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.”

No Factory Seat at Ducati for Hayden – Headed to WSBK?

07/16/2013 @ 12:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler42 COMMENTS

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Rumors have been rife over the future of Nicky Hayden in MotoGP, as the former-World Champion and five-time Ducati man is seeing his seat up for grabs at the Italian factory team for yet another silly season. With it being no secret that Cal Crutchlow is looking for a factory ride in the premier class, and Yamaha reportedly not stepping up to the plate in that regard (add more fuel to the fire with Pol Espargaro reportedly coming into the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team next year), Crutchlow has all but officially been seen in Ducati livery for next year.

With Ducati keen to retain the services of the Italian Andrea Dovizioso, Hayden is left as the odd-man-out in this game of MotoGP musical chairs. With his options in MotoGP very grim because of the four prototypes agreement the MSMA has inked with Dorna, the American’s options outside of Ducati Corse are limited really to non-MSMA bikes, unless something radical occurs in the Pramac Racing side of the Ducati camp (Ben Spies has a contract thru 2014, and Iannone is hotly tipped to retain his seat for next year).

Rumor: Ducati Scrambler Cometh

07/08/2013 @ 4:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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While I was lounging at the pool this holiday weekend, getting my bronze on, the A&R Bothan Spy network was hard at work dumpster diving, hacking emails, and subscribing to the NSA’s live PRISM feed.

The fruits of that labor was the alarming realization of how many kitten videos the motorcycle industry collectively watches in a single day, and the fact that Ducati is working on scrambler-style motorcycle.

The project itself dates way back when Pierre Terblanche was still toiling away in Bologna, dodging equal portions of labor strikes and carbonara, and at the time was based around the now defunct Ducati Sport Classic.

Shelved, and thought never to see the light of day, we can only imagine this whole Hipstacyclist™ movement has helped Ducati rethink its position regarding a scrambler.

Gabriele del Torchio Leaving Ducati for Alitalia?

04/15/2013 @ 12:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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I thought I could hold onto this one over the weekend, but I guess I was wrong. Asphalt & Rubber, along with several other publications it would seem, have gotten news that Gabriele del Torchio, CEO of Ducati Motor Holding, could be leaving the company for a position with Italian airline Alitalia.

Still an unconfirmed rumor at this point, Del Torchio’s move would mark the end to a major chapter in Ducati’s history, as the Bologna company has flurished under the Italian’s command. Though this transition that has been hinted at since Audi AG bought Ducati Motor Holding from Investindustrial, the news perhaps isn’t surprising, but it does raise some interesting question marks for the future.

Casey Stoner To Wildcard at Phillip Island and Motegi?

02/17/2013 @ 12:30 pm, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

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Wherever racing paddocks assemble, rumors accumulate. The latest piece of gossip to hit the racing grapevine concerns Casey Stoner, and is emerging from the paddock he has just entered – the Australian V8 Supercars series – and involves the paddock he has just left, MotoGP. According to the V8 gossip*, Casey Stoner is to wildcard in at least two MotoGP races in the 2013 season, aboard a Honda RC213V.

The paddock gossip was picked up by the Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport, who contacted Repsol Honda team principal Livio Suppo for confirmation. Suppo denied any knowledge of such an agreement, though he did state that Stoner would be more than welcome to race as a wildcard for Honda, should he wish to do so.

The rumors do not exist only in the V8 Supercar paddock. The rumors are also doing the rounds among those with connections to Honda in the MotoGP paddock as well. Anonymous sources suggest that Stoner has been signed to do all three flyaway races – Sepang, Phillip Island, and Motegi – as well as private testing for HRC.

KTM RC25 – A KTM 250cc Sport Bike Coming from India?

02/13/2013 @ 10:36 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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Rumors of a 250cc KTM sport bike have been around ever since the Austrian brand’s product road map for the American market leaked to the internet.

Expected to draw inspiration from the company’s successful Moto3 race bike, the KTM 250cc street bike is now coming to the forefront of rumors again, as news from India reconfirms its production for 2014.

However, the new rumors from India suggest that the dubbed “KTM RC25” will take after the KTM 1190 RC8 R, rather than the company’s Moto3 machine.

Rumor: Race-Only 450cc BMW/Husqvarna Bike Coming?

11/28/2012 @ 1:23 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Italy’s motorcycle publication of record, Motociclismo, is reporting that BMW Motorrad is developing a 450cc race bike for youth racers. Said to be a ground-up design that centers around a single-cylinder motor that will likely be prepared by Husqvarna, the BMW race bike would feature a frame built in Bologna, Italy with “racing” suspension, forged wheels, and carbon fiber bodywork.

With pricing to be in the €20,000 range, BMW hopes that its 450cc cup bike will appeal to 15 to 18-year-old riders, and is formulating a racing series that will piggyback off six select World Superbike and British Superbike rounds. As such, BMW’s proposal appears to be in direct competition with the European Junior Cup (EJC), which will use the Honda CBR500R as its spec-machine for the 2013 season.

MotoGP: Argentinian GP To Be Canceled?

11/22/2012 @ 2:31 pm, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

Even before the Argentinian round of MotoGP had been officially added to the calendar, the race has been in doubt. The race, provisionally scheduled to take place on April 14th next year at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit, has been caught in the crossfire between the Argentinian government and Repsol, over the former nationalizing Repsol YPF, the Argentinian arm of the Spanish petroleum giant.

Now, it looks as if the race the race is about to be canceled officially. According to Damià Aguilar, MotoGP reporter for Catalunya Radio, the Argentinian GP is to taken off the calendar, with an official announcement due to be made on Friday.

The cancellation of the race will leave a large gap between the first race of the season at Qatar, scheduled for March 31st, and the second race at Austin, Texas, booked three weeks later on April 21st.  To close up that gap, Qatar will be moved up a week and be held on April 7th instead, leaving just two weeks between the first two races.

MotoGP: Filippo Preziosi out of Ducati Corse?

11/11/2012 @ 1:29 am, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS

A revolution is about to take place at Ducati, several reliable sources are reporting. The Bologna factory’s new owners Audi are pushing through wholesale changes, both MotoSprint and Moto.it are reporting, which include relieving Filippo Preziosi of his responsibility for Ducati’s MotoGP project and embarking on a parallel project to have Suter build a new chassis for the bike.

Who is to take the place of Preziosi at the head of Ducati Corse is unclear, but the name of Paolo Ciabatti, currently involved in World Superbikes and previously head of Ducati’s WSBK team, is being mentioned.

According to the reports in the Italian press, the removal of Preziosi is part of a wholesale reorganization of Ducati’s MotoGP project. The structure is to be altered to make it more ‘Japanese’ with the work divided up into separate divisions, and without tight central control of all aspects.

Suter has been commissioned by Audi to build a new chassis for the Ducati as part of a separate, parallel project to try to improve the bike.

Rumor: KTM 375 Duke – A V-Twin Learner Cometh?

10/17/2012 @ 4:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Diving through KTM’s 108 page annual report for 2011, the Austrian company lists a couple of interesting developments in its Research & Development section. Partnering with Bajaj on small-displacement street motorcycles, the first obvious fruit of that labor was the KTM 125 Duke, and the subsequent KTM 200 Duke that is available worldwide.

We already know that KTM plans on bringing a 300cc version of the baby Duke to North America, and the Austrian company lists displacements in this project up to 375cc, a strong signal to the final displacement of the much anticipated KTM 350 Duke.

Rumor: Vectrix to Debut an Electric Superbike at EICMA?

09/11/2012 @ 1:30 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

With all the hype that surrounds the electric motorcycle industry, it is easy to forget the company that basically paved the way for the current batch electric motorcycle OEMs. Depending on how closely you follow the space, Vectrix may or may not be a name that is familiar to you, but it should be. By our last count, the American-based, now Chinese-owned (it went bankrupt in 2009), EV company had put more electric two-wheelers on the road in the USA than Brammo and Zero Motorcycles…combined.