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.

MV Agusta Purchase Terms & Details

08/09/2010 @ 8:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

After Asphalt & Rubber broke the news about the MV Agusta purchase last week, many of the details about Harley-Davidson’s sale of MV Agusta to the Castiglioni were known or rumored at the time of the purchase’s announcement later in the day; however the exact figures and terms of the agreement were not officially known. Having filed the appropriate forms with the SEC, Harley-Davidson (a publicly traded company) has had to disclose the terms of MV Agusta’s sale, which don’t paint a favorable picture for the Milwaukee brand, but show how Castiglioni “bought” his company back despite bids coming from other parties.

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.

Harley-Davidson Returns to Profitability

04/20/2010 @ 2:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

Harley-Davidson has announced its Q1 quarterly earnings today, and the Milwaukee-based company posted a $68.7 million profit. This news comes after Harley-Davidson posted a $218 million loss last quarter, and finished in the hole over $55 million for the 2009 year. Harley’s return to profitability is partially due to the company’s restructuring of its financial services, which are once again generating money for the iconic American brand. Harley-Davidson Financial Services posted a profit of $26.7 million this past quarter, almost a third of HD’s net income in Q1.

Yamaha Raising Money for Electrics

04/02/2010 @ 12:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Yamaha Motors is set to raise $812 million in capital in order to pursue development and production of fuel-efficient engines, which includes hybrid and electric models. The focus of this new range of Yamahas seems to be destined for emerging markets, but may include technologies that could trickle into more established markets like the United States. Yamaha plans on raising this money by making 63.25 million more corporate shares publicly available for investment.

TTXGP Trust: Race to Own

03/12/2010 @ 10:40 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

After crowdsourcing their rule book, TTXGP has set another unprecedented move in racing by allowing teams to own up to 70% of the series itself. The union (TEO), as TTXGP calls it, will be transfered stock in in TTXGP Ltd, the company behind the TTXGP series. Teams then who comprise of the TEO membership will be award individual “units” of TEO based on the number of races the teams enter and their position in the standings.

For 2010, 30% of TTXGP Ltd. will be transfered to TEO, and the goal is to have 70% of the company up for grabs by 2020. TEO will have a considerable amount of sway in how TTXGP is run, thus creating a more open atmosphere for the direction of the series. The move to give teams a vested interest like this also serves to encourage more participation in the series. More after the jump.

KTM Speaks on Ownership Rumors – Denies What?

02/16/2010 @ 5:58 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

As we reported last week, there were rumors circulating that Bajaj was poised to take a controlling interest in KTM, which could see the Indian manufacturer owning up to 90% of the Austrian company. After the circulation of these rumors KTM released a statement (posted after the jump) that touched on some of the issues brought about by the weekend’s news coverage, namely the future ownership structure of the company.

Some publications have taken this release as a denial of the acquisition rumors (which the release at no point actually says), but like many press releases what is said is often less important that what isn’t said. Sensational headlines aside, KTM’s response only suggests that CROSS Industries AG will remain the majority shareholder in KTM, and in no way denied rumors that Bajaj would be increasing its stake in the Austrian company. While CROSS and KTM’s current leadership seem set to remain intact at KTM (what was actually stated in the release), our sources continue to point to Bajaj increasing its stake in KTM, while the company’s glaring omission to address that part of the industry rumors seems to confirm that initial suspicion.

With KTM’s shareholder general assembly only two weeks away, we won’t have long to wait to see how the over $40 million of additional stock gets spread out over current and potential investors. Press release after the jump, for you to make the call yourselves on what was said.

Bajaj to Acquire 90% Stake in KTM?

02/11/2010 @ 1:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

Rumors are indicating that KTM has invited Indian manufacturer Bajaj to increase its stake in the Austrian company from the current 30% to up to 90%. While neither party has confirmed the news, it is reported that Bajaj has accepted KTM’s offer, and will immediately purchase an additional 21% of the company’s stock, making it a 51% majority shareholder. Bajaj will then increase its ownership to 90% at a later undecided time.

Orange County Choppers’ Teutuls Head to Court: Paul Sr. Sues Paul Jr. for Over $1.5 Million

12/29/2009 @ 5:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler873 COMMENTS

UPDATE 2: American Chopper is back as American Chopper: Senior vs. Junior.

UPDATE: TLC has cancelled American Chopper.

Even with Paul Jr. and Mikey off of the show American Chopper, Paul Teutul Sr. has found a way to fight with his children, and further estrange himself from his family. Paul Sr. has filed a dispute with the Supreme Court of New York state (the State’s lowest court), which alleges that the elder Teutul has the right to purchase his son’s stock in Orange County Choppers Holdings, Inc., the company behind OCC.

Harley-Davidson Downgraded by Goldman Sachs

12/18/2009 @ 12:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

wall-street

It’s been a rough outing in the stock market for Harley-Davidson recently as in the past 10 days the company has seen to substantial hits to its stock price. First the company was hit by the news that it would be recalling over 110,000 motorcycles for faulty fuel tank mounts. And now, the latest bad news comes in the form of a downgrade by financial powerhouse Goldman Sachs, which has downgraded their opinion of Harley-Davidson from “neutral” to “sell”. More after the jump.