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.

MV Agusta Gets €15 Million Loan for New Business Plan

Good turns for MV Agusta, as the Italian motorcycle manufacturer has secured a €15 million loan from SACE and Banca Popolare di Milano (BPM). The loan, which was issued by BPM and guaranteed by SACE, will go towards MV Agusta’s foreign growth plans, namely the company’s strengthening of its US business, and its push into Brazil and Southeast Asia. The more business-speak version of that statement is that MV Agusta will use the €15 million to implement the company’s 2014-2018 business plan, which has the company expanding its product range and penetrating into “high-potential” markets.

No Polaris Slingshot in Texas, For Now

11/17/2014 @ 2:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

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Bad news if you live in Texas and want to grab the hottest trike on the market right now, the Polaris Slingshot, as the Lone Star State has rescinded its approval for Slingshot sales in Texas.

Despite initially approving the Polaris Slingshot for sales on November 4th, the State of Texas reversed its approval, leaving Polaris to notify dealerships on November 10th that they would be unable to sell the Slingshot, for the foreseeable future.

German Motorcycle Brand Horex Files for Bankruptcy

09/03/2014 @ 1:15 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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The restart of the German Horex brand hasn’t been an easy one, as we watched the company’s impressive plans for a supercharged VR6 roadster slowly become watered down into a handsome, although entirely uninteresting naked bike, which included the addition of the derivative “Classic” and “Cafe Racer” models as well.

It’s not that the Horex VR6 wasn’t received well, it’s just no one wanted to purchase the bike at its $30,000+ price tag, especially after the numerous production delays. As such, we sadly report that Horex has become insolvent, and filed for bankruptcy, according to reports out of Europe.

Google Wants Broader Autonomous Vehicle Law – Are You Ready for Riderless Motorcycles?

08/14/2014 @ 11:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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No sooner has Google built its first autonomous car, and been granted its autonomous vehicle driving license in the State of California, than the Silicon Valley company has begun paving the way for autonomous two-wheeled transportation.

Writing an email to the State of California to do away with legal wording that restricts autonomous vehicle licenses just to cars, Google’s Ron Medford hopes to allow driverless/riderless trucks and motorcycles on city streets, provided they prove the same safety standards as with Google’s autonomous car program.

“It is certainly possible that future testing could include motorcycles or larger commercial vehicles,” said Medford in his email. “If some innovator can demonstrate that testing autonomous technology on such vehicles is safe, then they should be allowed to test.”

CHP Drops Lane-Splitting Guidelines from Website

07/21/2014 @ 4:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

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The California Highway Patrol has removed its guidelines for lane-splitting in the Golden State on the CHP website, after receiving a complaint from a Sacramento citizen. Though lane-splitting has been a long-time established practice for motorcyclists in California, the act is poorly defined and regulated.

Since California has no provision directly outlawing the practice, motorcyclists are free to lane-split, lane-share, and filter so long as their actions fit under the California Vehicle Code’s catchall provision of “safe and prudent” operation of a motor vehicle. What does that mean? No one really knows.

In an effort to define what it viewed as safe and prudent, the CHP released last February a list of guidelines for motorcyclists to follow while lane-splitting in the Golden State. The guidelines were not law in the de jure sense of the word, but without any other comment from a government entity, they became the de facto rules of the road, which leads us to today.

How Harley-Davidson Got Sued Over ABS Brakes & Why You Can’t Buy an Airbag Leather Suit in the USA

06/30/2014 @ 9:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler54 COMMENTS

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I was reading DealerNews last week when I stumbled across a brief story about how Harley-Davidson was being sued by a couple, because the Bar & Shield brand did not offer the 2012 Electra Glide Classic with an anti-locking brake option.

The lawsuit comes about as a couple was riding two-up on their motorcycle in Texas, when a car suddenly cut in front of them. Locking up the wheels of the Harley-Davidson, the motorcycle fishtailed out of control, and flung the couple quite some distance. They are subsequently suing Harley-Davidson for $75,000 in damages.

I can already foresee the pro-business comments below this article, deriding these motorcyclists for a series events that amount to “their fault” for their medical and financial woes — after all, it was they who chose to buy a motorcycle without ABS, right?

Legal scholars, and those familiar with tort law and product liability in the United States though, will see the case quite differently. And barring specific details and circumstances, the conclusion to this lawsuit will almost certainly side with the complainants, not Harley-Davidson.

Tesla Drops a Bombshell – Opens Up EV Patents to All

06/12/2014 @ 2:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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Today was a pretty big day in the electric vehicle world, as Tesla CEO Elon Musk wrote in a company blog post that the California based company would not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wanted to use their technology.

While the term “good faith” is a subjective one, Musk’s announcement opens up Telsa’s arsenal of patents to any other OEM, with the hope that the adoption rate of electric vehicles at these manufacturers will be improved.

Making Telsa’s patents “open source” effectively creates a minimum standard of technology in electric vehicles, and the move now means that OEMs should only use their own EV technology if it performs better than Tesla’s.

That’s a pretty big win for consumers, since Tesla’s technology is generally highly regarded. It also means that the jumping-in point for OEMs into electric vehicles is substantially lower.

If a small manufacturer, or small product team in a large OEM, wants to start an EV project now, they can use Telsa’s patented technology to jump-start their development, and bring something to market quicker.

Saturday Summary at Jerez: On Innovation, Marquez & Miller Magic, And the Upside of EU Law

05/03/2014 @ 10:56 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

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Motorcycle racing is a continual war of innovation. It is a war fought out on many different battlegrounds at many different times, but at its heart, it is about finding new ways, better ways of doing things. Engineers, teams, and riders are always looking for some small advantage, turning what they do upside down in the hope of finding something to exploit.

Usually, when motorcycle racing fans talk about innovation, they have a vision of hard metal in their minds, of parts belonging on a motorcycle. They will point to aluminium twin spar frames, to upside down forks, to seamless gearboxes.

Some may allude to slightly less tangible improvements: Honda’s Torductor, a sensor used to measure the forces going through the engine sprocket directly; perhaps Yamaha’s electronics package, which combines 3D models of the racetrack with predictive models of tire wear and fuel load to provide adaptive vehicle dynamics strategies.

The human element is important too. New training methods come and go, along with new diets and new nutritional supplements. Riders suddenly start getting off the bike and jumping into ice baths to aid recovery.

Then, a year later, the ice baths are gone. If the championship leader spends a lot of time on a trials bike, everyone down to the rider bringing up the rear in Moto3 has to spend his time jumping rocks on a Beta or a GasGas. Should a new champion focus on racing dirt track, every rider and his mother-in-law has a dirt oval built in their back yard.

At Jerez, qualifying in both MotoGP and Moto3 showcased organizational innovation, the ability to see opportunities offered in a qualifying format, and to exploit them to your own advantage. In both cases those seizing their chances were richly rewarded, with Marc Marquez and Jack Miller securing pole comfortably in MotoGP and Moto3, their respective classes.

Tolls Coming for German Autobahn, Motorcycles Exempt

04/25/2014 @ 2:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Chalk a victory up for the two-wheelers, as Germany’s famed Autobahn road system is set to go the way of the toll road…except for motorcycles that is. The new toll system will interestingly enough apply only to vehicles with foreign license tags, with permits to circulate on the autobahn being sold at border crossings into Germany and other locations within the country.

EPA Admits Ethanol Damages Engines

04/22/2014 @ 10:31 am, by Bryan Delohery13 COMMENTS

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Since Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 as a means to “combat our growing energy problems” and “reduce our independence on oil”, the debate over how safe ethanol additives really are has raged on.

As you may know, the Act lead the introduction of E10 (gasoline with 10% ethanol), which vehicle owners have been claiming causes serious damage to engines, such as damaged catalytic converters, improper combustion, and component deterioration.

While proponents of ethanol claim that it is a cleaner burning, higher octane fuel source that is renewable, opponents feel that the mixture of gasoline and ethanol is causing more problems than it is solving. This week marks a victory for the latter camp, as the EPA has now publicly confirmed that ethanol does cause serious damage the engines.

California Law Mandates “Tobacco” Warning Labels To Be Put on All New Motorcycles Sold in State

04/01/2014 @ 11:34 am, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

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Call it the ever-increasing nanny state, or maybe just blame the liberals in Sacramento who just can’t help themselves, but starting with all 2015 model year bike, motorcycles OEMs will have to affix tobacco-style warning labels to any motorcycle they wish to sell in the great State of California.

Passed this morning, SB 0401 cites the overwhelming statistical evidence that motorcycles are likely to lead to serious injury or death, which has prompted California State Surgeon General Avril Trompez, working with a consortium of Democrat California Senators, to write and pass a bill that would treat motorcycles more like cigarettes when it comes to warning of these “potential” dangers.