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.

EBR Motorcycles Shutting Down, Yet Again

EBR Motorcycles is closing its doors…again. Yes, you heard that right. America’s superbike brand will be winding down its production operations, starting next week, and is looking for a strategic investor to takeover the brand. Liquid Asset Partners (LAP) attributes its decision to shutdown EBR Motorcycles to the company’s difficulty to secure new dealerships, and thus increase sales. As a result, LAP says that its production volume for 2016 and 2017 was below expectations. The company then finishes its explanation for closing EBR Motorcycles with the following line: “the combination of slow sales and industry announcements of other major OEM brands closing or cutting production only magnified the challenges faced by EBR.”

Has Ducati Built a Bridge Too Far with the Scrambler?

09/16/2014 @ 7:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

ducati-scrambler-instagram

Bologna is readying to debut the Ducati Scrambler ahead of the INTERMOT show, in case you missed the bevy of “spy” photos, the World Ducati Week unveil to attendees, the dedicated Tumblr website, the Instagram account, and the claymation animated video series…

A more modern riff on the Ducati models of the 1960’s, the 2015 Ducati Scrambler will unveil to the public in a couple weeks’ time, and the model is another motorcycle from Ducati that speaks to outside the core Ducatisti demographic. But, is the new Ducati Scrambler a bridge too far for the Italian brand?

I have talked before about Ducati’s process of brand extension as it related to the launch of the Ducati Diavel, as the iconic Italian brand moved past being a “sport bike brand” and into a robust full-feature motorcycle marque.

Since that writing, we have seen the breakdown of the Italian dream team that was Valentino Rossi and Ducati Corse in MotoGP, the floundering of Ducati’s World Superbike efforts with the Ducati 1199 Panigale superbike, a stagnation of the company’s yearly growth in terms of motorcycle sales volume, and the abandonment of Ducati’s iconic air-cooled motors (the Scrambler will likely be the last Desmo Due from Bologna).

Where Ducati Motor Holding crescendoed under the leadership of Gabriele del Torchio, growing constantly in unit sales, pushing into new market segments with ease, and debuting compelling new motorcycles year-after-year, this next stanza written by Claudio Domenicali has been more of a coda to Ducati’s symphony of progress.

Honda Grom + Ducati Monster = Gromcati

07/30/2014 @ 1:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Gromcati-Ducati-Monster-Honda-Grom-X-Speed-Motorland-02

Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali has made it pretty clear that he has no plans to take Ducati into the realm of small-displacement motorcycles, and he has flat-out squashed the chances Ducati making a scooter.

This could make thigns difficult for the Italian brand, especially as the hot regions for growth in the motorcycle industry are teeming with machines under 500cc in engine displacement — markets like Southeast Asia, India, China, and the countries of South America.

So what are Ducati fans in these countries to do? Well, where there is a will, there is a way…and for some Thai riders, that will manifests itself in a big way. Taking one perfectly good Honda Grom monkey bike, add in some impressively downsized Ducati Monster bodywork, and well…we introduce to you the Gromcati.

HRC and Red Bull Expand MotoGP Partnership

07/30/2014 @ 1:53 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

red-bull-logo-wallpaper

Honda Racing and Red Bull have announced an enhancement to their collaboration in MotoGP through the Repsol Honda team, which sees the energy drink company’s logo featured on Honda’s factory team starting in the 2015 season, as it becomes the official energy drink for the team as well.

The two parties have collaborated over the last nine years, but the Red Bull logo has never before been featured on the Repsol Honda machinery, despite Red Bull supporting both Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa with personal sponsorships.

Ducati Scrambler to Debut at World Ducati Week

06/18/2014 @ 3:31 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Ducati Scrambler to Debut at World Ducati Week

2015-Ducati-Scrambler-teaser-01

The Ducati Scrambler seems set for a mid-summer debut, as Borgo Panigale has confirmed that the new Italian motorcycle will be shown to Ducatisti at the 2015 World Ducati Week event.

Like Ducati’s teaser event with its staff in Bologna, viewings of the Ducati Scrambler will be private and reserved (held on July 18-20th), as Ducati hopes to generate buzz around the new model, while limiting the Scrambler’s details from being revealed.

How History Is Repeating with Energy Drinks, And Creating Another Tobacco Disaster in Motorcycle Racing

06/11/2014 @ 6:50 pm, by David Emmett21 COMMENTS

monster-energy-barcode

At the Barcelona round of MotoGP – or to give it its full title, the ‘Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya’ – title sponsors Monster Energy are to unveil a new flavor of their product, called ‘The Doctor’, marketed around Valentino Rossi. This is not a particularly unusual event at a MotoGP weekend. Almost every race there is a presentation for one product or another, linking in with a team, or a race, or a factory.

If anything, the presentation of the Monster Energy drink is even more typical than most, featuring motorcycle racing’s marketing dynamite Valentino Rossi promoting an energy drink, the financial backbone of the sport. It is also a sign of the deep trouble in which motorcycle racing finds itself. Energy drinks are slowly taking over the role that tobacco once played, funding teams, riders, and races, and acting as the foundation on which much of the sport is built.

Red Bull funds three MotoGP rounds, a Moto3 team and backs a handful of riders in MotoGP and World Superbikes. Monster Energy sponsors two MotoGP rounds, is the title sponsor of the Tech 3 MotoGP squad, a major backer of the factory Yamaha squad, and has a squadron of other riders which it supports in both MotoGP and World Superbike paddocks.

Then there’s the armada of other brands: Gresini’s Go & Fun (a peculiar name if ever there was one), Drive M7 backing Aspar, Rockstar backing Spanish riders, Relentless, Burn, and far too many more to mention.

Why is the massive interest in backing motorcycle racing a bad thing? Because energy drinks, like the tobacco sponsors they replace, are facing a relentless onslaught to reduce the sale and marketing of the products. A long-standing ban of the sale of Red Bull – though strangely, only Red Bull – was struck down in France in 2008.

Teaser: Baron von Grumble Goes to the Isle of Man TT

06/09/2014 @ 12:49 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Baron-von-Grumble-isle-of-man-tt-teaser

My sleep schedule is almost back to normal, so that must mean that Asphalt & Rubber has just about wrapped up our 2014 Isle of Man TT coverage. After a great fortnight of TT racing, we were pleasantly surprised to see that our favorite YouTube personality, Baron von Grumble, was able to witness the Isle of Man TT in person as well, him with his video cameras in tow.

You might remember The Baron from his misadventures off-roading on a Suzuki GXR-1000 a couple years ago. Since then, His Lordship has become one of motorcycling’s most popular video bloggers — I wonder how many marketing executives in the motorcycles business could name the industry’s top five blogs and YouTube channels? Clearly Dainese and AGV can, since they helped bring Von Grumble to the Rock. Good on them.

The plan is for more videos from the Isle of Man TT trip to come forth from Von Grumble. If they are anything like this teaser (after the jump), then we are in for a real treat. I’ve played this probably 10 times so far. Nice work fella!

Just So We’re Clear, This is How You Market a Race Team

03/12/2014 @ 12:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

triumph-ama-jason-disalvo-elena-myers

The start of the AMA Pro Road Racing calendar is just around the corner, and that means manufacturers, teams, and riders are getting their PR machines in full swing. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get excited about our venerable national racing series (DMG’s shenanigans aside), but duds like this don’t help in whetting our two-wheeled racing appetite here at Asphalt & Rubber.

Just when we were about to lose all hope though, Triumph shows up and saves the day…with a little help from Jason DiSalvo and Elena Myers. Kneedragging, wheelie popping, backwheel drifting two-wheeled fun, all packaged in a well-done YouTube video that even manages to show a little personality from the riders.

We dig it, we dig it hard. A quick warning though: several orange cones were hurt during the filming of this video. Some footage may not be suitable for adult-sized children with a history of brrraaappptitus. Thanks for the tip Matt!

Yamaha “Spy Footage” to Be “Leaked” Online, By Yamaha

02/27/2014 @ 12:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

TOPSECRET-Yamaha

We see our fair share of weird press releases here at Asphalt & Rubber, though usually the strangeness stems around English not being the primary language of the writer — which to be fair, if we had to write something in a language other than our native tongue, it would read pretty strange as well.

Today’s weirdness however comes from Yamaha USA, who sent out a press release with the title: “Yamaha U.S. Road Racing Teams Discover Evidence Of Being ‘Spied On’ While At Recent Track Test”. The email title certainly grabbed our attention, after all who doesn’t like a good spy story? Danger Zone!

What followed of course was utter disappointment, as the whole premise for the release was to tease and setup a future social media campaign from the tuning fork brand — the giveaway is where the company states several times that the footage “may be leaked” onto social media. Le sigh.

You can’t fault Yamaha USA for recently holding a two-day test/media day at Thunderhill Raceway for its AMA Road Racing riders, nor can you fault the last-OEM-standing in the AMA paddock for wanting to promote its racing efforts there. What worries us, especially while looking at how AMA Pro Racing is collapsing in on itself, is how forced this campaign feels. Did The Fonz just jump over a shark on water skis?

Now don’t get us wrong, Yamaha USA has produced some amazing viral media in the past, so we want to give the benefit of the doubt, but this just feels tacky — or genius-level meta. You can read the press release after the jump, and decide for yourself though.

Wherefore Art Thou KTM RC390?

12/04/2013 @ 3:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler45 COMMENTS

ktm-rc390

KTM USA is going to have a mutiny on its hands if it doesn’t bring at least the KTM RC390 street bike to American soil, and we won’t even mention the KTM RC125 & KTM RC200.

Not only have bikes like the Honda CBR250R and Kawasaki Ninja 300 shown a lucrative market for small-displacement machines in the United States, but AMA Pro Racing’s recent announcement that it is considering a national racing class for ~250cc bikes should sweeten the pot for the “Ready to Race” brand.

Going Viral: Motorcycling’s Lady Trope Problem

11/09/2013 @ 8:21 am, by Jensen Beeler51 COMMENTS

MotoCorsa-seDUCATIve-MANigale-photo-comparison-02

About a year and a half ago, I wrote a post that compared two sets of photos that had been done by Portland, Oregon Ducati dealership MotoCorsa. The first set was called “seDUCATIve” and featured a model name Kylie and the Ducati 1199 Panigale — you can imagine what those photos looked like.

MotoCorsa did something interesting with its second set of photos though, which were titled “MANigale”. Featuring male mechanics from the dealership, these good-humored lads recreated Kylie’s poses with the Panigale, complete with heels, tube tops, and booty shorts. It was good fun, and since I have a personal vendetta with the “girl on a bike” trope of motorcycle marketing, it made for good commentary as well.

The seDUCATIve vs. MANigale article was a fairly popular story on Asphalt & Rubber, it had its couple days of fame, and that was that — or so I thought. For the past month now, the MANigale story has been hitting various more mainstream outlets worldwide — much to my surprise, but also delight.