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.

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.

Ducati CEO Confirms V4 Superbike Project

01/21/2017 @ 7:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler77 COMMENTS

At the launch of its 2017 MotoGP team, Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali confirmed to the assembled press that the Italian marque was working on a V4 superbike, which echoes the rumors we have heard over the past two years. 

It shouldn’t surprise readers to hear that the model’s development comes directly from Ducati’s work in MotoGP, which is based around the 1,000cc 90° V4 engine that currently powers the Ducati Desmosedici GP race bike.

“The engine development we have made in MotoGP is exceptional,” Domenicali told our man David Emmett at the MotoGP team launch. “We have an engine which is very reliable, very light, compact and has a lot of interesting technology. We are seriously thinking of introducing it to regular customers, because it is a masterpiece of engineering.”

“Of course, translated into a something that can be sold for a reasonable, if not premium price,” Domenicali added. “So, it will not be a kind of exotic bike like the Desmosedici, but a more regular high-end sport bike.”

Ducati Sold Over 55,000 Motorcycles in 2016

01/16/2017 @ 9:58 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Ducati Motor Holding has finished counting how many bikes it sold last year, and the official tally is 55,451 units were sold worldwide in 2016. That figure is up from the 54,809 sold in 2015, for a modest gain of 1.2%.

This result means two things: 1) 2016 was the best sales year ever for Ducati, in terms of volume, and 2) 2016 was the seventh year in a row where Ducati has posted sales growth – no easy feat considering the economic climate. 

“Ending the year of our 90th anniversary with yet another record is a source of immense pride and satisfaction,” said Claudio Domenicali, CEO of Ducati Motor Holding. “2016 was the seventh consecutive growth year for Ducati, clearly confirming the soundness of the Bologna-based group’s strategy and skills.”

Ducati CEO Quashes Four-Cylinder Superbike Rumor

09/24/2015 @ 9:52 am, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

ducati-superquadro-engine

Well, the fun is over. Talking to MCN, Claudio Domenicali has laid to rest any rumors about the Ducati building a four-cylinder superbike to replace the Panigale.

The news confirms what everyone already expected to be the case, as it is hard to imagine a Ducati superbike model being anything other than a v-twin, World Superbike rules be damned.

“I can confirm there is no officially confirmed project at Ducati for a four-cylinder engine to replace the Panigale V-twin,” Domenicali confirmed to MCN. “There is no Ducati four-cylinder superbike planned.”

Ducati CEO Leaves the Door Open for a Scooter Model

03/10/2015 @ 6:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

1965-ducati-brio

In a recent interview by Moto.it with Claudio Domenicali, the Ducati CEO fielded a number of questions about the Italian company’s business and its relationship with its German owners (read it here in Google English), but one question was of particular interest: a Ducati Scooter.

The often rumored, often debated, and often denied subject is perhaps the most feared topics for Ducatisti, and it ranks generally just below discussions on which oil to use, which tires are best, and how to break-in a motorcycle engine properly.

That being said, it seems we are headed for another round of debate, as Domenicali is quoted as saying the following to Moto.it: “a scooter marked Ducati is not blasphemy.”

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 Produces Its One Millionth Motorcycle

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

one-millionth-ducati-motorcycle

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).

Watch Ducati Unveil Its 2015 Models Right Here

10/29/2014 @ 8:29 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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The 2014 EICMA show officially starts on Tuesday, November 3rd, though Ducati typically holds a private event the Monday ahead of the show, likely in the hope to get a little extra space on the news cycle, and to help build buzz ahead of Tuesday’s opening day for press and trade. The event is usually open to VIP and press only, but that’s about to change this year.

Setting up a live stream of the pre-EICMA unveiling on YouTube, Ducatisti around the world will be able to see Claudio Domenicali introduce the all-new Ducati Multistrada, with its new Testastretta DVT engine, as well as the 1299 superbike. We can also expect some “bold new graphics” changes to several models, and Domenicali will reintroduce the Ducati Scrambler as well.

It’s a pretty good show the few times A&R has attended, and it’s interesting that we are just now seeing OEMs embrace streaming technology for unveils like this. Of course, it has the downside of making it difficult to un-invite rogue journalists at the last-minute…maybe that’s cause enough in the slow movement for change.

Watch the live steam after the jump, starting November 3rd at 5:15pm Central European Time.

Has Ducati Built a Bridge Too Far with the Scrambler?

09/16/2014 @ 7:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

ducati-scrambler-instagram

Bologna is readying to debut the Ducati Scrambler ahead of the INTERMOT show, in case you missed the bevy of “spy” photos, the World Ducati Week unveil to attendees, the dedicated Tumblr website, the Instagram account, and the claymation animated video series…

A more modern riff on the Ducati models of the 1960’s, the 2015 Ducati Scrambler will unveil to the public in a couple weeks’ time, and the model is another motorcycle from Ducati that speaks to outside the core Ducatisti demographic. But, is the new Ducati Scrambler a bridge too far for the Italian brand?

I have talked before about Ducati’s process of brand extension as it related to the launch of the Ducati Diavel, as the iconic Italian brand moved past being a “sport bike brand” and into a robust full-feature motorcycle marque.

Since that writing, we have seen the breakdown of the Italian dream team that was Valentino Rossi and Ducati Corse in MotoGP, the floundering of Ducati’s World Superbike efforts with the Ducati 1199 Panigale superbike, a stagnation of the company’s yearly growth in terms of motorcycle sales volume, and the abandonment of Ducati’s iconic air-cooled motors (the Scrambler will likely be the last Desmo Due from Bologna).

Where Ducati Motor Holding crescendoed under the leadership of Gabriele del Torchio, growing constantly in unit sales, pushing into new market segments with ease, and debuting compelling new motorcycles year-after-year, this next stanza written by Claudio Domenicali has been more of a coda to Ducati’s symphony of progress.

Ducati 1199 Superleggera Enters Production

03/29/2014 @ 4:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

Ducati-1199-Superleggera-EICMA-detail-35

Word from Italy is that Ducati has begun production on the Ducati 1199 Superleggera superbike, the Italian firm’s “Super Light” version of the Panigale. Crafted from copious amounts of magnesium, titanium, and carbon fiber, the Superleggera might be one of the few motorcycles that looks better naked without its fairings, rather than all buttoned up and ready for the race track.

Make no mistake, the Superleggera is an exercise of engineering prowess (it sports the highest power-to-weight ratio of any production motorcycle in history), so it makes sense then that the Superleggera is said to be the pet project of former Ducati engineer, and current Ducati CEO, Claudio Domenicali.

Creating a video to celebrate the commencement of Ducati’s production run on the Ducati 1199 Superleggera, it is no mistake then that Domenicali features heavily in it — this is one proud papa. Only 500 lucky Ducatisti will be able to share in that pride of ownership, as the Superleggera production will be extremely limited. What follows might be the closest you will ever get to one.

Analyzing Ducati’s 2014 MotoGP Launch

03/16/2014 @ 11:34 pm, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS

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If you wanted proof that things are changing at Ducati, you need look no further than the launch of their MotoGP team.

In years past, it was an outrageously flamboyant affair, a veritable extravaganza hosted by Philip Morris to showcase their two motor sports projects, the Ducati MotoGP team and the Ferrari Formula One squad.

Held at the upmarket Italian ski resort of Madonna di Campiglio, the event even had a proper showbiz name: Wrooom. All that was missing was an exclamation mark.

Ducati’s 2014 launch was very different. Held not in Italy, but in Munich and Ingolstadt, on premises owned and operated by Ducati’s current owners, Audi.

The team presentation at the Audi Forum at Munich airport, the unveiling of the livery in the evening, at the Audi Gebrauchtwagen Plus center in Munich, then to Audi headquarters in Ingolstadt the following day, for the presentation of the Germany company’s annual report to the press.

If the Wrooom event had been flamboyant and over the top, the 2014 launch was serious, focused, yet still stylish. It felt very much like Italy versus Germany, and Germany won.

There was another difference too. Despite the media having been present at both Sepang tests and the Phillip Island tire test, there was still some real meat for journalists to get their teeth into in Munich.

Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall’Igna, MotoGP project leader Paolo Ciabatti, Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali, head of technical development at Audi Ulrich Hackenberg, even the riders Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow all had something new to add. It was much, much more interesting than expected.