad USA saw strong sales from is S-Series of bikes (S1000RR and S1000R), which were up 80% with 254 units.

The R-Series was another strong performer, up 17% with 477 units sold. The 2014 BMW R1200RT was BMW Motorrad USA’s best-selling motorcycle as well, despite the tourer’s suspension issues, which kept the bikes sidelined for several months.

MV Agusta Gets €15 Million Loan for New Business Plan

01/02/2015 @ 7:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Good turns for MV Agusta, as the Italian motorcycle manufacturer has secured a €15 million loan from SACE and Banca Popolare di Milano (BPM).

The loan, which was issued by BPM and guaranteed by SACE, will go towards MV Agusta’s foreign growth plans, namely the company’s strengthening of its US business, and its push into Brazil and Southeast Asia.

The more business-speak version of that statement is that MV Agusta will use the €15 million to implement the company’s 2014-2018 business plan, which has the company expanding its product range and penetrating into “high-potential” markets.

Editor’s Blog: A Last Lingering Thought for 2014

12/31/2014 @ 4:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

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It will be a new year soon, and for some of Asphalt & Rubber‘s more international readers, New Year’s Eve may have already given way to New Year’s Day (Happy New Year, if that’s already the case).

Going through my various feeds, it seems obligatory that we make some sort of Happy New Year proclamation, summarize the stories the site has covered, and share some insight on the inner-workings of our operation here at A&R. The Dude abides, but bear with me first.

KTM’s Austrian Factory Hits 100,000+ Bikes for 2014

12/19/2014 @ 3:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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KTM has been the highest volume producing European motorcycle company for the past two years running, and zie Austrians are looking to make that a trend in 2014.

As such, the Austrian brand will has some stiff competition this year, seeing as BMW Motorrad already broke last year’s sales figure in the first 11 months of this year — an impressive feat, to be certain.

KTM has the advantage of dabbling in small-displacement machines, with KTM-branded bike coming out of India, courtesy of its minority owner Bajaj. The Indian market has been a larger contributor to KTM’s sales success, but things have been growing in Austria as well.

Announcing that the company’s Mattighofen factory reach 100,000 units this year, for the first time ever, KTM is already celebrating some sales success.

Ducati Produces Its One Millionth Motorcycle

12/15/2014 @ 1:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Ducati is celebrating a milestone this week, as the Italian company has produced its one millionth motorcycle — a Ducati Monster 1200 S. The number might be a far cry from Honda’s recent 300 millionth motorcycle milestone, though admittedly the Japanese has made the bulk of that volume in the small-displacement categories.

Nonetheless, the special Monster was handed over directly by Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali to it new owner, 47-year-old Ernesto Passoni — a Ducatista from the Milan area — at an event in the Audi City Lab in Milan (a temporary showroom setup for the Christmas period in the Milan city center).