Polaris Acquires Electric Motorcycle Business from Brammo

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.

Ducati Sets Sales Record for 2014 – 45,100 Bikes Sold

Ducati Motor Holding is reporting another record sales year, and that the Italian motorcycle manufacturer sold 45,100 bikes in 2014. This marks the fifth year in a row that Ducati has shown sales growth, and it’s the third year in a row that the sales figures have been an all-time record for the Italian brand. Sales for 2014 were up 2% over 2013, with the USA again leading as Ducati’s most important market (8,804 units sold in the USA). Unsurprisingly, the Asian market is growing quickly for Ducati as well, up 11% in 2014. Ducati attributes its sales growth in-part to its new water cooler Monster line, where the Ducati Monster 1200 and Ducati Monster 821 helped raise Monster sales by 31%, with 16,409 new bikes sold in 2014.

Newspeak: The Advent of the “Adventure-Sport”

In the past decade the ADV segment has been a confusing amalgamation of differing interests, and over that time-period, two distinct groups have boiled to the surface. First there are the “Long Way Round” hopefuls, who invariably own a BMW R1200GS/A, and seem to be on some sort of perpetual preparation for an African safari. More recently, a second group has appeared: those riders who look to these big ADV bikes as more versatile Sport-Touring machines. All these riders, and their bikes, have been wedged into a single “Adventure” category, and it has created a bit of confusion for the segment. So, I want to introduce the concept of the “Adventure-Sport” and how it differentiates from the previous “Adventure-Touring” category.

MotoGP: Ducati’s Desmosedici GP15 Officially Delayed

As had been widely expected, Ducati will not have the GP15 ready for the first test at Sepang, in early February. In an interview with the MotoGP.com website, due to be shown on 19th January, Ducati Corse boss confirmed that work was still underway on the all-new bike; and that instead, Ducati will be bringing an uprated version of last year’s bike, dubbed the GP14.3, to test aspects of the new design not requiring the new engine. The delays have been trailed by both Dall’Igna and Paolo Ciabatti, speaking to the media at the Valencia test and at the Superprestigio dirt track event in December. The GP15 is a completely new bike, designed from the ground up, with a completely redesigned engine.

1972 Honda CB500, 3D Printed to Life Size

We’ve talked a bit before about the virtues of 3D printing, and how this increasingly affordable technology could change the consumer landscape as far as how we buy basic parts in the motorcycle industry. For as practical as how 3D printing, or rapid prototyping, can be, it can also be beautiful and used for art. This story is sort of a merger of those two ideas. Jonathan Brand has hoped to buy a 1972 Honda CB500 motorcycle, but the birth of his son changed that plan. Where there is a will though, there is a way, and Brand came up with the next best thing — he built a life-size model of a CB500 with his 3D printer.

Mercedes CEO: No Further Acquisition of MV Agusta

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 “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

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. Helping Triumph reach this new high-water mark was the company’s home market, where Triumph accounted for one-in-five motorcycles sold in the UK (over 500cc). Overall, Triumph saw 8% growth in the UK, as modest growth considering the British market was up roughly 10% last year. The news is not all good, however. Triumph previously reported that financial figures for the first-half of 2014 were down, with revenue down £364 million from £369 million, and net income at a loss of £8 million.

Husqvarna 401 Concepts Will Be 2017 Production Models

One of the more intriguing things to come out of the 2014 EICMA motorcycle show in Milan were Husqvarna’s two “401” concepts, the Vitpilen and Svartpilen. The café-styled bikes are based off the KTM 390 Duke platform, though you wouldn’t know it from looking at them. Husqvarna said at EICMA that if there was sufficient interest, the Vitpilen and Svartpilen could go into production. With an overwhelming critical response from the press and fans, it should come no surprise then that our friends at Bike.se are reporting that Husqvarna intends to make the small-displacement machines a part of its 2017 model lineup.

Ducati Desmosedici Cucciolo Concept by Alex Garoli

Imagine if you will that the first Ducati, the Ducati Cucciolo, and the most modern Ducati, the Ducati Desmosedici, had a child — what would it look like? That far-fetched question nagged Mexican designer Alex Garoli, so he decided to build a concept of the machine. At the core of the Ducati Desmosedici Cucciolo is the V4 powerplant of Italy’s MotoGP race bike, and around it Garoli has imagined a modern steel trellis frame that mimics the bicycle frame look of the post-WWII motorized bicycles that pulled Italy out of deep recession. Of course the most interesting thing about Garoli’s concept is the fact that it’s a ~12:1 scale model. The work is pretty exquisite, even if you don’t agree with the concept’s ethos.

Is Suzuki Reviving the Katana and Gamma Names?

Signs of life are starting to trickle out of Hamamatsu, as Suzuki finally seems to be working on new models for our riding pleasure. First, it was the news that the turbocharged Suzuki Recursion concept is likely to go into production, and now it’s that the Japanese OEM is reviving iconic names from its past: Katana and Gamma. Suzuki has re-registered the Katana name & logo with both the European and American trademark offices, while the Gamma logo has been re-registered in the EU. What this means precisely in terms of future models is up for debate. As for the name Katana, the evidence might already be in front of us with the Recursion concept. The Suzuki Katana line started life as a performance-oriented machine, and slowly saw its name watered down into the sport-touring segment.

Ducati Posts 61% Q2 Sales Increase in North America

07/25/2011 @ 10:23 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Ducati North America has posted its Q2 2011 sales figures, and business is apparently booming for the Italian company in the US, Mexican, and Canadian markets, as sales are up 61% in the second quarter of this year. Selling over 5,200 bikes to customers so far this year, Ducati North America’s year-to-date sales are also up an outstanding 63%. Helping drive the sales increases are the extremely popular Multistrada 1200 models and the new Diavel. Along with the already sales-topping Superbike 848 EVO and Monster 796, these models account for most of Ducati’s sales growth.

Videos: The Ducati Diavel Explained

07/14/2011 @ 10:44 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

We’ve already talked at length at how much we liked riding the Ducati Diavel, as the Italian company’s take on the American power cruiser is a peppy and fun machine to ride on the streets and in the canyons. While there’s been plenty of reservations prior to the Diavel’s launch, Ducati seemingly has a winner on its hands as many dealerships in the US are sold-out on the machine, and the Bologna factory just reported that 5,000 units have been sold worldwide already this year (about 1,000 or so of those ending up in the United States).

There’s also a strong business case as to why Ducati had to build the Diavel, and by most journalists’ accounts, the company has successfully walked the line between staying true to the Ducati brand and extending the Italian company’s reach onto riders in other demographics. Shedding some insight onto the development and features of the Ducati Diavel, the Italian company put together a series of videos that expound further on perhaps one of the hottest bikes for 2011.

They’re obviously marketing materials and an overview of some of the Diavel’s core features, but for someone on the fence about buying a new Ducati Diavel, there’s a bit of edutainment to be had here. Find all five videos after the jump.

Recall: Ducati Diavel

07/07/2011 @ 1:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Ducati is recalling 964 units of its Ducati Diavel motorcycle for a faulty license plate holder mount. Affecting Diavels manufactured between September 23, 2010 and May 12, 2011, this recall concerns the brass inserts that are installed in the chain guard, which may deform over time, and result in the possible loosening of the license plate holder retaining screws on the swingarm. Because of this defect, the license plate holder could come loose and interfere with the rear wheel rotation, which could cause a crash.

Behind the Scenes at a Ducati Diavel Commercial

05/19/2011 @ 6:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

We hear the Ducati Diavel is doing quite well in sales, with many dealers reportedly out of stock with the units. Though some dealers still have bikes in stock, namely the ones that jumped on the Diavel bandwagon early-on, it’s clear now that more people than just us here at Asphalt & Rubber were impressed with Ducati’s take on the performance cruiser category. While Ducati’s deal with the Devil got our overall seal of approval, some of this success surely has to be owed to the heavy media blitz from the Italian brand.

Like with the Multistrada 1200 release, Ducati has put the Diavel front-and-center in its marketing machine. Helping win the hearts and minds of the skeptics, Ducati has put together a short video advertisement of the Diavel, and for extra measure, a behind the scenes making of the clip. If you ever wanted to see how much effort goes into a one minute video spot, here’s your chance. Be sure to keep an eye out for the Mercedes-Benz cameo as well. Original advertisement and the behind the scenes footage after the jump.

Recall: Ducati Multistrada 1200 & Ducati Diavel

04/29/2011 @ 2:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Here’s a type of recall that we’ll begin to see more of in the coming years, Ducati North America is recalling 1,051 Diavel and Multistrada 1200 motorcycles because of a faulty software issue. A certain version of the hands free software package may cause the electronic steering lock to fail to disable during the “key on” process.

The result is that a rider would be unable to move their motorcycle, at least not beyond a small radial path. In the eyes of the NHTSA though, this could mean that a rider could start the motorcycle and attempt to ride off, and then realize they lack the ability to steer (read: not good). While the safety issue here seems fairly benign, the idea that one couldn’t get their bike moving because a 0 should be a 1 would be fairly frustrating to us if we were owners of either machine, hence the recall.

How to Steal a Ducati Diavel in 60 Seconds?

04/26/2011 @ 12:20 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Ducati News Today must have gotten the same news tip as us, as a IT security blog is purporting to have information on how one can steal a Ducati Diavel (and presumably a Ducati Multistrada 1200) via the bike’s keyless ignition system. It should be stated up-front that the pos referenced is dated April 5th, with the writer of the blog supposedly discovering this information on April 1st…and well all know what sort of Tomfoolery goes on during that time of the year.

According to the post’s author, the Ducati Diavel can be started not only without having the key in the ignition, but without the key at all. While anyone who has ridden the Diavel knows that you only have to have the key in the proximity of the Diavel while you’re riding, the idea that one can start the bike without the key comes from a default code that comes up when such an act is attempted. Where things get sticky though is that the author claims that this four-digit PIN is set from the factory to be the last four digits of the Diavel’s VIN, and that few owners know of security feature.

Ride Review: 2011 Ducati Diavel

03/17/2011 @ 5:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Even before its launch in Milan last year, the 2011 Ducati Diavel has been the talk of the motorcycle industry since its first spy photo was released. It amuses me that Ducati chose to name the Diavel (say: dee-ahh-vole) after the Bolognese word for the devil. The linguistic foreplay from Ducati is just asking for a response from motorcyclists who feel that Bologna company has over-stepped its prescribed branding boundaries, and sold its soul to the Devil of bottom-line thinking.

While rife with metaphor, there is an important financial reason for the genesis of the Ducati Diavel. As I’ve already explained the business reasons behind Ducati’s choice (or non-choice) to make the Diavel in a previous article. My analysis continues from there, and brings us to the question of: How does the Ducati power cruiser ride, 240mm-wide tire and all?

Setting out to the City of Angels (I seriously couldn’t ask for better fodder from Ducati here), I swung a leg over the Ducati Diavel for a day of riding on some of Los Angeles’s finest and most well know routes. The short answer to how the Diavel fared: damningly well.

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.

Gone Riding: Ducati Diavel

03/04/2011 @ 9:19 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Things will be a little slow on Asphalt & Rubber today, as we’re in Los Angeles testing the new Ducati Diavel. We’ll be spending most of the day figuring out how to turn with a 240mm rear tire, and getting rocketed by the Diavel’s 162hp reported power figure. You can follow our thoughts on the bike via Twitter, and our last five tweets will automatically post here on this post. While we ride The Devil, the press photos of the Diavel after the jump should tide you over until we finish our ride report.

Primer: The Ducati Diavel

03/03/2011 @ 1:25 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Tomorrow Asphalt & Rubber must make the trek down from perfect Northern California, to SoCal and the pits of Los Angeles, where dreams go to die. As we descend down through the lower rings of Dante’s ladder and into hell that is the perpetually sunny and warm Los Angeles, our final destination will in fact bring us face-to-face with The Devil himself. Riding the latest creation from Bologna, the American motorcycle press will get its first chance at the highly anticipated Ducati Diavel.

Since we’ll be bringing you live coverage from the event, and writing a few pieces on Ducati’s stab at the performance cruiser segment throughout the rest of the week, we thought it best to start with a primer on the motorcycle. Find after the jump the 2011 Ducati Diavel‘s technical specs, photographs, and design synthesis, and features.