Imagining the 2018 Suzuki RM-Z450 Supermoto

It is a tremendous shame that the options for a road legal supermoto for are so limited, with the venerable Suzuki DR-Z400SM being the only offering in the 450cc on-road class. For virtually a decade, Suzuki has left the DR-Z basically unchanged – as it has done with many of its sport models – so we would love to see Suzuki and other manufacturers give this space more attention (a hat tip to Husqvarna for bringing the track-only FS450 to market, long with the 701 Supermoto). Although you can wake-up the DR-Z400 with a few simple modification, and there are a bevy of aftermarket kits that can punch the 398cc machine out in size, what we really want from Suzuki is a proper 450cc street supermoto – one that doesn’t stray too far from the brand’s current strong motocross offering. So, when we saw this little bit of Photoshop work by the folks at the German Suzuki dealership of DSR-Suzuki, we got a little excited.

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.

Chilean Government Opts Out of Hosting 2017 Dakar Rally

03/21/2016 @ 1:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

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For the second year in a row, Chile will not feature as part of the Dakar Rally, as the Chilean government has opted not to host the iconic rally raid.

The recent decision comes from the Chamber of Deputies of Chile (the lower house of Chile’s bicameral Congress), which failed to get the needed majority vote to continue hosting the race.

With 42 votes in favor of hosting the Dakar Rally again, 33 against, and 17 abstentions, the failed proposal was opposed mostly on environmental grounds, as many deputies thought that the environmental impact of the race on Chile’s terrain has been too great.

This news is an about-face for the Dakar Rally, as the ASO (the organizers of the Dakar Rally) seemed to have all but confirmed Chile and Argentina for competition back in January of this year.

Benelli Adds Factory Space & Opens First Store in Brazil

02/12/2014 @ 7:48 pm, by Aakash Desai8 COMMENTS

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“Have you ever been to Brazil?” is a common question amongst pale twenty-somethings that have been to the Brazillian Carnaval or New Year’s and come back with a few venereal diseases under their belt (so to speak). Brazil has much more to offer than hedonistic festivals and pristine beaches though.

It’s also home to nearly 200 million people, many of whom ride two wheelers everyday as the ideal form of personal transport. Italian brand, Benelli, has recently announced the opening of 12,500 square meters of additional factory space to the existing 100,000 square meters of space at the Bramont Motorcycle facility in Manaus.

Let’s Try This Again: MotoGP in Argentina, 2014 thru 2016

07/05/2013 @ 4:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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Inking a three-year deal with Dorna, Argentina will finally be a part of the MotoGP Championship starting next season. The news has been a long time coming, as the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit was originally slated to be a stop for MotoGP racers for the current season.

However, after some political strife caused by the Argentinian government nationalized Repsol YPF, the Spanish oil company’s Argentinian subsidiary, MotoGP cancelled the round just before the start of the 2013 MotoGP Championship.

Though the official reason for the cancellation was because of the Spanish government’s recommendation that its citizens not travel to the South American company, one only has to follow the money and spheres of influence within MotoGP to discern the real motivations behind the rounds cancellation.

With all this seemingly now in the past, MotoGP has concluded its first days of testing at Termas de Rio Hondo, with favorable reviews coming from the riders who were in attendance. It is worth noting though, that no riders from the Repsol Honda team were in attendance.

“Ducati do Brasil” is Ready for Business – Argentina Next

06/20/2013 @ 3:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

2013-Ducati-Hypermotard

In October of last year, we told you about how Ducati Motor Holding was directly taking over its operations in Brazil, and was forming a subsidiary in the South American country. Nine months later now, Ducati do Brasil is officially open for business, and the company’s first showroom floor is in the Avenida Faria Lima of São Paulo.

Helping Ducati side-step the onerous tariffs that come with the Brazil market, the Italian company is continuing its relationship with DAFRA, which runs a complete knock-down (CKD) assembly plant in Manaus, and builds Diavel and Monster 796 motorcycles on Ducati’s behalf.

Ducati do Brasil will be run by Managing Director Ricardo Susini, who will in-turn be assisted by Marco Truzzi as Service & After Sales Manager.

Honda Motorcycle Sales Down 5% in 2012

01/28/2013 @ 11:42 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Honda Motor Co. has reported its 2012 sales figures, with the Japanese behemoth showing a 5% sales drop for 2012, when compared to 2011. Selling 15.6 million units last year, Honda made progress in its home country Japan (+1%), as well as in North America (+25%) and Europe (+22%).

However in Honda’s most volume-heavy markets, the company suffered modest loses: South America (-14%), Asia (-5%), and China (-1%). With three out of four Honda motorcycles being sold in Asia, the region’s 5% dip essentially assured the Japanese company’s sales loss for the year.

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.

No Sub-800cc Motorcycle for India? Why Harley-Davidson Doesn’t Understand Emerging Markets

06/02/2012 @ 7:38 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

Regular readers of Asphalt & Rubber will have noticed by now that I like to talk about what is going on with motorcycling in emerging markets like India, Southeast Asia, Brazil, etc. The fact of the matter is that it is these markets, not North America or Europe, that are going to serve as the future for the motorcycle industry, and the sooner us westerners get used to that idea, the better. For an industry built around and defined by the rebellious archetypes portrayed by James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Steve McQueen, the reality is that motorcyclists as a whole are conservative by nature, and resistant to change…especially in the United States.

We like our bikes loud, our helmets off, and bikes built by real blue-collar ‘mericans. Our skin prickles at the thought of manufacturing outside the borders of our blessed Union, and every time a company opens a factory in India, Southeast Asia, or South America, we talk about the outsourcing of American labor, the downfall of our economy, or something equally hyperbolic.

This has been the same broken record that has been played for the better part of the past 100 years, and has re-manifests itself each decade to address the next perceived threat to our domestic economy. While there is much to say about the shifting of America’s GDP from manufacturing to service industries, the real germane subject for discussion here centers around the idea that all too often Chicken Little rears his head when an American company opens a factory outside of the United States.

Such is the case with Harley-Davidson, which setup manufacturing in India back in 2011. Contrary to belief that the sky was falling, the Bar & Shield brand was not getting ready to massively outsource its production abroad (though it was heavily re-negotiating with its unionized labor force), but instead very deliberately and wisely chose to bypass India’s extraordinarily high tariffs by building and assembling its Indian market bikes locally. This move allowed Harley-Davidson to competitively and reasonably price its motorcycle in the Indian market, which in turn helped the brand expand its presence in one of the largest motorcycle markets in the world.

While this plan so far has proved to be fruitful for Harley-Davidson, the recent news that Harley Davidson India CEO Anoop Prakash has confirmed that H-D will not be making a sub-800cc bike specifically for the Indian market shows a misstep for Harley-Davidson with its international strategy, especially as it pertains to the major growth markets for motorcycling.

Official: MotoGP to Race in Argentina in 2013

09/13/2011 @ 2:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

It looks like the rumors were true, as Dorna announced today that the MotoGP World Championship will race in Argentina during the 2013 season. In an event attended by Argentinean President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Dorna announced that MotoGP will come to the Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo track in the Santiago del Estero province for three years, starting in 2013 (subject to FIM homologation of course). Bringing premier motorcycle racing back to South America, Argentina is the second stop added so far to the 2013 calendar, as Austin, Texas will also host MotoGP starting in 2013.

Argentina Wouldn’t Mind Hosting MotoGP

03/30/2011 @ 7:48 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

In the MotoGP World Championship there are 18 stops on the calendar at different race venues, and the series has a penchant for looking to expand its global reach. It seems just about every season there’s a bevy of rumors about possible venues the premier class of motorcycle racing could stop at, and 2011 season is no different.

While a Spanish GP is a sure-fire way of ensuring a massive attendance, there does seem to be some motivation in Dorna to spread the wealth as it were, and the Secretary of Tourism of Argentina has made it clear he’d like to see MotoGP racing back on the South American continent, preferably at the Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo just outside of San Juan.