Not-A-Review: 2015 MV Agusta Motorcycles

As promised, here is the second part of our trip down to Fontana, California to meet with MV Agusta USA, go over the company’s new business plan for not only America, but also worldwide, and to ride the current crop of their 2015 machinery. I should preface right out of the gate that this is not a review in regards as to what you’ve come to expect from Asphalt & Rubber. I am not-so-cleverly calling this a “not-a-review” assessment of MV Agusta’s 2015 models. I say this because we had a very limited amount of time on each bike, as there was roughly 10 machines to divide our attention amongst. Think of this article as not far from someone test riding a bunch of motorcycles at a dealership, with similar duration and limits put in place…except that this someone rides motorcycles for a living.

Analyzing The Ducati Desmosedici GP15

Anyone watching the presentation of Ducati’s 2015 MotoGP bike will have learned two Italian phrases: “Emozionante” and “tanto lavoro”. Both were extremely apt. Getting from where Ducati was to where it is now with the Desmosedici GP15 had needed “tanto lavoro”, a lot of hard work, and they still have “tanto lavoro” ahead of them. The results were “emozionante”, a fantastic word nearer to exciting than emotional. But both exciting and emotional were apt phrases. The sense of eagerness was palpable among Ducati staff at Bologna on Monday. For good reason, the GP15 presented in a long, loud, and rather meandering show is radically different from what came before.

Some Thoughts on MV Agusta & A Story About Two Letters

MV Agusta USA recently invited a slew of journalists down to Fontana, California in order to talk about the company’s new business plan, and to ride its current lineup of motorcycles on the infield course. This article is “Part 1″ of that experience, as I wanted to separate my thoughts on MV Agusta, MV Agusta USA, and the general motorcycling climate into one story, and then have my “not-a-review” of the machines for another article. Got it? Ok, let’s go. It is probably easiest to start with where MV Agusta is as a company. MV Agusta has a started a new three-year business plan, which sees the company pushing into a full-range of motorcycles, pushing outside of its Italian boundaries, and pushing out of the “luxury” brand segment.

Photos: Ducati Desmosedici GP15

The Ducati Desmosedici GP15 is a machine that has been long in the making. It represents Gigi Dall’Igna’s next step forward for the wayward Ducati Corse MotoGP team, and it is the dubious honor of holding the hopes of Ducati fans around the world, who see the machine as the silver bullet that will return Ducati to the forefront of racing prowess — no pressure. The most obvious change that can be seen on the GP15 is the re-routing of the exhaust, with the undertail pipes collecting on the right-hand side of the machine, rather than coming in from both sides and meeting in the middle. Can you spot any other changes in the high-resolution photos after the jump? Let us know in the comments.

Politics & Corruption: Why There Isn’t a Race in Indonesia

If anyone needed any further proof that Indonesia is important to the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, the fact the Repsol Honda team chose Bali as the location to launch their 2015 MotoGP project should remove any doubt. But if Indonesia is so important to the manufacturers, and to MotoGP, why is there not a race there? Over the course of the MotoGP test at Sepang, I had a few conversations with people on the subject. On the record, the story was always the same: we need a suitable track, and as soon as one exists we will be happy to go there. Off the record, however, they were much less optimistic.

A Requiem for Kenji Ekuan & The Kando of GK Design

Industrial design is not a commonly known, much less well understood, profession. To some it suggests arranging equipment inside factories, to others it means some kind of product engineering. In reality it is the search for, and expression of, human satisfaction in inanimate objects that are mass produced. That’s quite a mouthful, and to the average person it may sound like jiberish written for some pretentious coffee table book, but it is the truth. At least, it is one version of the truth as seen by the GK Design Group of Tokyo, Japan. If you ride motorcycles, then you are intimately familiar with the work of this large and internationally respected studio. Since only its second production bike, the indigenously designed YA-1, every Yamaha motorcycle since 1958 has been crafted by GK.

Are You The MV Agusta F4 RC?

What look to be official photos of the MV Agusta F4 RC have leaked out onto the internet, along with a slide from MV Agusta’s media presentation on the machine. The photos give us our first glimpse into Varese’s homologation special, complete with a special two-can exhaust by Termignoni. The leaked slide confirms some of the numbers being thrown around about the F4 RC, namely that it will have 212hp, 81.86 lbs•ft of torque, weigh 175kg dry, and cost €36,900 (we already know that the MV Agusta F4 RC will cost $46,000 in the USA). Information from a leaked slide last year has already told us that MV Agusta has radically overhauled the F4 RC’s engine, designing a new cylinder heard, new crankshaft, new camshaft, as well as adding bigger fuel injectors, lighter pistons, and titanium connecting rods.

Kenji Ekuan, Designer of the Yamaha VMAX Has Died

Mainstream news is mourning the death of Kenji Ekuan today, as the 85-year-old Japanese industrial designer is one of the most influential artists in Japan’s modern era, and is most well-known for his designing of the iconic Kikkoman soy sauce bottle. Ekuan’s lesser-known works though include a number of motorcycle designs for Yamaha, including the now 30-year-old Yamaha VMAX motorcycle, which makes his passing even more meaningful to motorcyclists around the world. Kenji Ekuan founded GK Industrial Design after WWII, and his company helped shape the way Japan rebuilt itself after the world war.

Ride Review: KTM 1290 Super Adventure

Despite its huge dimensions, not to mention a 30 liter fuel tank, the 2015 KTM 1290 Super Adventure never looks big or bulky. In fact, it is only when you mount the hard luggage that you can tell this bike can really cover long distances. Apart from a dorky little exposed wire from the heated grips near the throttle, the fit and finish is very high-end, especially the integrated curved lighting in the tank — it is quite a sight. At first glance the Super Adventure doesn’t have the massive personality and stance of its German rival, the BMW R1200GS Adventure, but that is in part due to the white color scheme and the absence of the typical beak as a front mudguard. KTM is going about things differently, and that is something that appeals to many riders…including us.

Yamaha VMAX Carbon – Celebrating 30 Years of VMAX

It is hard to believe that the venerable Yamaha VMAX has been around for 30 years (it is even harder to believe that the VMAX has only seen one design revision in that timeframe as well), and so Yamaha is bringing out a special edition model to celebrate this special motorcycle. The 2015 Yamaha VMAX Carbon is exactly as the name implies: a VMAX drag bike laden with lightweight carbon fiber. In total, the VMAX Carbon’s tank cover, front and rear fenders, and side covers are all made from carbon fiber. Yamaha has teamed up with Akrapovic as well, and as such the Slovenian company’s slip-on mufflers complete the exhaust system and the changes to this beastly drag bike.

KTM Sold 158,760 Motorcycles in 2014, A Record

01/23/2015 @ 12:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

KTM-Freeride-E-electric-dirtbike-E-SX-E-XC-36

2014 is another banner year for KTM, as the Austrian brand set another all-time sales record, selling 158,760 to customers last year. That figure solidifies KTM’s position as the largest European brand, beating out BMW yet again, though Team Orange got a lot of help from its Indian operations with minority partner Bajaj.

This sales figure includes sales from Husqvarna, so a little cheating is going on, but Husky’s contribution to KTM’s 28.2% sales growth is marginal at best. With that boost in sales, KTM is also reporting a 20.7% increase in revenue (€864.6 million), taking home €75 million (EBIT).

Triumph Has Its Best Sales Year Since Its Rebirth

01/13/2015 @ 11:31 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

2012-Triumph-Tiger-Explorer-03

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.

BMW Q2 2014 Sales Up 5.1% – Another Record Quarter

08/05/2014 @ 5:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

BMW-Concept-Roadster-studio-08

BMW Motorrad’s second-quarter sales results are in, and the German brand has not only another record quarter to report, but also an all-time six-month top-sales record as well.

Selling 42,259 units in Q2 2014, BMW Motorrad sales are up 5.1%, with revenue up 11.2% to €528 million (€55 million EBIT). This sales volume represents an all-time second-quarter high for BMW motorcycles sales.

The news also makes the first half of 2014 the best six-month period, in the 90 years of BMW Motorrad’s history, of BMW motorcycle sales, with revenue up 9.8% to €1 billion, and unit sales up 9.3% to 70,978 units.

Yamaha’s Sales Up in North America, But Down Worldwide

05/14/2012 @ 5:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Honda appears to be the only Japanese OEM making headway in 2012, as Yamaha has reported its sales figures for Q1 2012, and the tuning fork brand is down slightly worldwide, despite being up significantly in North America. Selling 1.599 million units worldwide in the first three months of the year, Yamaha is down 5.3% when compared to the 1.689 million units it sold last year during the same time period.

With most of the lost sales occurring in the Asian markets, Yamaha is blaming the currency exchange and the flooding in Thailand for their effects on its first quarter global sales. However on a smaller front, Yamaha can at least thank the rebounding economy in North America, as domestically the company is up 25% for Q1 2012 — as insignificant to its core business as the North American markets may be.

Don’t Call It a Comeback: Honda Q1 2012 Sales Up 39%

05/11/2012 @ 12:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

The untold story of the global economic collapse, Honda was on a worrisome three-year downward spiral during the recession. Posting sales of 453,000, 320,000, & 189,000 powersport units in 2008, 2009, and 2010 respectively, Honda’s 2011 fiscal year sales figure of 200,000 units posts a 8.1% gain for the Japanese company, and a new healthier trajectory.

Helping the company turn that corner, Honda has reported that its Q1 2012 (Q4 2011 fiscal) sales were up 39% over last year’s figures. Selling 53,000 powersports models in the last three months, Honda is projecting that its 2012 fiscal year will see 255,000 units in North American.

Harley-Davidson Sales Grew Almost 6% in 2011

01/26/2012 @ 2:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

A few years ago death was on the doorstop for Harley-Davidson. Posting yearly sales losses on a regular basis, when the recession hit the Milwaukee company, it sold off its holdings in MV Agusta, and shuttered the Buell Motorcycle brand in order to keep its core business unit intact.

In Q2 of 2011, Harley-Davidson posted its YTD of growth since 2006, and the Bar & Shield brand continued that trend throughout the rest of last year. Finishing Q4 2011 with sales up 10.9% worldwide (11.8% in the US) over Q4 2010, Harley-Davidson finished the year strong with sales up 5.9% worldwide when compared to 2010. Additionally, sales in the United States posted a similar 5.8% of growth for units sold.

Triumph Posts 7% Sales Increase for First Half of 2011 – Announces Production in India

12/08/2011 @ 12:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

It may be nearly the end of the year, but the Triumph Motorcycles Group has released its financials for the first half of 2011 (Q1 2011 & Q2 2011). Selling 48,684 units worldwide, Triumph saw a 7% increase in unit sales when compared to the first half of 2010. This sales increase brought an 11% boost in revenue, which totaled £312.4 million. Triumph attributes the sales and revenue boost to the incremental models that have been added to the range, like the Triumph Tiger 800/800XC and Triumph Daytona 675R.

The company’s operating profit also grew over the same time period, with earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) growing from £15.1 million to £22.3 million. This 47% gain in income is quite the coup for the small British brand, which is showing strong performance in an otherwise horrible market. With the 500cc motorcycle market down nearly 50% from where it was before the recession, 2011 has similarly been doom and gloom, down nearly 7% worldwide, though the turbulent sales numbers do appear to be bottoming out.

BMW Motorrad Sales Up 6.5% for Q3 2011

11/10/2011 @ 12:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

A mixed quarter for BMW Motorrad, as the Bavarian company has once again posted a positive sales quarter of 6.5% growth over Q3 2010, despite losing money overall in the current inclement financial weather. Selling 28,862 units in this year’s third quarter, BMW Motorrad’s sales, as usual, were primarily carried by the BMW brand, which sold 26,312 motorcycles.

Perhaps lending even further credibility to the business case for the Husqvarna Nuda 900, the Swedish motorcycle brand accounted for only 2,550 units in Q3 2011 (or just under 9% of total sales, for those keeping score). Independently, the BMW motorcycle brand was up 7.4% over last year’s same time period, while Husqvarna sales were down 1.9%. BMW & Husqvarna sold 24,493 & 2,601 units respectively during last year’s third quarter.

Suzuki Q2 2011 – Profitable for the First Time in 11 Quarters

08/15/2011 @ 5:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Sometimes when reading the posts made on other motorcycle sites, or the comments by readers across the web, I don’t think there is a full grasp as to how bad the recession was for the motorcycle industry. Granted company’s like Ducati, BMW, and Victory have shown remarkable growth in a down period, but their success, though due in-part to the failures of Harley-Davidson and the Japanese manufacturers, is limited on its bearing to the industry as a whole. This because, quite frankly, these companies comprise only a small portion of the industry’s sales, units, and revenue.

The fact that Harley-Davidson was so close to the brink that they dumped everything outside of its core business is but one sign that motorcycling was in trouble. Another sign would be that Suzuki reportedly didn’t import any new units for the 2010 model years, instead letting local inventories in the US handle the dwindling demand for the company’s motorcycles. The fact that the motorcycle industry as whole almost folded-up on itself like a tin can without anyone making a real fuss about it is perhaps a great signal as to how far various stakeholders heads are buried in the sand. So for our last attempt to put things into perspective, try this one on for size:

For the first time in nearly three years, Suzuki’s motorcycle division has posted a profit…or, the last time Suzuki made money selling motorcycles was Q2 2008 (the same timeframe that Bill Gates stepped down from his daily duties at Microsoft).

Harley-Davidson Posts First YTD Growth since 2006

07/19/2011 @ 7:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Harley-Davidson had some good news to report in its Q2 2011 financial report, as the Milwaukee company reports selling 53,599 units to customers in the US during the three-month period, and total of 83,396 units worldwide (120,642 units worldwide so far this year). These sales figures translate into a 5.6% sales increase worldwide, and an even more impressive 7.5% sales bump in the United States market.

While those increases might seem modest, CEO Keith Wandell’s restructuring efforts have clearly been paying off for the Bar & Shield brand as operating income was up 36.8% for Q2, while revenue was up only 18% to $1.34 billion. This is also the first year-over-year quarterly rise for unit sales that Harley-Davidson has seen since the Q4 2006. Read that last sentence again, but it’s sort of a big deal for Harley-Davidson.