Up-Close with the Kawasaki Ninja H2

With the track-only Kawasaki Ninja H2R putting out 300hp from its supercharged 998cc displacement, the 200hp Kawasaki Nina H2 street bike seems positively demure, by comparison. Of course, any 200hp machine is more than a handful, and we doubt many H2 owners will keep their machines street legal for very long — it’s been explained to A&R that it doesn’t take much work to uncork the H2…we’re just not sure if that’s a good or bad thing though. Ostentatious might be the best way to describe the new H2. Bringing back forced induction to the sport bike scene is a pretty bold move from Kawasaki, and something we will likely see more of from the Japanese manufacturers.

Indianapolis GP Named Best Grand Prix by MotoGP

At the conclusion of each GP season, an awards ceremony is held to celebrate the year’s champions, crowning the top riders in each category, the top manufacturers, and even the top venue for the season. This year, the honors of the latter went to familiar locale, as the Red Bull Indianapolis GP round was named the “Best Grand Prix” of the 2014 season, making it the first North American round to receive such an honor. Selection criteria for the award included consideration of the venue, promotion, and overall facility operations. For the 2014 race, Indianapolis Motor Speedway once again repaved its infield section, making alterations to several turns in order to facilitate passing and adding to the track’s overall consistency.

Up-Close with the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200

If there’s a motorcycle that launched at EICMA that I wish we had given more coverage to, it would be the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200. The new adventure-sport machine from Ducati is all-new for the next model year, though it would be hard to tell it from the photos. Even our modest collection of “up-close” photos here don’t do justice to the venerable Multistrada. The face of the Multistrada 1200 has been reworked, with the “beak” softened a bit from its falcon-like profile. The intake inlets are larger in appearance, and the headlight housing is noticeably different with its six LED projectors for the Ducati Corner Lights system (on the “S” model). This perhaps makes for an interesting “face” on the motorcycle, and like its predecessor, you will either love it or hate it.

Marco Melandri Returns to MotoGP, with Aprilia

After finishing fifth in the 2014 World Superbike Championship with Aprilia, Marco Melandri will continue with the Italian manufacturer, but switch to the MotoGP paddock for next season. Melandri will join Alvaro Bautista in the Aprilia Racing garage, where they will compete on an updated version of the ART machine, which was originally built to compete under the CRT bike rules. The team, now operated by Gresini Racing, will come up to speed during the 2015 season, and in 2016 they will race with a brand new race bike, which will use the compulsory “open” spec-electronics from Magneti Marelli. For Melandri, the move to MotoGP is a bit of gamble, with Aprilia’s program uncertain.

Up-Close with the Honda RC213V-S Prototype

I can’t decide whether to be elated or disappointed over the Honda RC213V-S prototype, which was debuted this week at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. On the one hand, the RC213V-S lived up to the hype…literally a MotoGP race bike with lights, mirrors, turn signals, and a license plate. On the other hand, for all the waiting and consternation from Honda, what they brought to Milan was a fairly derivative and obvious design. Rumors of a true MotoGP-derived sport bike from Honda have been circling for several years now (closer to a decade, if you’re a reader of MCN), and the project borrows the ethos found in the Ducati Desmosedici RR project, another exclusive GP-bike-for-the-street motorcycle.

The Ducati Streetfighter 848 Is Spared the Axe for 2015

The Ducati Streetfighter lives for another year, as Ducat is showing off the Ducati Streetfighter 848 as a 2015 model year machine at the EICMA show in Milan. There had been doubts about the Streetfighter 848 continuing to be a part of the Ducati lineup going forth, especially as the Italian company has moved away from the 849cc v-twin platform, favoring the 821cc engine variations for the Hypermotard the Monster lines, and the 899cc Superquadro for the Panigale. The Streetfighter was never a big hit in the world market, becoming more of a cult classic machine amongst riders. Combined sales with the Hypermotard account for roughly 20% of Ducati’s annual sales, with the Hypermotard doing the majority of the heavy-lifting in that regard.

Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Prototype

Cruisers really aren’t our cup of tea here at Asphalt & Rubber, which might explain the lack of coverage for America’s gift to the two-wheeled world on our website. That being said, it’s hard to pass on the lurid Moto Guzzi MGX-21 prototype that is on display at this year’s EICMA show. A reworked Moto Guzzi California 1400, the MGX-21 is clad in carbon fiber, matte black paint, and red highlights. The carbon fiber disc wheels are a nice touch too (that’s a 21″ wheel up front, by the way), as are the sweeping lines from the front cowl and fenders. We’re finding ourselves a bit smitten with this Moto Guzzi, as true to the brand, it strays from the cruiser norm. We think you’ll like it too, check out the photos after the jump.

Up-Close with the Honda “True Adventure” Prototype

One of the more anticipated motorcycles at the 2014 EICMA show, off-roaders were expecting to see the new Honda Africa Twin in Milan this week. Instead, Honda trotted out what they’re calling the “True Adventure” prototype. Despite not being a production model, the True Adventure prototype looks ready for prime time, and we got a series of “up-close” photos of the machine. Most obvious is the bike’s parallel twin engine, which is rumored to be 1,000cc in displacement. That sizing/weight class seems to jive with the dual front brake discs, which also sports an ABS tone ring. We can expect Honda to have traction control operating off the front and rear wheel speeds as well, and other electronic packages as well.

Money: Motorcycle Racing’s Biggest Problem

What is the biggest problem in motorcycle racing today? Is it the predominant role electronics are playing, ruining the racing? Is it the ever more restrictive rules imposed, killing bike development and the spirit of Grand Prix racing? Is it the lack of competitive machinery, making it impossible for anyone but a factory rider to win a race? Or is it the dominance of the two top manufacturers, driving costs up and discouraging wider manufacturer participation? You can point to all of those and more as being an issue, but they pale in comparison to the real problem the sport of motorcycle racing faces at the moment: Money. Specifically, the lack of it, and the inability of almost everyone involved in the sport to find ways of raising any. All of the ills of both MotoGP and World Superbikes can be traced back to this single failure.

Investcorp Buys 80% of Dainese for €130 Million

A story we have been chasing for some time now, Lino Dainese has finally found a buyer for his namesake company, Dainese. The purchaser is the aptly named private equity firm Investcorp, which is headquartered in Bahrain, and has additional offices in New York, London, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi. Buying 80% of the company’s stock for a reported €130 million, Investcorp’s valuation of Dainese would therefore be set at €162.5 million. The other 20% of the company is retained by Lino Dainese, himself. Dainese’s future goals rest heavily on its airbag technology, as Dainese plans on bringing D-Air to markets outside of motorsport and sport in general. The company also has an aggressive plan to grow outside of Italy, making a bigger push into North America and developing markets.

AMG Severs Ties with Ducati after Audi Acquisition

04/19/2012 @ 10:29 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

AMG Severs Ties with Ducati after Audi Acquisition Ducati Diavel AMG tank 635x567

The writing was on the wall with this piece of news, as after Audi’s acquisition of Ducati Motor Holdings, AMG has terminated its marketing partnership with Ducati. The announcement should not surprise anyone, as AMG & Ducati were certain to sever ties as soon as Mercedes-Benz bowed out of acquiring Ducati Motor Holding, and Audi was rumored to have picked up the ball.

Marketing with “the other team” surely neither Audi nor AMG wanted Ducati to be associated with the other, and all that remained was some fancy foot-work from the lawyers to end the partnership amicably and swiftly. Needing only a day to do so, we think the language in AMG’s statement after the jump has interesting spin to suggest the suits could have done a better job.

Audi Buying Only Part of Ducati? Daimler Bows Out

04/03/2012 @ 6:05 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Audi Buying Only Part of Ducati? Daimler Bows Out ducati superquadro 635x475

More reports are starting to surface about Audi’s pending purchase of Ducati Motor Holding from Investindustrial. Said last month to have offered the private equity firm somewhere in the neighborhood of €750 million, Reuters is now reporting the figure to have been closer to the €870 million to €875 million range, which is closer to the original rumored offer of €850 million by the German automaker. What is most interesting in the report by Reuters is the notion that Audi is not making an offer to buy all of Investindustrial’s financial position in Ducati Motor Holding, which accounts for about 70% of the company.

Audi Offers €750 Million for Ducati

03/28/2012 @ 11:56 am, by Jensen Beeler34 COMMENTS

Audi Offers €750 Million for Ducati ducati key logo 635x423

According to Italy’s Correrie di Bologna, the Volkswagen Group has made a €750 million bid on Ducati Motor Holdings. Just shy of Investindustrial’s reported €832 million asking price on the Italian motorcycle manufacturer. Reports are also saying that Volkswagen’s due diligence process has uncovered that Ducati has less debt on its books than previously thought (previously rumored to be in the €200 million range), and that the €750 million offer would nearly double  Investindustrial’s initial purchase price of the Italian company.

Said to have until the middle of April to make an offer, the Volkswagen Group’s current proposal is lower than the €850 million originally rumored earlier this month. Despite it being less than Investindustrial’s initial valuation of €1 billion, the deal is said to be close to finalization, with Italian politicians and union members weighing in on the prospect of German involvement with the Italian brand.

Audi to Buy Ducati?

03/12/2012 @ 11:35 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

Audi to Buy Ducati? audi four rings vintage 635x448

It has been almost a year now since we broke the news that Ducati Motor Holding was up for sale, and I still can’t tell if the appropriate metaphor for the ongoing acquisition is a game of musical chairs or Russian roulette. Vying for a seat or putting the chamber to its temple, our latest contestant in “Who Wants to Buy Ducati” is Audi, the four-ringed German car manufacturer. Reported to have a right of first refusal, Audi allegedly has until mid-April to finalize a deal with Investindustrial (Ducati’s main investor) to buy Ducati from the Italian investment group.

Though Ducati sold over 40,000 motorcycles in 2011, the Italian company has roughly €800 million in debt on its books. This means that any company interested in buying Ducati would have to assume the Italian company’s debt onto its own books, which changes the actual purchase price of Ducati dramatically. For its part, Audi is rumored to be making an offer in the €850 million range, which would put the actual purchase value of Ducati at over €50 million, and could put as much as €100 million on the table for Investindustrial to take.

Ducati Valued at €1 Billion – Acquisition Talks Continue

02/13/2012 @ 11:37 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Ducati Valued at €1 Billion   Acquisition Talks Continue Ducati 1199 Panigale S tailight 635x444

The big non-racing news today is that Ducati is reportedly up for sale, with a price tag of €1 billion. To be honest, I’m fairly amused by how many emails I found in my inbox on this topic, and by how far this news item is spreading in the motorcycle news sector today. The buzz of course is that Ducati may be purchased by any number of large manufacturing firms, with smart money on a European automaker.

Either asleep at the switch for the past year, or just grossly inept at understanding financial news (guys, there is a big difference between one billion euros and one billion pounds), collectively the motorcycle news industry is reporting on an story that we first published nine months ago like it is a shot out of the dark.

For those that missed our ongoing coverage of the topic, Investindustrial actively spent the better part of 2011 looking to divest its majority position in Ducati Motor Holdings, and was in serious talks with Mercedes-Benz over the acquisition. Our Bothan Spies told us back in April that Investindustrial was very eager to sell Ducati to Mercedes-Benz, while the zie Germans were being very, well German about the whole thing.

With nothing coming to fruition on the Mercedes deal, Ducati again made waves in August when it was reported that the company was interested in making a private stock offering in 2012. Today’s news of course is the logical extension of that announcement, as it is both 2012 and Investindustrial is rumored to be in talks with several possible private buyers for Ducati. While none of this news should surprise anyone, what is of note is the price tag being attached to Ducati is €1 billion.

Ducati North America Posts Strong 2010 Q3 & Q4 Numbers

01/21/2011 @ 12:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Ducati North America Posts Strong 2010 Q3 & Q4 Numbers Ducati Multistrada 1200 three colors 635x423

BMW isn’t the only company weathering the storm in the motorcycle industry, as Ducati North America has released some of its own numbers from 2010. At the top of the highlight list is Ducati North America’s 35% increase in December 2010 sales over December 2009’s sales figures.

Also bucking the trend was DNA’s growth in Q3 & Q4 of 2010, where the company sold 8% & 9% more motorcycles respectively than in the same quarters in 2009. Compare that to the North American motorcycle industry averages, which saw a 15% decrease in Q3 and 14% decrease in Q4 last year.

Michael Lock Officially Leaving Ducati North America

07/16/2010 @ 10:45 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Michael Lock Officially Leaving Ducati North America Michael Lock Think electric car

UPDATE: Michael Lock has announced that he has taken on the role of Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at Think, an electric car manufacturer.

Asphalt & Rubber broke the news last week that Michael Lock was leaving Ducati North America before the company even knew it, and now the news that Michael Lock is leaving Ducati North America is finally official. Leaving the company in two weeks at the end of July, Lock will be moving on to pursue other interests.

Ducati Holdings Vice President of Sales Cristiano Silei will takeover at Ducati N.A. in the interim, as the company looks for a new CEO. With such short-notice on Lock’s departure, we’re left pondering why the successful CEO is leaving the company, more as we find it. Press release after the jump.