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.

LEAKED: Here is the 2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse

Cruisers aren’t really our forté, here at Asphalt & Rubber, but breaking stories is…so, without all the typical fanfare, we bring you the first full photos of the upcoming 2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse. The Stead is murdered out and visually appealing, with black engine covers, black fenders, black forks…hell, even the tires are black. Under the hood is Indian’s Thunder Stroke 111 engine, which is an air-cooled 1,811cc v-twin good for 73hp and 100 lbs•ft.More technical features include ABS as standard, a keyless ignition system, cast wheels, and a solo seat. Our Bothan Spies suggest an MSRP of $17,000, and more accessories (all black, natch) than you can fit into the belly of a Tauntaun. Expect to see the Indian Chief Dark Horse launch officially on February 13th elsewhere.

Washington State Weighs Pro Lane-Splitting Law

The Washington State Legislature has a pro lane-splitting bill on its 2015-2016 docket, HB 1515. The law is moderately written, adopting a 10 mph speed differential between the motorcycle and traffic, with a 35 mph speed cap, as acceptable during lane-splitting activities. Loyal Asphalt & Rubber readers will recognize these provisions as being more restrictive than the California Highway Patrol’s now defunct guidelines. Lane-splitting is a near-and-dear topic to us here at A&R, as we believe a national effort to legalize the practice should be mission #1 for the American Motorcyclist Association.

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.

Yamaha Stock Drops 10% After Earnings Report

02/15/2011 @ 7:19 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Investors at the Tokyo Stock Exchange were not happy with Yamaha Motor this morning, as the Japanese motorcycle manufacturer reported its 2010 earnings and 2011 forecast, and promptly saw its stock drop 10%. Despite managing to turnaround its 2010 income from the ¥216.1 billion ($2.5 billion) loss it took in 2009 to a profit of ¥18.3 billion ($219 million), Yamaha only expects to improve on these gains by just over 9% in 2011.

Harley-Davidson Pays Back $297 Million in Loans

12/13/2010 @ 9:07 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Harley-Davidson filed papers today with the SEC disclosing that the company has bought back $297 million in papers (essentially paying off a loan) from Davis Selected Advisers, L.P to the tune of $380.8 million. Taking the loan amount at 15% interest, Harley-Davidson borrowed roughly $600 million from Davis Select and Warren Buffett ($300 million each, despite what other blogs seem to think) back in February of 2009. This announcement marks the first step Harley-Davidson has taken in repaying that debt, and with the added $100 million in interest payments, it’s easy to understand why.

Honda Becoming Its Own Hero in India

12/06/2010 @ 7:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

We know it’s a cryptic headline, but there’s a big HUGE move happening today in India as far as motorcycles are concerned, and we couldn’t help being overly dramatic. Holding a 26% stake in Hero Honda, Honda announced that it will be selling its position in Indian joint-venture, the world’s largest two-wheel manufacturer, to the Hero Group’s founders, the Munjal family, and various investment funds.

Honda in turn will be pumping its resources into its own fully-owned subsidiary in India called Honda Motorcycles and Scooters India (HMSI). Buying its stock back at a discounted rate, the Honda will be selling the stock to Hero Honda for $1.2 billion, presumably in exchange for a larger percentage of the company’s early revenue (Honda currently takes home 2.5% of Hero Honda’s yearly revenue).

Bajaj Gobbles Up Some More KTM Stock

11/30/2010 @ 12:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Bajaj must be celebrating a late Thanksgiving (we might be talking about the wrong Indians here) as the Pune-based automotive group has gobbled up some more shares of Austrian company’s stock. Strengthening the two companies’ strategic partnership, Bajaj has modestly increased its 35.67% interest in KTM, becoming a 38.08% shareholder. Also coming out of the orange brand is news that Stefan Pierer will continue on as CEO of the company through 2015, and Friedrich Roithner, formerly of DGF Cross Industries, will take on the role of Financial Director in the new year.

Harley-Davidson Will Pay You To Buy Its Stock

09/16/2010 @ 2:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Harley-Davidson has just announced that it will be giving out a 10¢/share dividend for the third quarter of 2010. Being paid on October 15th to anyone who owns Harley-Davidson stock (NYSE: HOG) on October 1st, 2010, holders of HOG common stock will get a chance to be rewarded for investing in the Milwaukee brand. It’s not clear at this time if Harley-Davidson intends to keep the cash dividend for future quarters, or if this is one-quarter only event.

With HOG currently trading at $28.43/share, this announcement means essentially an automatic 1.2% investment gain for stock owners, however contact your financial advisor before placing any orders…you shouldn’t take stock advice from a motorcycle blog.