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.

Marco Melandri Convicted of Tax Evasion in Italy

10/26/2012 @ 10:17 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

Marco Melandri has been given a suspended jail term of one year and seven months for tax evasion by a court in his home town of Ravenna. Melandri was found guilty of trying to evade taxes during the period he lived in Derby, in the UK, the court finding that Melandri’s residence for tax purposes should have been in Ravenna, Italy, Melandri’s home town.

Melandri was a resident in the UK to take advantage of the British non-domiciled resident status, which allows wealthy non-UK citizens with large incomes from sources outside the UK to avoid paying tax on that income. Melandri was one of several riders who had elected to have their residence in Britain for precisely that reason.

As California Legalizes Self-Driving Cars, Are Motorcycling’s Days Numbered?

09/26/2012 @ 7:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler38 COMMENTS

The movement of transportation as a commodity continues, as California has become the second state to legalize the use of automated cars on its roadways (Nevada was first).

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law today SB 1298, which specifically legalizes the use of autonomous vehicles, as long as a licensed and bonded operator is in the vehicle’s driver seat.

Essentially legitimizing what was a legal grey-area, what the bill does does explicitly is green-light more autonomous vehicle projects in the Golden State.

With applications from the trucking industry to the car-sharing, and everything in-between, the advent of autonomous four-wheelers signals an interesting, yet scary, future for motorcyclists.

According to former Ford/Chrysler/GM-man Bob Lutz, self-driving cars could be the norm in as few as 20 years — an idea the could materially change the driving landscape as we know it.

As autonomous vehicles become increasing the status quo on the road, user-guided vehicles like motorcycles will become greater outliers, and could face a tyranny of the majority.

US Senate Ponders Electric Motorcycle Tax Credit Extension

08/07/2012 @ 4:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

A pivotal moment on Capital Hill for the electric motorcycle segment, as the US Senate Finance Committee has green-lit a bill that would extend tax credits for on-road electric vehicles, which include electric motorcycles. The measure now goes to the full body of the US Senate for voting, and if passed, then$2,500 in tax credits will continue to be given on electric vehicle purchases.

“Without an extension of this tax credit for the purchase of electric motorcycles, we could be stifling this innovative new industry in its infancy,” said Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon). A testament to the lobbying power of electric motorcycle manufacturers, Sen. Wyden is at least correct in his assessment that the federal and state subsidies available to electric vehicle manufacturers create a tipping-scale advantage for this fledgling industry.

European Union Approves Audi’s Acquisition of Ducati

07/05/2012 @ 3:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

The final rubber stamp of approval to Audi AG’s acquisition of Ducati Motor Holding, the European Commission has cleared the transaction of any antitrust red tape. A deal that was over a year in the making, the German automaker bought the Italian motorcycle company for a cool €860 million, including debt. Positioning Audi, and its parent-company Volkswagen, to take-on the likes of the BMW Group, the deal was met with mixed-emotions in the automotive and motorcycling communities during its announcement.

CDC Says $3 Billion Saved in 2010 Thanks to Helmet Laws

06/15/2012 @ 7:25 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

The US Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued an interesting report regarding the economic impact of motorcycle helmet laws, based on data from 2008-2010. While the takeaway shouldn’t surprise anyone, as it doesn’t take a genius to understand that more riders helmeted means fewer fatal crashes from motorcycles, the figures coming from the CDC with that observation are a bit shocking.

According to the statistical analysis done by the CDC, riders wearing helmets during a motorcycle crash were 37% less likely to receive fatal injuries than riders that were not wearing a helmet. Additionally, states with universal helmet usage laws are estimated to have save 4x as much in economic costs associated with medical, productivity, insurance, legal, and other expenses. For 2010, the total economic impact of having helmeted riders topped $3 billion in savings. Chewy.

California “Liberates” OHV Funds for Non-OHV Purposes

06/04/2012 @ 12:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Despite being the eighth largest in the world, California is fairly upside-down when it comes to the state’s balance sheet. Looking for places to make up the difference, California has had to make some hard choices with its budgets and cash reserves.

One such choice of course has an effect on our dirt-loving two-wheeled brethren. With roughly $60 million in the Off-Highway Vehicles Trust Fund sitting on the books, the California State Assembly Budget Sub-Committee could not help but vote for a transfer of $31 million from the OHV fund to use for in non-OHV programs. Yay.

Pennsylvania Dealers to Be Allowed to Sell on Sundays?

05/16/2011 @ 4:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Before I make my customary offensive remarks about states that aren’t California, it should be noted that we here at Asphalt & Rubber are eternally grateful for the fine Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the birthplace of our humble motorcycle news blog. That being said, it’s also good to see that the Keystone State has pulled its head out of its ass long enough to pass a bill (passed in the Senate, with the House still to vote) that would allow motorcycle dealers to sell motorcycles on Sundays, though car dealers will still have to abide by the current legislation.

“I’m not sure why it was ever done,” said State Representative Eugene DePasquale (York County). “I’ll leave it to legislators who were alive when that passed to answer that one.” Talking of keeping the status quo for car dealers, State Senator Richard Alloway II (Adams, Franklin, and York Counties), the bill’s co-sponsor, said, “I have heard a lot of car dealers like to be closed, so it’s a day people can walk lots with no pressure from anyone and window shop.”

Texas Legislature Postures over $25 Million Subsidy for Formula 1 – But What Does it Mean for MotoGP?

04/19/2011 @ 6:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

A tremendous commotion was started today, as a panel in the Texas Senate decided to cut the $25 million subsidy set aside to help bring Formula 1 to the city of Austin, Texas. Immediately this sent concerns through the motorcycling press as to what it could mean for MotoGP and the Texan GP scheduled to be held in 2013, as it seemed the State of Texas was pulling its support from the still un-built Circuit of the Americas.

The short answer to that question is nothing, as the $25 million was ear-marked to go directly into Formula 1’s pocket, not to MotoGP’s coffers. However, the long answer to the question is a bit more convoluted, as MotoGP’s running in Austin is intrinsically linked to Formula 1 coming to the Texan track, which this budgetary decision seemingly directly affects.

Harley-Davidson the Official Motorcycle of Pennsylvania?

04/18/2011 @ 4:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Fresh on the heels of Wisconsin’s Harley-Davidson branded license plates, the Keystone State is set to make Harley-Davidson the official motorcycle of Pennsylvania. An honor already bestowed by Wisconsin this past February, Pennsylvania also has a bill in the state’s House of Representatives that would give special status to the Bar & Shield.

Sponsored by Representative William Kortz (D-Allegheny County), the Pennsylvania law would pay homage to the “thousands of Harley-Davidson enthusiasts [who] have trekked to York to witness firsthand the living legacy of Harley-Davidson USA.” The bill continues on with some feel-good patriotic sentiment, saying that “the Harley-Davidson motorcycle is a true-blue American iron horse manufactured in Pennsylvania by American workers using American steel.”

Wisconsin Offers Harley-Davidson Branded License Plates

04/15/2011 @ 7:09 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

The great State of Wisconsin has begun to offer Harley-Davidson branded vanity license plates to its four-wheeled constituency. With the words “Share the Road” wedged underneath a double-dose of Harley-Davidson branding, the proceeds of the new plates will go to help fund State-sponsored motorcycle safety programs (a worthy cause).

Admittedly, we’re having a hard time with this story. On the one-hand, we love to see that motorcycle safety courses and programs are getting funded. There is a need to educate new riders, and to generally be good stewards for our sport and industry. On the other hand though, we generally frown on the commercialization of public programs, and while Wisconsin is the home of America’s largest motorcycle manufacturer, the whole thing just feels dirty.