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.

Audi to Announce Purchase of Ducati Next Week

04/11/2012 @ 11:40 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Reports are coming in that Audi’s acquisition of Ducati is all but done, and just needs to the ink to dry. With the announcement of the purchase expected to come next week (Wednesday if you believe some reports), the German manufacturer has reportedly finished its due diligence on the acquisition, and found no major obstacles to the purchase.

With previous reports going back and forth as to whether Audi (read: the Volkswagen Group) would purchase only a controlling interest in Ducati Motor Holding, or would completely buyout Investindustrial’s 70% stake in the Italian motorcycle manufacturer, other reports are now saying that Investindustrial is only interested in talking to Audi about the acquisition.

Audi Offers €750 Million for Ducati

03/28/2012 @ 11:56 am, by Jensen Beeler34 COMMENTS

According to Italy’s Correrie di Bologna, the Volkswagen Group has made a €750 million bid on Ducati Motor Holdings. Just shy of Investindustrial’s reported €832 million asking price on the Italian motorcycle manufacturer. Reports are also saying that Volkswagen’s due diligence process has uncovered that Ducati has less debt on its books than previously thought (previously rumored to be in the €200 million range), and that the €750 million offer would nearly double  Investindustrial’s initial purchase price of the Italian company.

Said to have until the middle of April to make an offer, the Volkswagen Group’s current proposal is lower than the €850 million originally rumored earlier this month. Despite it being less than Investindustrial’s initial valuation of €1 billion, the deal is said to be close to finalization, with Italian politicians and union members weighing in on the prospect of German involvement with the Italian brand.

Audi to Buy Ducati?

03/12/2012 @ 11:35 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

It has been almost a year now since we broke the news that Ducati Motor Holding was up for sale, and I still can’t tell if the appropriate metaphor for the ongoing acquisition is a game of musical chairs or Russian roulette. Vying for a seat or putting the chamber to its temple, our latest contestant in “Who Wants to Buy Ducati” is Audi, the four-ringed German car manufacturer. Reported to have a right of first refusal, Audi allegedly has until mid-April to finalize a deal with Investindustrial (Ducati’s main investor) to buy Ducati from the Italian investment group.

Though Ducati sold over 40,000 motorcycles in 2011, the Italian company has roughly €800 million in debt on its books. This means that any company interested in buying Ducati would have to assume the Italian company’s debt onto its own books, which changes the actual purchase price of Ducati dramatically. For its part, Audi is rumored to be making an offer in the €850 million range, which would put the actual purchase value of Ducati at over €50 million, and could put as much as €100 million on the table for Investindustrial to take.

Can We Just Let Moto Morini Die Already? – New Company Auction Set for July 19th

06/17/2011 @ 6:08 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

If Moto Morini was a household dog, someone would have taken it out to the backwoods and put the damn thing down already. Yet, Administrators in charge of handling the bankrupt company’s assets are gearing up for yet another attempt to auction the brand, building, anything in order to get some euros back for Moto Morini’s creditors. Set to take place on July 19th, the auction aims to sell the company and its premises for €4.65 million (down from €5.5 million), but will strike a deal on the assets for a cool €1.95 million (also down from €2.6 million). Will this make a difference? Probably not.

MotoGP Owners Looking to Buy World Superbike

06/13/2011 @ 12:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Bear with us on this one, as it’s a bit convoluted. Bridgepoint Capital, a private equity firm based out of London, owns Spanish company Dorna Sports SL. Dorna, which as you might recall is the media rights holder and promoter for MotoGP, the motorcycle Grand Prix World Championship that we all know and love. Meanwhile World Superbike is owned in majority by Swiss company Infront Sports & Media, and in minority by the Italian-born Flammini brothers, with the latter group still handling WSBK’s media promotion.

Now according to reports, Infront Sports & Media is up for sale, and one of the three alleged bidders is Bridgepoint Capital (circle back to the second sentence in the first paragraph if you got lost on the way here). This means that potentially the twice-removed owner of MotoGP could potentially own a controlling stake in the Championship’s rival series: World Superbike. There are still a number of “if’s” in whether Bridgepoint will come through as a buyer on Infront Sports & Media, but ownership of both series by the same party, even at a removed distance is worth some general discussion.

New Buyer for Moto Morini Emerges?

03/24/2011 @ 10:48 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

As Moto Morini marches closer to its April 13th auction date, a new potential buyer has come out of the woodwork for the troubled Italian company. Thomas Bleiner, an Austrian entrepreneur, has his eyes set on the Moto Morini facility with an interesting idea or two up his sleeve.

The proposal for the purchase is expected to be an interesting one, as Bleiner and his partner Gianni Farneda plan on making the dollar and cents of the deal work by installing a 1.1 megawatt photoelectric power system on the roof of the Bologna facility. Bleiner and Farneda have been heavily involved in the solar industry, developing a new photoelectric paint that uses nano technology.

Bleiner and his group believe they could have the factory up and running as early as June with at least eight employees returning to work. With the Granferro and Corsair lines seemingly to be ready to roll, Bleiner says the company could even make a November EICMA appearance. If this sounds a bit too good to be true, then perhaps it is, as Bleiner and his partners have yet to actually submit a bid to Moto Morini’s receiver, despite making the rounds to the Italian magazines and newspapers about their intent to purchase the brand.

Officially Official: Harley-Davidson “Sells” MV Agusta to Castiglioni Family

08/06/2010 @ 11:53 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

There has to be a bevy of high-fives going on in Milwaukee right now, as Harley-Davidson has finally unloaded MV Agusta from its holdings (we broke the news on the purchase earlier this morning). Harley-Davidson bought MV Agusta for $109 million back in 2008 (most of which was bad debt), and now just a little over two years later is making a tidy profit of…well, nothing. After wiping the books clean, investing in new infrastructre, and getting MV Agusta back on track with an all new model line-up (with a bike on the way), Harley-Davidson saw a paltry sum of €1 cross its desks. Harley-Davidson shares are down 3.5% as of this writing.

Instead Harley-Davidson is calling things even with the Castiglioni family, who would have seen a stock pay-out had the company exchanged hands with another buyer, like TPG for instance. The Castiglioni’s stock was worth somewhere between €20-€30 million, and now with 100% ownership, the Italians are free to once again run MV Agusta into the ground, just like they did leading up to 2008.

Harley-Davidson & MV Agusta press releases are after the jump. One interesting point of note that taking the helm of MV Agusta is former Ducati General Manager and Chief Engineer Massimo Bordi. Bordi was once offered the job of CEO at Ducati, but turned it down, and the position was filled by Gabriele del Torchio, Ducati’s current CEO. Bordi’s last item of business at Ducati was trying to sell the Italian brand to Harley-Davidson, which makes for some good irony in today’s announcement.

Claudio Castiglioni Purchase of MV Agusta Imminent

08/06/2010 @ 8:40 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

UPDATE: The deal is now done, with Harley-Davidson issuing a press release.

Expected to be closed within hours, Harley-Davidson is on the verge of selling MV Agusta to Claudio Castiglioni. Castiglioni was able to leverage the purchase of MV Agusta by using the funds that would have been generated by his stock buy-out, which is rumored to be between €20 – €30 million. Castiglioni is today’s big winner in the deal, as the Italian is basically buying back the company he sold to Harley-Davidson for pennies on the dollar, while Harley-Davidson is left holding the tab on a hefty purchase price and cash infusion into the Italian company.

Moto Morini Purchase Almost Complete

06/09/2010 @ 8:28 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

After getting his first offer to purchase Moto Morini rejected by the local unions, Paolo Berlusconi looks to have overcome the setback, and could finalize the purchase of the other Bologna brand by as early as next week. This news comes after provincial administrators called an emergency meeting, which resulted in some concession by Berlusconi.

At the center of the controversy is the number of workers Berlusconi will keep on at the Bologna-based plant. According to reports, this number has been increased from 20 to 26, out of total of 57 workers who worked at the plant before it entered into receivership. This concession does not come without consequences though.

MV Agusta Claims 50% Boost in Sales

03/26/2010 @ 2:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

MV Agusta has issued a press release stating that the Italian brand has seen a 50% increase in unit sales the last three months when compared to the first quarter of 2009. Unfortunately Asphalt & Rubber has no way of verifying if these numbers are accurate, but their release is certainly well-timed with the added talk in the business world surrounding MV Agusta’s divesture from Harley-Davidson.

Was Harley able to turn the brand around? Are the new F4 and Brutale selling like hotcakes? Or is this carefully seeded information to help a deal along? Only time will tell. Photos of the new MV’s after the jump.