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.

Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen Concept

The second of Husqvarna’s street concepts, the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen is a scrambler styled machine that uses the same 373cc single-cylinder engine as the Vitpilen concept. Swedish for “Black Arrow”, the Svartpilen continues the idea that less is more, and applies the concept to a more off-road motif. Not all the dissimilar to the Moab and Baja concepts the Husqvarna showed before its acquisition by KTM, clearly the Swedish brand is keen to tap into its lost history of Steve McQueen and the scrambler motif. Perhaps Ducati’s foray into this space is added motivation, but the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen concept is a bike unique to itself. That might be because the concept machine is based off the KTM 390 Duke, which is an unlikely though budget-friendly donor machine.

How to Save Harley-Davidson – Step 1: Redefine and Reposition The Way You Market Your Brand

03/08/2010 @ 6:50 am, by Jensen Beeler112 COMMENTS

How to Save Harley Davidson   Step 1: Redefine and Reposition The Way You Market Your Brand Harley Davidson adBlasphemy, heresy, stupidity, sacrilege, un-American, and downright irreverence. Go ahead, get all those words out of your system. I’ll wait.

The default opinion of marketers, analysts, and the general population is that Harley-Davidson has one of the strongest brands in the United States, this being confirmed by the fact that every business student in America has studied Harley’s marketing efforts if they’ve ever taken a brand management course. So why would I start a three-part series on how to fix Harley-Davidson by arguing to change one of the most revered marketing houses in the motorcycle industry?

Giving credit where credit is due, Harley-Davidson, or I should say its admirers in business school academia, wrote the book on demand generation marketing geared towards the baby-boomer generation. However, in defending this market position, Harley-Davidson has painted itself into a corner by only engaging a very small segment of the population with its product. Unless they redefine and reposition their company image and who it resonates with, Harley-Davidson is going to watch the continued erosion of its footing in the motorcycle industry, and also the continued deterioration of its only industry leading quality: its brand.

Harley-Davidson Saves York, Pennsylvania Plant

12/05/2009 @ 11:12 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Saves York, Pennsylvania Plant Harley Davidson York Pennsylvania factory plant 560x328

Harley-Davidson announced this week that it was able to come to an agreement with its York, Pennsylvania plant employees and union members, thus allowing the plant to remain open and producing motorcycles. The move wasn’t easy though as half of the plant’s employees will lose their jobs in order to keep the Shield & Bar in the Springettsbury Township area.

An Easy Decision: Harley-Davidson Circles the Wagons Around Milwaukee

10/16/2009 @ 9:01 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

An Easy Decision: Harley Davidson Circles the Wagons Around Milwaukee cirlce the wagons 635x315

What do you do when the financial arm of your company goes from making $100 million a year to losing $100 million a year? Why you kill off two other brands in your company of course. That is the move the Keith Wandell and the Harley-Davidson board of directors made yesterday with their announcement of shutting down Buell, and selling off MV Agusta. Realizing that the Harley-Davidson brand accounts for the majority of Harley-Davidson Inc.’s income, Harley-Davidson executives saw there being little choice but to sacrifice its other two holdings to save their namesake.

Harley-Davidson RIFs Another 1,000 Employees

07/16/2009 @ 5:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Harley Davidson RIFs Another 1,000 Employees Harley davidson XR 1200 Trophy 1 G header1000x500 560x280

With its second quarter sales dropping 35%, Harley-Davidson is going to be trimming its ranks in order to stay afloat. The Milwaukee based company will inject 700 hourly-wage workers, and 300 salaried workers into the ranks of the unemployed, with possibly more joining them in the future. These reductions come after Harley-Davidson earlier this year announced it was eliminating 1,400-1,500 hourly production positions in 2009-2010 along with 300 salary positions.

Harley Davidson Makes First Influences on How MV Agusta is Run

05/14/2009 @ 10:40 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Harley Davidson Makes First Influences on How MV Agusta is Run mv agusta 312 560x343

Things have been quiet on the Italian front after Harley-Davidson acquired premium sportbike manufacturer MV Agusta last year, with the American company apparently leaving the brand alone for a while after its purchase. The company we love to hate from Milwaukee has finally started to make some changes in the old Italian brand, drawing a clear line between what product lines will focus on a premium road bike experience for the rider, and what products will be developed for track day weaponry for the weekend warrior.

Tough Times Ahead for Harley-Davidson as Riders Get Older

03/26/2009 @ 1:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Tough Times Ahead for Harley Davidson as Riders Get Older harley davidson  v rod by mrspockofvulcan 560x385

The New York Times ran a great article this week about the challenges facing Harley-Davidson, both from the current economic depression, and more generally as the quintessential Harley rider gets older in age. In summation, Harley-Davidson dealers around the US and overseas are seeing sales drop dramatically as people scale back their expensive purchases, and as the access to credit becomes increasingly difficult. There’s no real surprise there, and any hardcore fan will be quick to tell you that Harley will be back on top once this financial turmoil is over. However, looking farther down the road at Harley-Davidson’s long-term business position, there is additional trouble brewing as well. Baby-boomers account for the majority of Harley sales, and they are getting older. The NY times ends there with its commentary, but we think there’s more to the story on Harley-Davidson and the American bike market in general. 

 

Warren Buffett Invests $300MM in Harley-Davidson

02/04/2009 @ 12:43 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Warren Buffett Invests $300MM in Harley Davidson Jensen Beeler Warren Buffett 635x426

Harley-Davidson has announced that Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway group will invest $300 million in the motorcycle maker through a purchasee of senior unsecured notes that will mature in 2014. These funds match a similar investment by Davis Selected Advisers, L.P., which is already the largest shareholder of the company’s stock. Harley-Davidson will use the money to bolster its lending services, hopefully making it easier for the troubled motorcycle maker to lend cash to consumers. In exchange, Berkshire Hathaway will reportedly receive a lucrative 15% annual interest rate on the cash infusion.

The markets have responded to the news rather favorably, with Harley shares hitting $13.56 in trading yesterday afternoon – a 14% increase from where they started yesterday. Just about a week ago, Harley-Davidson announced a plan to shed 10% of its workforce. This move marks the first time that Buffett has ever invested in the company.

Harley-Davidson Stock Shares Tumble

01/13/2009 @ 11:11 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Harley Davidson Stock Shares Tumble wall street 560x317

Harley-Davidson (HOG) shares dropped 12% Monday as financial analysts grew bearish over motorcycle purchases in 2009. Sparking the plummet, Goldman Sachs downgraded Harley’s shares to sell, lowered its target price to $11, and cut its 2009 profit outlook by 50%. Goldman analyst Patrick Archambault said he expects Harley’s retail bike sales to fall by 30% this year, making it the worst year for new registrations since 1982.

Part of the reason for the downgrade is becauset Harley-Davidson CEO, James Ziemer, said last month that he plans to retire from his 40 years of service with Harley in 2009, and on Thursday last week, Sy Naqvi stepped down as interim president Harley’s finance unit.

Another concern has been Harley-Davidson’s financial services division. The division is expected to make less revenue in 2009 off of sales, lose more money on delinquent loans, and be stuck with loan obligations because of a frozen LBO and secondary loan markets.

Source: Visordown

Harley-Davidson Guarantees the Value of Newly-Bought Sportsters Upon Trade-in

12/26/2008 @ 10:12 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Harley Davidson Guarantees the Value of Newly Bought Sportsters Upon Trade in harley davidson nightster 560x375

Harley-Davidson is getting creative with selling motorcycles, and we here at Asphalt & Rubber like it. HD must really want to capitalize on those sales, as it’s just announced a unique incentive to purchase a new Sportster, or alternatively to trade in your recently purchased model. 

All new 2008 and 2008 Sportsters, bought between December 26, 2008 and March 31, 2009, will be sold with a guarantee that Harley-Davidson will offer the full MSRP of the bike when traded in for a larger bike, within on year of the original purchase. The offer does not apply to the new XR1200, and the bike bought after the trade-in must be a Dyna, Softail, VRSC, or Touring model. 

Economically, this is an interesting deal. Harley-Davidsons, unlike most other marquees, generally appreciate in value over-time. This is mostly a function of long-waiting lists, and difficulty of purchasing abroad. Regardless, its a bonus point for buying the Milwaukee brand. The Sportster line, being at the bottom of the Harley totem pole, is the most susceptible to having this trend end with the economic crisis. This promotion, effectively squashes that possibility for the time being. Anyways, for the average consumer, revile in the fact that an otherwise depreciating object will hold its value for the next year minus the rate of inflation, and in the event of deflation in the value of the dollar, will actually be a decent investment. Booyaca!

Source: Harley-Davidson via Autoblog

Harley-Davidson Recalls 2009 Dyna’s for Fuel Venting Problem

12/05/2008 @ 5:30 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Harley Davidson Recalls 2009 Dynas for Fuel Venting Problem harley davidson recall 560x420

Harley-Davidson is recalling 349 Dyan series motorcycles for problems in their fuel-venting system. The defect in the construction can cause fuel to leak when the bike is tipped-over, which could lead to horrible, horrible, horrible burning. The affected models are the:

2009 Harley-Davidson Dyna Street Bob (FXDB)
2009 Harley-Davidson Dyna Super Glide Custom (FXDC)
2009 Harley-Davidson Dyna Fat Bob (FXDF)
2009 Harley-Davidson Dyna Low Rider (FXDL)

Owners of these year and model bikes should take their hog into the dealer for an inspection of the fuel vent tube assembly, where the dealer will replace it if necessary. Owner may also contact the NHTSA at 1-888-327-4236 or visit safecar.gov for more information.