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.

MV Agusta Relaunches in USA and Canada

01/10/2017 @ 12:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

It didn’t take long for the news to become officially official, but MV Agusta USA and MV Agusta Canada have come under new ownership, as the Italian brand attempts to relaunch itself in the North American market.

Heading the new efforts is Urban Moto Group, headed by Joseph Elasmar, who imports MV Agusta, Benelli, EBR, Royal Enfield, and other brands into Australia.

According to the their agreement, both MV Agusta and Urban Moto will co-develop the North America territories, with the aim of capitalizing on the region’s large market for big displacement motorcycles.

No Money for New MV Agusta Superbike, Says Castiglioni

12/27/2016 @ 1:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler34 COMMENTS

To call the last couple of years for MV Agusta turbulent would probably be understating the situation.

The company has struggled for financial stability ever since its re-acquisition by the Castiglioni family, and that struggle has recently come to a zenith with the firms debt restructuring and investment by the Anglo-Russian investment group Black Ocean.

With that comes some harsh realities, namely that MV Agusta will not be producing a new superbike any time soon, as the cost of the project exceeds the Italian manufacturer’s capabilities – so said MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni while talking to Alan Cathcart for Australian Motorcycle News.

From Russia with Love, MV Agusta Finds New Money

11/20/2016 @ 1:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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Last week, I was ready to start polishing the obituary for MV Agusta – the Italian company seemingly in an impossibly terminal state.

Italy’s Guardia di Finanza had found that the Italian company had been using the social security contributions of its workers to pay down the money owed to parts suppliers (something MV Agusta disputes is the case), and earlier this year MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni was investigated for irregularities on his tax return.

All of this is on top of the ever precarious financial situation MV Agusta has been in for the past year, which has resulted in the company looking to restructure its €50 million debt in the Italian court system, furlough a good portion of its workforce, and reduce its production volume to roughly 9,000 units per year.

Now it seems MV Agusta’s fortunes are changing, with the Italian motorcycle maker signing an agreement with the Black Ocean investment group to recapitalize MV Agusta.

Details of the pending transaction haven’t been released, but we can assume that the increase in capital will help ease MV Agusta’s relationship with suppliers, get workers back on the assembly line, and continue the development of new models.

Police Find MV Agusta Misused Social Security Funds

11/17/2016 @ 11:39 am, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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More bad news comes from Italy, as MV Agusta has come under investigation by the Guardia di Finanza for allegedly misusing its employees’ INPS contributions (Italy’s national pension system, similar to the USA’s Social Security system), which may have gone to paying bills from suppliers, to the tune of €6.8 million.

To put this into context for our American readers, Italy’s Guardia di Finanza is law enforcement agency that handles financial crimes – its duties and powers are analogous to the intersection on a Venn diagram that is composed of our IRS, FTC, and US Customs bureaus.

Italian businesses are required to pay into the INPS pensions of their employees, and here the Guardia di Finanza has been investigating whether MV Agusta used those funds instead to pay its supplier invoices. MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni denies the allegations, though has some financial issues of his own to contend with.

MV Agusta Introduces Repayment Plan in Court

10/24/2016 @ 6:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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MV Agusta has unveiled in court its plan to get back to financial stability, after seeing cash flow issues reaching a zenith in March 2016.

The plan is exactly as it has been previously advertised by MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni: MV Agusta will reduce its workforce, produce fewer machines, focus on high-margin models, and seek a freeze on its debts to creditors and suppliers.

Whether the Varesini court will accept this plan remains to be seen, it will also require some buy-in from MV Agusta’s creditor and suppliers, who are owed €50 million from MV Agusta.

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.

CEO Tips New MV Agusta Brutale in the Works

06/01/2016 @ 3:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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Many words lately have been spent telling the tale of MV Agusta, as the Italian motorcycle manufacturer is at an interesting crossroads for its future. It’s marriage with Mercedes-AMG failed, and now MV Agusta is in a precarious state, financially.

Because of its financial troubles, the motorcycle brand from Varese, Italy has had to rethink it production goals, and its model lineup.

MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni sat down with Alan Cathcart (that interview is slowly making its way out from the publications that Cathcart works with internationally) about this subject, and many other topics of interest.

One of the more interesting elements to come from their discussion is MV Agusta’s work on a new inline-four platform, and when we can see MV Agusta’s most iconic models getting a refresh.

We originally thought this delayed endeavor would manifest itself in a new superbike platform, with the next-generation MV Agusta F4 debuting shortly, but as Castiglioni reveals, the first new four-cylinder from MV Agusta will not be and F4, and instead will be a Brutale.

Polaris in the MV Agusta Acquisition Mix?

05/27/2016 @ 5:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

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If you believe the rumors coming out of Italy, Polaris is poised to save acquire ailing motorcycle manufacturer MV Agusta.

We have documented MV Agusta’s precarious financial troubles already in great detail, and how MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni is between a rock and a hard place with his main investor, Mercedes-AMG.

According to the Italian media, and those who repeat their words like parrots, Polaris represents an escape from MV Agusta’s difficult position with the German automobile-maker, though the reality is that nothing could be farther from the truth.

MV Agusta Looking to Part Ways with Mercedes-AMG

04/28/2016 @ 2:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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The story of MV Agusta continues with even more interesting developments, as the Italian motorcycle manufacturer seems intent on buying back its shares from Mercedes-AMG, and recapitalizing with new investors.

Talking this week to Italy’s Il Giorno, MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni said that he is “negotiating a buy-back of shares,” though that might be a task easier said than done for the Italian CEO

This is because MV Agusta’s current financial predicament is due primarily from the company’s massive debt accumulation, which now totals over €40 million.

No, MV Agusta Hasn’t Declared Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

03/28/2016 @ 6:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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Despite what you may have read, MV Agusta isn’t declaring protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the United States Code. But, we can understand the confusion.

Just so we are clear, by definition Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings are a figment of American law. Since MV Agusta is an Italian company, it would be fundamentally wrong to say that MV Agusta Motor S.p.A. was seeking a protection under the US Code that pertains to bankruptcy.

The branch of MV Agusta that would be able to file for Chapter 11 would be MV Agusta USA, but the US subsidiary is not embroiled in MV Agusta Motor’s financial troubles, which makes the use of the term incredibly inaccurate.