The Next, Next Big Thing in Motorcycles: Haptic Feedback

We are at an interesting point in time for motorcycles, namely because the technological landscape for the transportation sector is shifting radically. Long-time readers of Asphalt & Rubber will note some of the issues at play here, namely autonomous vehicles, rider aids, and vehicle interconnectivity. Over the next few weeks I want to revisit those items in more depth and detail, with a series that focuses on emerging technologies that are either already permeating into our two-wheeled lifestyle, or will be hitting the motorcycle industry over the next decade or so. But before I tackle the more obvious items on this list, I want to invest some words on a lesser-known technological innovation, which has the potential to be the next, “next big thing” in the motorcycle industry.

You Already Want This Honda Grom Race Bike from HRC

Understanding one’s lust for a Honda Grom is a lot like explaining good pornography: it is difficult to describe, but you know it when you see it. That idea encapsulates everything you need to know about Honda’s monkey bike. We can’t tell you why you want one, we just know that you do. Honda’s sales on the Grom back that notion up, as well. Beyond being just an adorable grocery-getter, we are seeing a plethora of Groms at the race track – and not just as pit bikes. Grom racing is becoming a thing, with more than a few minimoto series making spec-classes for Honda Grom racers, or including them in their 150cc programs. To that end, Honda’s racing department, HRC, has the Grom that you want – nay – need. Behold, the Honda Grom race bike from HRC.

Honda CBR250RR Headlight Spotted in Patents

We are literally marking time until Big Red debuts the Honda CBR250RR, the sportier sibling to the Honda CBR250R, which should rev to the moon and make more power with its two-cylinder engine. We have seen the prototype of the Honda CBR250RR already at trade shows, and the new CBR250RR is definitely on the edgier side of things, which is surprising coming the ever-conservative minds at Honda. How much of the edgy design will remain in the production version has yet to be seen, but we do have our first glimpse of some of the machine. The headlight shape has been filed with European patent offices, which is sort of a weird thing to be reporting on, but it does show insight into where Honda is headed.

Could BMW Be Working on an XDiavel Killer?

Here’s some more BMW Motorrad speculation for your two-wheeled consumption, as Germany’s Motorrad Magazine says that BMW is looking to take on the Ducati XDiavel, with a power cruiser model of its own. This of course isn’t the first time that BMW has included a cruiser-styled motorcycle in its lineup, with the BMW R1200C being a unique, though slightly odd, offering to the cruiser demographic. Like Ducati, BMW seems to be learning from its mistakes in going after the cruiser crowd, and instead of offering a motorcycle that is BMW’s take on the cruiser concept, they are building a cruiser that has cues back to the BMW lineup. A subtle but potent distinction. Time will tell on how this rumor plays out, though there are number of interesting things to consider with a BMW power cruiser.

Yamaha Tracer 700 Sport-Tourer Debuts for Europe

There are two big things to note with the debut of the Yamaha Tracer 700 in Europe today. One, Yamaha firmly believes in the future of the sport-touring segment; and two, the Japanese brand is getting excellent mileage out of its three-cylinder and two-cylinder machines that comprise its new FZ/MT line of motorcycles. As such, the Yamaha Tracer 700 offers to be a fun and affordable machine for those riders who find themselves many miles down the road after a “spirited” ride. With bike sales in Europe finally on an upward trend, Yamaha hopes that the release of the Tracer 700 is well-timed, and of course the brand has more models in the works that are based on the same 689cc parallel-twin power plant.

Is BMW Working on 300cc GS Model?

When the BMW G310R arrived, the German brand indicated that the small-displacement street bike would be the first of many model based on the 313cc platform. Now it seems that the first iteration is ready to drop, with news that BMW Motorrad is working on a G310R-based adventure-touer model. According to Motorcycle Sport and Leisure, BMW Motorrad UK’s Director Phil Horton has confirmed that a BMW G310GS model will debut, perhaps in time for the 2017 model year, saying “new models aside, the line-up isn’t as comprehensive as it needs to be. But there are plenty more bikes to come, including, hopefully in 2017, a G310R GS-style derivative.” The idea of small-displacement ADV machine does mimic what we have been seeing from other brands.

EPA Withdraws Racing Emissions Proposal

If you have a modified track-only motorcycle, then we have some news to share that you will enjoy, as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has withdrawn proposed language that would have specifically given it the ability to regulate the emissions of production vehicles that were being used at track days or similar events. The proposed rule caused quite a storm in automotive enthusiast circles, as it would have affected racing and recreational uses of products that have been sold under “race use only” provisions for years. Of course, the larger issue at stake here was the continued selling of race parts to street enthusiasts. Still, since it is hard to find a motorcycle on the road these days that hasn’t seen its emissions equipment modified, it doesn’t surprise us to see the backlash coming from the motorcycling community.

Honda Halts Operations at Its Kumamoto Factory After Earthquakes Strike Japan

If you have been following mainstream news, you will know that the Pacific Rim has been active with earthquake activity these past few days. In addition to the devastating movements in Ecuador, Japan has been rocked by a series of earthquakes as well, two of which have centered on the Kumamoto prefecture of the country. If that names sounds familiar to motorcycle enthusiasts, it is because Kumamoto is Honda’s mothership for motorcycle production. As such, Honda is halting the operations of its Kumamoto factory, thru the rest of this week (ending April 22, 2016). Honda says that its subsequent production plans will be determined according to facility restorations and component supply.

Lorenzo To Ducati: Why It Happened & What Happens Next

In case you missed it, Jorge Lorenzo has signed with Ducati Corse for the 2017 and 2018 MotoGP World Championship seasons. It is not so much that team bosses never appear in pre-event press conferences, but rather that such appearances are vanishingly rare, and often momentous. If Jarvis is not there to discuss Lorenzo’s move to Ducati, then something has gone very awry indeed. We have been here before, of course. When Valentino Rossi finally announced he would be moving to Ducati in 2010, a similar procedure was adopted. So taking account of the lessons from that move, and of Rossi’s return to Yamaha, let us gaze into our crystal ball and see what we can expect for the upcoming days.

It’s Official, Jorge Lorenzo Will Race with Ducati Corse

As expected, the announcement dropped today that Jorge Lorenzo will be leaving the Movistar Yamaha team at the end of this season, for a new racing opportunity with Ducati Corse. Details are light at this time, mostly because of Lorenzo’s ongoing contract with Yamaha Racing for the rest of the MotoGP season, but we do know that the Spaniard has inked a two-year with the Italian outfit. Lorenzo’s move to Ducati will mean a cascade of changes in the MotoGP paddock, with the next phase of the silly season process likely to focus on who will replace him as Valentino Rossi’s teammate. Good money is on Maverick Viñales, but as we pointed out in the latest Paddock Pass Podcast episode, Suzuki has redoubled its efforts to retain the young Spanish rider.

Hero MotoCorp Buys 49.2% Stake in Erik Buell Racing for $25 Million

07/01/2013 @ 9:34 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

erik-buell-racing-america

A plethora of Indian Financial publications are reporting that Hero MotoCorp has bought a 49.2% stake in Erik Buell Racing for $25 million. Hero MotoCorp is India’s largest two-wheel manufacturer, and for a year now has partnered with Erik Buell Racing for technical development, as well as sponsoring the American company’s AMA Pro Road Racing team for the past two seasons.

Today’s news confirms numerous rumors we have heard about the Hero investing in EBR. Acquiring only 49.2% of Erik Buell Racing, Hero has only a minority stake in EBR, and while we cannot confirm the information, we would imagine that the odd 49.2% ownership was done to keep Erik Buell as the majority shareholder in his company.

Audi Bought 100% of Ducati’s Stock

04/19/2012 @ 2:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

With the Volkswagen Group’s Board of Directors meeting done, ahead of the company’s shareholder meeting which is also now complete, details of Audi’s acquisition of Ducati are starting to emerge.

Paying €860 million ($1.1 billion) for the Italian motorcycle company, perhaps the biggest shocker to come from Audi’s acquisition is not the price, but the unconfirmed reports that Audi AG has bought 100% of the Ducati’s stock, meaning Borgo Panigale will now come under complete German control.

This news means that Audi not only bought out the 70% ownership of Investindustrial, but also the 30% remainder that was held by private equity fund BS, the Hospitals of Ontario Pension Plan, and other minority shareholders.

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.

Bajaj Bumps Ownership of KTM to 47%

04/04/2012 @ 7:42 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Bajaj Bumps Ownership of KTM to 47%

Slowly but surely, Bajaj Auto continues to gobble up pieces of KTM’s stock. Taking its investment position now to just over 47%, Bajaj has acquired another 6.3% of the Austrian motorcycle manufacturer, and is projected to continue acquiring stock in the company.

The second-largest motorcycle manufacturer in India, Bajaj is also the second-largest shareholder in KTM, with KTM’s largest controlling position belonging to Stefan Pierer (KTM CEO) and Rudolf Knuenz (KTM Chairman of the Board), whose combined holdings come to just more than 51% of the company.

Hero MotoCorp Eyes Purchasing Ducati? Erik Buell Racing?

03/05/2012 @ 3:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Two weeks and two separate rumors about Hero MotoCorp’s acquisition warpath. Last week the Indian motorcycle manufacturer was said to be eyeing a minority equity stake in Erik Buell Racing. Having already hired the American sport bike maker to help innovate on some of Hero’s upcoming small displacement machines, the two companies sweetened the deal with Hero becoming the title sponsor to EBR’s AMA Pro Superbike racing effort.

This week the spotlight shines on Ducati Motor Holding, which has quietly been for sale for almost a year now. Originally wooing an acquisition from Mercedes-Benz, the Italian motorcycle manufacturer has been linked to a variety of other companies, as well as a public offering on an Asian stock index. With our sources telling us that Ducati has been trimming the fat from its books in order to make its earnings more attractive, Hero MotoCorp is the latest potential buyer to enter the fray and to talk to bankers about a Ducati acquisition.

Rumor: Ducati Considering Selling Its Stock?

08/15/2011 @ 11:40 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

According to the Dow Jones Newswire, Investindustrial, the private equity firm behind Ducati Motor Holding SpA, is considering putting the Italian motorcycle company’s stock up for sale in a private offering next year. Investindustrial bought the Texas Pacific Group’s 45% share in Ducati back in 2006, becoming the company’s largest single investor. Later in June 2008, the private equity firm lead by Carlo and Andrea Bonomi increased its stake in Ducati, controlling 84.6% of the company’s stock.

If today’s rumors are true, Investindustrial would be dumping some, if not all, of its shares in Ducati, likely into other investment groups. Though other motorcycles news sites are quick to call this an IPO, there is no indication at this time that Investindustrial plans on making the stock offering public (the Dow Jones Newswire in fact specifically says that the offering is private), meaning that Ducati’s stock will not be available to regular stock purchasers, but will instead be bid on by banks, investment groups, and other large corporations.

Analyst Report: Bajaj May Take a 49% Stake in KTM

07/28/2011 @ 11:04 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Bajaj Auto has an insatiable appetite for KTM, and the Indian company has slowly been gobbling up KTM stock, and now is just under a 40% shareholder in the Austrian motorcycle company. With Cross Industries AG holding 51% of the company in its control, the Austrians have made it clear that they will not give up majority control of KTM, especially to the Indian automotive company. However, analysts are predicting Bajaj could take its partnership with KTM to its limit, purchasing up to 49% of the company’s stock.

Harley-Davidson Stock Manipulation Being Investigated

06/16/2011 @ 9:38 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Lawyers have begun an investigation into the recent rumors that private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) was targeting Harley-Davidson for a stock takeover. Suspecting that Harley-Davidson executives breached their fiduciary responsibility to Harley-Davidson, Inc., investigators were tipped-off to potential breaches at the Milwaukee company after its stock rose by $2 (+5%) immediately after the rumors were first published in financial reports.

Bajaj Continues to Gobble Up KTM Stock

05/16/2011 @ 3:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Bajaj’s appetite for KTM stock seems to be never-ending, though slow in digestion, as the Indian company has acquired another 1.21% of the Austrian motorcycle maker. Gobbling up shares from other minority holders on the open market, Bajaj now has a 39.3% interest in KTM, while majority shareholder CROSS continues with its 50.1% stake.

CROSS has made it clear it intends is to remain the majority shareholder, and has no plans of selling-out its position to the Indian company (or has it?). So, no corporate takeovers just yet, but a continuation of an interesting move by Bajaj in investing with KTM.

Harley-Davidson Q1 2011 Earnings up 350%

04/19/2011 @ 9:00 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Before the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange, Harley-Davidson posted its first quarter numbers of 2011 this morning. Despite earnings being up 350% when compared to Q1 of 2010, Harley-Davidson is showing only a modest turnaround compared to its competitors, as worldwide sales are only up 3.5% compared to last year’s. Still, the company has to be pleased with being back in the black, as Harley-Davidson reported over $119 million in profits (Harley-Davidson made $33.3 million in Q1 2010).

The reason for the less enthusiastic news is because these positive numbers were fueled by the company’s financial services division, which is finally posting profits after nearly collapsing the company during the recession, instead of an increase in bike sales. While Harley-Davidson is touting a 155% revenue increase from the HDFS side of accounting books, it goes without saying that when one does barely any financing in 2010, it’s easy to post results like this. Furthermore, future HDFS financial success is pegged to new Harley-Davidson motorcycle sales, which still show a bleak future.