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.”

World Superbike Silly Season Update: Melandri Is Back, Bradl Switches, & Aprilia Arrives

07/26/2016 @ 10:31 pm, by David Emmett14 COMMENTS

WSBK-2016-Laguna-Seca-Leon-Camier-track-2

While the MotoGP grid is as good as settled, Silly Season for World Superbikes is in full swing.

With the Kawasaki riders’ contracts settled before the summer break, attention has turned to the other seats, most of which are up in the air. In addition, there could be some changes in machinery, with some teams eyeing a switch of manufacturers.

The biggest news – still unofficial, but widely believed to be a done deal – is that Marco Melandri is set to make a return to the World Superbike paddock, this time in the factory Aruba.it Ducati team alongside Chaz Davies.

Melandri has been angling for a ride ever since his departure from the factory Aprilia MotoGP squad, a move he had never wanted to make in the first place.

Over the past twelve months or so, he has been linked to rides with Yamaha, Aprilia, BMW, and Kawasaki in World Superbikes, and – possibly the most bizarrely inaccurate rumor to be published in a while – to a ride with BMW in MotoGP.

The fact that BMW have no intention of racing in MotoGP, and the break up with Melandri in 2013 so acrimonious that they would not have him back anyway is what made that particular rumor so entertaining.

Paddock Pass Podcast – Episode 31 – WSBK Misano

06/24/2016 @ 1:57 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

leon-camier-mv-agusta-misano-world-superbike-wsbk

Episode 31 of the Paddock Pass Podcast comes to you from Misano, Italy where David Emmett joins Steve English for the recent World Superbike round. The two talk about the weekend’s racing, and catch us up with the general happenings of the WSBK paddock.

The obvious major topic of discussion is Jonathan Rea’s domination so far this year, as he leads Tom Sykes and Chaz Davies in the Championship standings.

Talk about the other “factory” teams also occurs, mostly looking at the differences of factory support in WSBK. This includes the plight of Nicky Hayden and the Honda Racing outfit, as well as the Pata Yamaha and Milwaukee BMW squads, who don’t have the same budgets and resources as Ducati and Kawasaki.

In addition to that, we think you will enjoy the conversation about Leon Camier and MV Agusta, both of who had great outings at the Misano round. MV Agusta is slowly making progress with its program, but the company’s financial difficulties put clouds over the Italian outfit’s future.

To finish things up, the guys also have a frank conversation about the difficulties riders have moving from WSBK into the MotoGP paddock.

Whether you are a regular follower of World Superbike racing, or just a casual observer, we think you will find this episode both highly insightful and entertaining.

As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on FacebookTwitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

CEO Tips New MV Agusta Brutale in the Works

06/01/2016 @ 3:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

MV-Agusta-logo-new-1

Many words lately have been spent telling the tale of MV Agusta, as the Italian motorcycle manufacturer is at an interesting crossroads for its future. It’s marriage with Mercedes-AMG failed, and now MV Agusta is in a precarious state, financially.

Because of its financial troubles, the motorcycle brand from Varese, Italy has had to rethink it production goals, and its model lineup.

MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni sat down with Alan Cathcart (that interview is slowly making its way out from the publications that Cathcart works with internationally) about this subject, and many other topics of interest.

One of the more interesting elements to come from their discussion is MV Agusta’s work on a new inline-four platform, and when we can see MV Agusta’s most iconic models getting a refresh.

We originally thought this delayed endeavor would manifest itself in a new superbike platform, with the next-generation MV Agusta F4 debuting shortly, but as Castiglioni reveals, the first new four-cylinder from MV Agusta will not be and F4, and instead will be a Brutale.

Polaris in the MV Agusta Acquisition Mix?

05/27/2016 @ 5:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

2016-MV-Agusta-Brutale-800-Jensen-Beeler-Milagro-04

If you believe the rumors coming out of Italy, Polaris is poised to save acquire ailing motorcycle manufacturer MV Agusta.

We have documented MV Agusta’s precarious financial troubles already in great detail, and how MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni is between a rock and a hard place with his main investor, Mercedes-AMG.

According to the Italian media, and those who repeat their words like parrots, Polaris represents an escape from MV Agusta’s difficult position with the German automobile-maker, though the reality is that nothing could be farther from the truth.

Ducati Tops Pied Piper Dealer Rankings, Yet Again

05/02/2016 @ 4:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

pied-piper-psi-results-2016

Yet once again, Ducati has topped Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index (PSI) – showing the continued prowess of Ducati dealerships in the United States.

For those that aren’t familiar with Pied Piper, the company’s Prospect Satisfaction Index is sort of the Consumer Reports of dealership network experience, and acts as a bellwether as to how a brand is performing while facing the consumer.

As such, the PSI takes into account a mixture of “mystery shopper” experiences along with actual sales success for each brand, thus giving a mixture of subjective and objective measurement for a company’s dealer network.

MV Agusta Looking to Part Ways with Mercedes-AMG

04/28/2016 @ 2:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

MV-Agusta-F3-800-AMG-Solarbeam-04

The story of MV Agusta continues with even more interesting developments, as the Italian motorcycle manufacturer seems intent on buying back its shares from Mercedes-AMG, and recapitalizing with new investors.

Talking this week to Italy’s Il Giorno, MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni said that he is “negotiating a buy-back of shares,” though that might be a task easier said than done for the Italian CEO

This is because MV Agusta’s current financial predicament is due primarily from the company’s massive debt accumulation, which now totals over €40 million.

Assen World Superbike Debrief: Rainy Days

04/26/2016 @ 2:37 pm, by Kent Brockman2 COMMENTS

world-superbike-assen-wsbk-07

Four rounds into the WorldSBK season we have seen three different race winners, two manufacturers vie for the title, but unfortunately one man proving the dominant force.

After eight races it’s hard to imagine Jonathan Rea’s title defence having gotten off to a better start, but it’s happened, despite his lack of comfort with the new Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R. The Northern Irishman has not been comfortable with his new mount.

The much discussed “low inertia” engine has clearly taken some of the edge off Rea’s confidence in the bike. With a different engine braking characteristic, it has forced him to adjust his riding style to get the most from the machine.

Rea has a very natural style while on a race bike, it is something that has been similar on everything he has ever ridden. Whether it’s a Supersport, Superbike, or even a MotoGP machine, Rea has been able to ride in the same way. He’ll continue to adapt to the new bike and mould it to allow his style to flourish.

No, MV Agusta Hasn’t Declared Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

03/28/2016 @ 6:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

2016-MV-Agusta-Brutale-800-18

Despite what you may have read, MV Agusta isn’t declaring protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the United States Code. But, we can understand the confusion.

Just so we are clear, by definition Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings are a figment of American law. Since MV Agusta is an Italian company, it would be fundamentally wrong to say that MV Agusta Motor S.p.A. was seeking a protection under the US Code that pertains to bankruptcy.

The branch of MV Agusta that would be able to file for Chapter 11 would be MV Agusta USA, but the US subsidiary is not embroiled in MV Agusta Motor’s financial troubles, which makes the use of the term incredibly inaccurate.

The Precarious State of MV Agusta

03/23/2016 @ 2:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler39 COMMENTS

2016-MV-Agusta-F3-675-RC-static-white-05

MV Agusta as a motorcycle company has always seemed to have feet of clay, especially when its financial future is concerned. Today is no different, as MV Agusta has announced its intentions to restructure its debt, in order to keep the company afloat.

Afloat is an interesting phrase, as the storied Italian brand has changed hands four times in the past 12 years, with two of those purchase prices being a token euro, as MV Agusta’s liabilities far outstripped the company’s assets and holdings.

Fast-forward in time and it would be easy to say that not much has changed, as MV Agusta now has €40 million in liabilities on its balance sheet, all non-essential staff have been furloughed, the production lines in Varese recently have been motionless.

While this seems like more of the same from MV Agusta, the situation is far more complex, and for once in its lifetime, it isn’t MV Agusta’s lack of sales that are to blame. In fact, it’s the opposite, as it is MV Agusta’s success in growing its motorcycles that is the cause of its current financial situation.

That might seem like a counterintuitive notion, but if you understand the relationships between chickens, eggs, and which came first, then you will understand the situation at hand here with MV Agusta.

And while this impasse isn’t a new one in the business world, it doesn’t change the fact that the future of MV Agusta is in a precarious state.

Some Thoughts Regarding MV Agusta, From 30,000 Feet

02/03/2016 @ 7:32 am, by Jensen Beeler49 COMMENTS

MV-Agusta-logo-new-1

I’m on my second-to-last airplane ride on this two-week travel stint, and while I might be headed to San Diego, CA for the Ducati XDiavel launch, my thoughts are still back in Spain, on another Italian motorcycle manufacturer: MV Agusta.

There has been a fair bit of news to come from the 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800 launch (read our review here), namely that MV Agusta has a bevy of new motorcycles due to break cover in 2016.

MV Agusta has a new logo as well (shown above), though I doubt you have noticed the subtle changes made to the design, as the new logo looks pretty much exactly like the old logo, minus some very hard-to-notice changes to the positioning of the lettering and gear graphic. Along with the new logo design comes with a new tagline: Passion. Precisely Crafted.

MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni says that the new logo and new tagline come with MV Agusta’s new raison d’être of building motorcycles that focus on the needs of the motorcyclist.

A statement like this of course then begs for the follow-up question: were the previous models not built with motorcyclists in mind? Tongue-in-cheek riders might answer that rhetorical question in the affirmative.

Joking aside, in front of us we have a marginally different logo, accompanied by some good business-bullshit bingo…so what’s the real story here? Let me explain, long-windedly of course.