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.”

Leaked: Ducati 1199 Panigale R Superleggera Detail Photos

10/11/2013 @ 12:31 am, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

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The leaks from Ducati keep coming in, and now we have our first photos of the Ducati 1199 Panigale R Superleggera and its tasty details. Stripped of its carbon fiber fairings, we can see where all those magnesium, titanium, and carbon pieces reside on the Superleggera’s rolling chassis.

Asphalt & Rubber has gotten its hands on 16 detail photos of the new Ducati Superleggera, and they are waiting for you after the jump. Our apologies in advance for the insane watermarks, but some people just don’t understand the internet. Other publications should feel free to use our photos, provided they cite their source and link back to Asphalt & Rubber — easy, right?

Ducati 1199 Terracorsa by MotoCorsa

10/02/2013 @ 3:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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The Ducati 1199 Panigale is a formidable machine on the track, something I witnessed first-hand with the at the international press launch for the Ducati 1199 Panigale R at the Circuit of the Americas.

Between the Panigale’s frameless chassis design, high-revving Superquadro motor, and bevy of electronics, Ducati has refined its superbike offering to consumers, and really honed in on making the best street bike possible.

But what if your calling takes you off of the asphalt? Enter the Ducati 1199 Terracorsa by MotoCorsa — yes, the same crazy bastards that made the SeDUCATIve and MANigale calendar photo shoots.

Q&A: Claudio Domenicali Talks Frameless Chassis, Sacred Cows, & The Future for Ducati

05/06/2013 @ 11:04 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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When I sat down with Claudio Domenicali at the Ducati 1199 Panigale R launch, the now-CEO of Ducati Motor Holding was still just the General Manager of the Italian motorcycle company. Four weeks after our interview though, Gabriele del Torchio would leave Ducati for Alitalia; and Domenicali, a 21-year veteran of both the racing and production departments of Ducati, would take his place at the top of Italy’s most prestigious motorcycle brand.

An engineer by education, I found Domenicali just as astute about the nuances of Ducati’s brand as he was skilled on the race track earlier in the day. Our conversation was brief compared to other interviews we have done here at Asphalt & Rubber, but we had time to talk about why the frameless chassis of the Panigale still works while the MotoGP program struggles, the links between Ducati and Ducati Corse, sacred cows for the Italian brand, and the company’s future direction.

Concise, yet insightful, the more I think about Domenicali’s unexpected succession of Del Torchio, the more I think he is the right man for the job. With all the worried talk about the possible “Germanification” of Ducati by its new owners Audi, the German automaker has picked someone who is keenly aware of the importance of the company’s racing operations and heritage, and how that ties into the Ducati brand and what it means to Ducatisti around the world.

With all the internal and external changes that are occurring in the company, Ducati is currently in a state of flux with its new owners, new product lines, and new world-growth plans, and could easily lose its way as a brand, but I see Domenicali as an anchor for Ducati going forward. Greeted to his new job by the revving engines of his employees outside his office window, Domenicali to me now seems like the logical pick for Ducati’s new CEO. After reading our interview from Austin, Texas after the jump, I think you will agree too.

How the Ducati Superbike 999 Wasn’t a Sales Flop & Other Ducati Superbike Sales Statistics

03/29/2013 @ 3:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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Sales figures are a closely guarded secret in the two-wheeled realm, especially when it comes to numbers for specific motorcycle models. It is a shame really, as these are the kind of numbers that we here at Asphalt & Rubber love to pour over for hours, looking for insights, trends, and meanings. So for us, the above graph is made of pure motorcycling gold.

Taken from the Ducati 1199 Panigale R international press launch, where Ducati Motor Holding’s General Manager Claudio Domenicali shared with the assembled journalists the first-year sales figures for each of the Italian company’s Superbike models, the above is a direct recreation of the presentation’s slide, which unsurprisingly Ducati didn’t include when it handed us a copy of the PowerPoint presentation.

In the age of computers and smartphones, not to mention a room full of moto-journalist, it is hard to imagine how Ducati didn’t foresee this information being disseminated to the public, but I digress. After the jump are some of my initial thoughts from looking at the data on each model. We’ll be playing more with this information in the coming days as well.

101 Photos of the Ducati 1199 Panigale R

03/19/2013 @ 1:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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The international press launch for the Ducati 1199 Panigale R is taking place this week, and the world’s top motorcycle-journalists are lapping Bologna’s latest bullet around the new Circuit of the Americas race course outside of Austin, Texas.

Helping make the occasion extra special, MotoGP riders Nicky Hayden and Ben Spies are in attendance, doing what they do best on two wheels. Since the two Ducati riders did not participate in the private test at Austin, that HRC and Yamaha Racing held last week, this photo-op was their first outing on the track.

Asphalt & Rubber will be swinging a leg over the Panigale R on Thursday, which means we have two painfully long days until we can see the machine in person. There are 101 hi-res snaps after the jump, taken by the great Gigi Soldano, Marco Campelli, Andrew Wheeler, and Scott Jones (yes! the Scott Jones!).

Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 Priced at €134,900

01/31/2013 @ 1:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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Correction: The article originally stated that the price for the RS13 was €34,900, when it is in fact €134,900. And for the love of god, don’t call Ducati Corse trying to buy one. They won’t sell a Rs13 to you.

Unless your name rhymes with Tarlos Techa, the chances of you owning a Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 are non-existent. The professional racer-only version of the Ducati 1199 Panigale R, the Panigale RS13 is stripped of all the lights, mirrors, reflectors, and other assorted running gear that you would need to pass an inspection from the DOT, and becomes a motorcycle solely dedicated to the art of going fast.

Before any comparisons are made, it is important to note that the Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 is not exactly what ends up on the starting grid on any given Sunday, but instead is the starting point for each racing team’s development program, which sees the end result often being a 200+ hp monster on two wheels.

Getting one isn’t cheap though, as the price tag is pegged at a cool €134,900 ($180,500). A hefty price increase over the street-going Panigale R, though with all the added suspension, brakes, wheels, etc that come with the RS13 race bike, the price seems somewhat reasonable — if you can say such a thing about a nearly $180,500 motorcycle.

Ducati 1199 Panigale S Nero by Commonwealth Motorcycles

01/24/2013 @ 12:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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Visual aesthetics have always been something of import and interest to me, a trait that is probably tied into the fact that I am visual learner. So it interests me when we see subtle changes having a great affect on a design.

Take the new Repsol livery on the 2013 Honda RC213V — the simple change from black to white creates a significantly different visual understanding of the MotoGP bike, though the basic idea of the livery remains the same.

We can see the same process with the Ducati 1199 Panigale S Nero by Commonwealth Motorcycles, as the Kentucky-based Ducati shop has massaged in a bit black paint on the already stunning Ducati 1199 S Tricolore paint scheme (work by Robbie Nigl of Peach Pit Racing).

The effect? A whole new take on an already very classy looking machine. Nice work guys…now let’s talk about posting some hi-res photos next time, eh? Far too small pictures are after the jump.

Ducati North America Posts All-Time Sales Record for 2012

01/17/2013 @ 2:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Ducati North America is reporting that 2012 was its best all-time retails sales year, with the Italian brand selling 10,883 units last year. This figure means that roughly a quarter of all Ducati motorcycles sold in 2012 were sold in North America, again solidifying the market’s #1 importance to the Bologna Brand.

For an added bonus, Ducati North America is also reporting 10 consecutive quarters of increased sales, with 2012 as whole growing 21% compared to 2011. With every sales region in the US growing in volume, the United States saw 21% growth overall, with Canada (25%) and Mexico (7%) adding to the cause as well. On the non-bike side of things, Ducati North America’s line of apparel and performance parts saw 42% in growth.

Just How Big of a Sales Hit Was the Ducati 1199 Panigale?

12/10/2012 @ 1:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

It is no secret that Ducati had high hopes for the Ducati 1199 Panigale when it debuted the machine at the 2011 EICMA motorcycle show, and the Italian superbike certainly has proven itself to be popular with new motorcycle buyers in 2012. Selling 7,500 units worldwide so far this year, the Panigale is one of Ducati’s best selling motorcycles ever, and accounts for roughly 17% of the Italian company’s sales for this year (2012 being Ducati’s best sales year ever).

A Quarter Century of Ducati Superbikes in Photos

11/19/2012 @ 9:25 am, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

Ducati superbikes are a legend in their own right, with a racing career the spans much father back in history than just the past two decades. Grabbing press kits for the 2012 EICMA show though, I stumbled across these photos from the Ducati Museum at Borgo Panigale factory.

Starting with the Ducati 851, and going all the way forward in time to the newly released Ducati 1199 Panigale R, it is interesting to see the progression in design and technology among the models (if you are into this sort of thing, be sure to checkout our 33 years of Suzuki endurance road racing bikes post).

Get your history lesson on after the jump with some high-resolution motorcycle goodness, and be sure to mention your favorite Desmo in the comments.