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.”

The Slow Decline of the Honda RC213V – The Lessons of Stefan Bradl And Alvaro Bautista

06/09/2015 @ 11:11 am, by David Emmett20 COMMENTS

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Last year, Marc Márquez won the first ten races of the season on his way to his second successive MotoGP championship. He ended the season with a grand total of thirteen wins, eventually tying up the title at Motegi, with three races still to go.

He could have wrapped it up a race earlier, had he not crashed trying to keep pace with Valentino Rossi at Misano. Márquez and the Honda RC213V reigned supreme, clearly the best package on the grid.

Eight months later, and Márquez trails the championship leader Rossi by 49 points, having won only one race, and taken one other podium finish at Jerez.

Márquez has crashed out of two races, nearly crashing out of a third as well, and is 101 points down on his total after the same number of races last year.

The Honda RC213V is being universally blamed for Márquez’s decline, with a series of crashes by Cal Crutchlow, Scott Redding and Dani Pedrosa also being put down to an overloaded front end.

The question on everyone’s lips is, how did the RC213V go from being the best bike on the grid to being behind the Yamaha and the Ducati? How could Honda get it so badly wrong in just a few short months?

California Close to Formalizing Legal Lane-Splitting, And What It Means for the Rest of the United States

05/29/2015 @ 4:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Out of the 50 states in The Union, only California allows lane-splitting on public roads and highways. California’s position on lane-splitting has always been a bit nebulous though, falling only under the “safe and prudent” provision of the California Vehicle Code.

Several attempts to demystify California’s policy on lane-splitting have come and gone, including the very public kerfuffle with the California Highway Patrol’s riding “guidelines” for lane-splitting.

Most recent attempts to “legalize” lane-splitting have seen laws that were even more restrictive than the CHP’s frankly fair provisions, and created much ire in California’s vocal riding community.

On the table now though is Assembly Bill 51, which would actually grant more privileges than what the CHP deemed reasonable, and could set the tone for a larger national push of lane-splitting.

How Heroes and Villains Can Help Save World Superbikes

05/26/2015 @ 11:16 am, by David Emmett16 COMMENTS

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Sunday was a pretty good day for British motorcycle racing fans. The first four finishers in both World Superbike races were British riders, and wildcard Kyle Ryde rode a thrilling and aggressive race to finish on the podium in his first ever World Supersport race.

And yet less than 16,000 spectators turned up to Donington Park to watch the action.

When you factor in the creative mathematics which goes into generating spectator numbers at sporting events (motorcycle racing is not alone in this), and then take a wild stab at the number of attendees on some form of freebie or other, then the actual quantity of punters who handed over cold, hard cash for a ticket is likely to be disappointingly low.

Once upon a time, British fans flocked to Brands Hatch to watch WSBK. Though the claims of 100,000 at the Kent track are almost certainly a wild exaggeration, there is no doubt that the circuit was packed.

Fans thronged at every fence, filling every open patch of ground to watch their heroes in combat. So what went wrong?

Is This Really the End of EBR? Receivership Explained

04/21/2015 @ 4:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler44 COMMENTS

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The bar isn’t set particularly high when it comes to the motorcycle media’s coverage of complex business issues, nor would you really expect it to be. The majority of my colleagues are more likely to have amateur or racing licenses, rather than MBAs or law degrees. Fortunately for A&R, I’m not an accomplished motorcycle racer.

It therefore didn’t surprise me last week that the headlines regard Erik Buell Racing ranged in their proclamations from the more accurate “ceased operations” to “gone bankrupt” – with the even more presumptive publications proclaiming the ultimate demise of the American brand.

This comes from a lack of understanding about how the receivership process works, which my European colleagues should have a stronger grasp of, as the concept is more prevalent across the pond.

As such, I would like to explain the issue further, and how it applies to the situation facing Erik Buell Racing. To entice you on what will surely be a boring subject to many, this doesn’t spell the end of Erik Buell Racing…not even close.

The FIA’s Endurance Championship Bans Umbrella Girls

04/06/2015 @ 12:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler85 COMMENTS

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No, it’s not April Fools, but it does seem that motorsports in general is evolving into the 21st century. No sooner did A&R run an article about umbrella girls in the MotoGP Championship, then did the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) announce that it would do away with scantily clad girls at all its events, including at the historic 24 Hours of Le Mans.

It’s an interesting move by a major series in the four-wheeled world — the effects of which will undoubtedly be tracked by every major racing series around the world.

Will WEC see a drop in male attendance? An increase in female attendance? An influx of new advertisers? Younger viewers? These are all valid and interesting questions.

Is This Why There Are No Female MotoGP Fans?

03/31/2015 @ 2:28 am, by Jensen Beeler179 COMMENTS

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First debuting a new website before the Qatar GP, it’s clear that Dorna has its social media team out in full-force for the 2015 MotoGP Championship season — the Spanish company finally taking a shine to the online world.

So with all the news coming out of the season-opener at Losail, it is unsurprising that my social feeds are full of posts regarding Rossi’s win, Ducati’s revival, and Dani Pedrosa’s shocking revelation — on top of all the usual fanfare that comes with MotoGP finally restarting.

One story caught my eye in particular though, less for its content, and more for its source. The caption to the story was your typical craftily picked social media headline, designed to illicit clicks and responses from readers. It read: “What would we do without our lovely ‪#‎MotoGP‬ girls?!”

It was by the Official MotoGP Facebook page, and it was not referring to the organization’s female racers. Le sigh.

Has Ducati’s Success Flat-Lined?

02/27/2015 @ 4:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler47 COMMENTS

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The saying goes that one time is a fluke, two times is a coincidence, but three times…three times is a trend. Looking at Ducati’s last three years of sales (2012-2014), which spans only a 2% margin of growth, by definition one has to conclude that the Italian company is experiencing sales stagnation.

Granted each of the last three years have been record years for the Italian motorcycle company’s sales figures, but each year has been a nudging over the last, seemingly at the cost of Ducati dealers who have found more and more inventory on their showroom floors.

But it shouldn’t surprise Ducati followers to hear the recent departure of Cristiano Silei, Ducati’s now-former Vice President of Sales and Marketing. With Ducati seemingly hitting a wall on expansion and model diversity, Silei’s departure may have been expected in some circles, and certainly all eyes will be on his successor Andrea Buzzoni, to see what he can do with the role.

Is all of this a sign that Ducati has lost its magic, seemingly during the leadership transition from Gabriele del Torchio to Claudio Domenicali? Or is there growth to be had from the Italian brand, now that it is owned by Audi AG? We examine that thought in more detail, after the jump.

A Requiem for Kenji Ekuan & The Kando of GK Design

02/12/2015 @ 1:51 pm, by Michael Uhlarik15 COMMENTS

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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.

At a time when made-in-Japan meant cheap and poorly manufactured imitation, Yamaha endeavoured to build motorcycles that could capture hearts as much as wallets by using a corporate philosophy they call Kando.

By The Numbers: Is Physical Fitness a Factor in Moto3?

01/22/2015 @ 11:48 am, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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What is the difference between winning in Moto3 and finishing at the back? The glib answer is “about 50 seconds”, but there must be an explanation for that gap.

It is a question which many have pondered, and to which there are few easy answers. Clearly, there is a difference in equipment, level of ability, and the ability of the team to get the set up right. But is there anything we can identify directly?

The one factor which we might be able to see in the lap times is the effect of hard work. Motorcycle racing is (paradoxically) a physically demanding sport, and physical fitness is one factor which a rider has in their own hands. Training, and dedication to training, could be a factor which makes a difference.

It may not be the difference between first and last, but it could well be the difference between finishing in the points and finishing at the very tail end of the field.

Newspeak: The Advent of the “Adventure-Sport”

01/14/2015 @ 4:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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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, regardless of how much dual-sport experience they actually have.

And more recently, a second group has appeared: those riders who look to these big ADV bikes as more versatile Sport-Touring machines, that have at least some credibility in continuing the trip beyond where the sidewalk ends.

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.

First, let us make some definitions. Adventure-Sport bikes are “middleweight” and “heavyweight” motorcycles, with longer off-road styled suspension. They have an on-road bias, with their 17″ front wheels, and they make sport bike horsepower from their lightweight engines.

Adventure-Sports usually have an abundance of rider aids, which are typically aimed at taming these bikes’ powerful and peaky engines for mixed road conditions.