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.”

Skully Officially Closes, So Just How SOL Are You Actually?

08/06/2016 @ 3:35 am, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

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Skully on Friday finally acknowledged what has already been known in the motorcycling community: the company was going out of business. The news comes after a last-minute effort by the remaining management to secure a new round of funding.

With $15 million down the drain, work still to do before the Skully AR-1 would be ready to ship, and a growing group of disgruntled early adopters, Skully’s resurrection was not to be.

Instead in a letter to backers and customers, Skully announced that it would be filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the bankruptcy procedure for companies that are going out of business. This news, of course, directly impacts the thousands of motorcyclists who were expecting to receive a Skully AR-1 helmet.

Is the Presidential Election Hurting Harley-Davidson’s Sales?

08/03/2016 @ 3:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler48 COMMENTS

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No matter your political leanings, you cannot deny that the upcoming presidential election is grabbing a lot of headlines, and dominating our social discourse – and that is perhaps the way it should be, as electing the leader of the free world is no trivial matter.

Whoever leads the United States of America after January 20th will have a dramatic affect, not only on the American public sector, but also on the American private sector. The daily business and life of America are intrinsically linked to this country’s politics.

It is therefore not that uncommon to hear of American business leaders voicing their opinions, and endorsing political candidates for office – sometimes they themselves even run for office – so, maybe we shouldn’t be that surprised to hear that Harley-Davidson CEO Matthew Levatich weighed in on the 2016 election cycle.

It is a bit surprising to hear what he has to say though…

MV Agusta In Talks with New Investors

08/01/2016 @ 2:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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News out of Italy is that MV Agusta is courting not one, but three potential investors that would takeover Mercedes-AMG’s stake in the two-wheeled company.

As we have covered extensively already, MV Agusta is in quite the precarious financial position, with cash flow issues compounding the unhappy marriage between the Italian motorcycle-maker and the German automobile manufacturer.

MV Agusta would like to divest Mercedes from its business, but that comes with complications involving the immediate payback of debts, should Mercedes-AMG’s position in MV Agusta drops below 20%.

In order to make that divesture, MV Agusta would need not only an investor who would bring sizable amounts of cash to the table to keep MV Agusta’s business running, but one who can also cover the €15 million debt whose payment would be triggered by Mercedes-AMG’s business departure.

Got an Hour? Watch This Valentino Rossi Movie Series

07/29/2016 @ 2:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Monster Energy’s five-part video series on Valentino Rossi has finally come to its conclusion, and for fans of The Doctor, it is roughly an hour of video that hammers home the continued idolization of the Grand Prix motorcycle racer that many refer to as The G.O.A.T. or Greatest Of All Time.

Episode One gives us the genesis story of Valentino Rossi as a motorcycle racer, and as a popular figure. The episode, along with the series as a whole, relies on Rossi’s inner circle to tell most of the Italian’s story, and the episode sets the stage for things to come.

Mugello is the epicenter of the second episode, as it sets the tone for the motorcycle racing culture in Italy, and the iconic race track has been home to a number of Rossi’s post-race antics and famous one-off helmet designs.

The third episode focuses on The Ranch, Valentino Rossi’s flat track course and training facility in Tavullia, Italy. The dream of any rider, you can tell that Rossi is proud of his creation, and what it affords him to do with honing his tradecraft, as well as hanging out with his friends.

Episode Four basks in the yellow glory that is Valentino Rossi. This episode is the neon wet dream of all hardcore Valentino Rossi fans, as it shows not only Rossi’s impressive racing career, but also sets a narrative for how Valentino has shaped the MotoGP Championship.

The final installment is the moneymaker, with obvious nods and plugs for Valentino Rossi’s various business enterprises, sponsors, and partnerships.

In a less schwarmy way though, the fifth episode also takes a look at the VR46 Academy, which is developing the talent of young Italian racers. This is critical element not only to Valentino Rossi’s legacy, but the continued Italian powerhouse in motorcycle racing.

Love him or hate him, you cannot deny the racing talent and business juggernaut that Valentino Rossi has become. Any true MotoGP racing fan owes it to themselves to spend some time watching these videos, even if they make you curiously thirst for a Monster Energy drink.

We have all five of them waiting for you, after the jump.

Harley-Davidson Q2 2016 Sales Down 1.9%

07/28/2016 @ 12:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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Harley-Davidson released its second quarter sales results today, showing the Bar & Shield brand taking a dip in sales in Q2 2016.

According to its report, Harley-Davidson sales are down 1.9% worldwide, a figure that is due mostly to the company’s performance on its home turf in the USA, which are down 5.2% when compared to Q2 2015.

In fact, Harley-Davidson sales abroad saw a modest gain of 4.3%, but since the iconic American brand still sells roughly two-thirds of its units here in the United States, the sales trends here steer the company’s fate heavily.

To that tune, Harley-Davidson notes that the US motorcycle industry as a whole is down 8.6% in Q2 2016 – a fair point to make, but it is also skewed by the fact that Harley-Davidson accounts for one-in-two of every new motorcycle sold in the USA.

Skully Closes Its Doors and Ceases Operations

07/26/2016 @ 2:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler45 COMMENTS

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It was just two weeks ago that we told you about Skully’s investors ousting brothers Marcus Weller and Mitch Weller from the San Francisco startup, and today TechCrunch reports that the motorcycle helmet company will be rather swiftly closing its doors.

A&R readers may remember that Skully’s latest delay to market stemmed from the Skully AR-1 helmet not being ready for mass production, despite the nearly $15 million raised through seed money and a Series A funding round, which was led by Intel Capital.

As such, the closure surely stems from Skully’s investors choosing to shut down the company’s operations, rather than rebuild Skully’s tarnished reputation and retool its product for mass production.

According to TechCrunch, operations at Skully have already ceased, and the website is expected to go offline later today, though as of this writing Skully’s website remains, and its social marketing team is still on Facebook cooling the heels of angry customers.

Italian Court Rules Benelli into Bankruptcy

07/25/2016 @ 4:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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The story of Italian motorcycle companies falling into bankruptcy is not a new one, but Benelli’s version of the narrative is a strangely interesting departure from the norm. Let us explain.

Things apparently kicked off when Benelli failed to pay WP Suspension roughly €120,000 for suspension pieces. WP eventually took Benelli to court, despite the Italian company’s commitment to repay its debt.

An Italian court in Pesaro then declared Benelli bankrupt, and ordered the sum owed to be paid. Somewhere in this process, some of Benelli’s completed motorcycles were seized by a trustee, as collateral for payment.

This spurred Benelli’s Chinese owners, the Qianjiang Group, to release a statement after the court’s ruling, saying that the Italian brand is strong, and has ample cash on-hand to repay its debts (rumored to be in the €1 million range), and has already begun doing so.

BMW Invests in Motorcycle Tracking App Rever

07/19/2016 @ 3:41 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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Rever, the popular motorcycle route tracking app for smartphones, just got a serious boost today. The news sees BMW’s investing arm, BMW i Ventures, investing in the social media company, while BMW Motorrad will form a strategic partnership with Rever as well.

Details about the deal are a bit vague beyond the aforementioned, though one can logically deduce that BMW will be able to use the Rever platform for its riders, adding a connected social element for BMW Motorrad.

Of course for Rever, this means the startup has the backing of one of the strongest motorcycle brands in the world, along with a strategic investment – a two-fer for the Colorado company.

Skully Investors Oust Founders, Marcus & Mitch Weller

07/13/2016 @ 12:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

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TechCrunch is reporting, and our sources have confirmed, that the investors behind the Skully AR-1 helmet have ousted one of the company’s founders, Marcus Weller, along with his brother Mitch Weller. For those who don’t know, Marcus Weller was Skully’s CEO, while Mitch Weller served as the company’s Chief of Staff.

The departure of the Weller brothers comes after Skully continually missed its delivery deadlines with its first product, the Skully AR-1, which is a helmet with an integrated rear-facing camera, small computer system, and heads-up-display oculus.

The Skully AR-1 helmet debuted to much fanfare, but it soon became clear that the company’s leadership wasn’t up to the task on delivering the promises they were making to the public. Seemingly on a different page with their investors as well, Marcus and Mitch Weller were fired by the company’s Board of Directors.

It looks like Martin Fitcher, Skully’s current COO, will take over the reigns for the company, or what’s left of it, as its new CEO. Hopefully this means that Skully will finally get on the right path and begin delivery helmets to its plethora of early backers. We are not holding our breath, however.

Harley-Davidson Takeover Rumors Spur Wall Street, Again

07/07/2016 @ 9:59 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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If you believed the reports from the financial sector, Harley-Davidson is a prime candidate right now for a hostile takeover by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR), a global private equity firm.

The news sent shockwaves through Wall Street, with Harley-Davidson’s stock gaining 20% in value in a single day, as investors tried to capitalize on the news.

You are just hearing about this news on Asphalt & Rubber though for two reasons, 1) I’ve been on either a motorcycle, plane, trolley, or car for the past few days (just getting back from Italy), and 2) we have seen this all this before, and it wasn’t pretty.