Ducati Sets Sales Record for 2014 – 45,100 Bikes Sold

Ducati Motor Holding is reporting another record sales year, and that the Italian motorcycle manufacturer sold 45,100 bikes in 2014. This marks the fifth year in a row that Ducati has shown sales growth, and it’s the third year in a row that the sales figures have been an all-time record for the Italian brand. Sales for 2014 were up 2% over 2013, with the USA again leading as Ducati’s most important market (8,804 units sold in the USA). Unsurprisingly, the Asian market is growing quickly for Ducati as well, up 11% in 2014. Ducati attributes its sales growth in-part to its new water cooler Monster line, where the Ducati Monster 1200 and Ducati Monster 821 helped raise Monster sales by 31%, with 16,409 new bikes sold in 2014.

Newspeak: The Advent of the “Adventure-Sport”

In the past decade the ADV segment has been a confusing amalgamation of differing interests, and over that time-period, two distinct groups have boiled to the surface. First there are the “Long Way Round” hopefuls, who invariably own a BMW R1200GS/A, and seem to be on some sort of perpetual preparation for an African safari. More recently, a second group has appeared: those riders who look to these big ADV bikes as more versatile Sport-Touring machines. All these riders, and their bikes, have been wedged into a single “Adventure” category, and it has created a bit of confusion for the segment. So, I want to introduce the concept of the “Adventure-Sport” and how it differentiates from the previous “Adventure-Touring” category.

MotoGP: Ducati’s Desmosedici GP15 Officially Delayed

As had been widely expected, Ducati will not have the GP15 ready for the first test at Sepang, in early February. In an interview with the MotoGP.com website, due to be shown on 19th January, Ducati Corse boss confirmed that work was still underway on the all-new bike; and that instead, Ducati will be bringing an uprated version of last year’s bike, dubbed the GP14.3, to test aspects of the new design not requiring the new engine. The delays have been trailed by both Dall’Igna and Paolo Ciabatti, speaking to the media at the Valencia test and at the Superprestigio dirt track event in December. The GP15 is a completely new bike, designed from the ground up, with a completely redesigned engine.

1972 Honda CB500, 3D Printed to Life Size

We’ve talked a bit before about the virtues of 3D printing, and how this increasingly affordable technology could change the consumer landscape as far as how we buy basic parts in the motorcycle industry. For as practical as how 3D printing, or rapid prototyping, can be, it can also be beautiful and used for art. This story is sort of a merger of those two ideas. Jonathan Brand has hoped to buy a 1972 Honda CB500 motorcycle, but the birth of his son changed that plan. Where there is a will though, there is a way, and Brand came up with the next best thing — he built a life-size model of a CB500 with his 3D printer.

Mercedes CEO: No Further Acquisition of MV Agusta

Italians are rejoicing over the news that Mercedes-Benz CEO Dieter Zetsche has made it clear that the German car manufacturer is not interested in acquiring more of MV Agusta’s private stock. Loyal readers will remember that Mercedes-AMG purchased 25% of MV Agusta last October, for a rumored €30 million — echoing the move Audi made in Ducati. Talking at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit though, Zetsche said “however, to avoid what happened with Ducati we point out that we have no intention to take over the business or produce motorcycles. MV Agusta can do it better than us.”

Triumph Has Its Best Sales Year Since Its Rebirth

Good news for Triumph Motorcycles fans, as the British motorcycle marque is reporting a banner year for 2014 — with 54,432 units sold worldwide. That figure is up 4% over 2013’s sales figure of 52,089 units, which was the first time that Triumph broke the 50,000 unit mark since the company’s rebirth in 1984. Helping Triumph reach this new high-water mark was the company’s home market, where Triumph accounted for one-in-five motorcycles sold in the UK (over 500cc). Overall, Triumph saw 8% growth in the UK, as modest growth considering the British market was up roughly 10% last year. The news is not all good, however. Triumph previously reported that financial figures for the first-half of 2014 were down, with revenue down £364 million from £369 million, and net income at a loss of £8 million.

Husqvarna 401 Concepts Will Be 2017 Production Models

One of the more intriguing things to come out of the 2014 EICMA motorcycle show in Milan were Husqvarna’s two “401” concepts, the Vitpilen and Svartpilen. The café-styled bikes are based off the KTM 390 Duke platform, though you wouldn’t know it from looking at them. Husqvarna said at EICMA that if there was sufficient interest, the Vitpilen and Svartpilen could go into production. With an overwhelming critical response from the press and fans, it should come no surprise then that our friends at Bike.se are reporting that Husqvarna intends to make the small-displacement machines a part of its 2017 model lineup.

Ducati Desmosedici Cucciolo Concept by Alex Garoli

Imagine if you will that the first Ducati, the Ducati Cucciolo, and the most modern Ducati, the Ducati Desmosedici, had a child — what would it look like? That far-fetched question nagged Mexican designer Alex Garoli, so he decided to build a concept of the machine. At the core of the Ducati Desmosedici Cucciolo is the V4 powerplant of Italy’s MotoGP race bike, and around it Garoli has imagined a modern steel trellis frame that mimics the bicycle frame look of the post-WWII motorized bicycles that pulled Italy out of deep recession. Of course the most interesting thing about Garoli’s concept is the fact that it’s a ~12:1 scale model. The work is pretty exquisite, even if you don’t agree with the concept’s ethos.

Is Suzuki Reviving the Katana and Gamma Names?

Signs of life are starting to trickle out of Hamamatsu, as Suzuki finally seems to be working on new models for our riding pleasure. First, it was the news that the turbocharged Suzuki Recursion concept is likely to go into production, and now it’s that the Japanese OEM is reviving iconic names from its past: Katana and Gamma. Suzuki has re-registered the Katana name & logo with both the European and American trademark offices, while the Gamma logo has been re-registered in the EU. What this means precisely in terms of future models is up for debate. As for the name Katana, the evidence might already be in front of us with the Recursion concept. The Suzuki Katana line started life as a performance-oriented machine, and slowly saw its name watered down into the sport-touring segment.

MV Agusta Gets €15 Million Loan for New Business Plan

Good turns for MV Agusta, as the Italian motorcycle manufacturer has secured a €15 million loan from SACE and Banca Popolare di Milano (BPM). The loan, which was issued by BPM and guaranteed by SACE, will go towards MV Agusta’s foreign growth plans, namely the company’s strengthening of its US business, and its push into Brazil and Southeast Asia. The more business-speak version of that statement is that MV Agusta will use the €15 million to implement the company’s 2014-2018 business plan, which has the company expanding its product range and penetrating into “high-potential” markets.

Recall: 2009-2010 Zero DS & Zero S

05/19/2011 @ 10:13 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Zero Motorcycles is recalling 160 of its electric DS & S motorcycles for an issue with the front brake caliper. Because of the defect, owners may experience permanent deformation of their brake discs when subjected to high braking loads, which induce misalignment of the front brake pads with respect to the front brake rotor. Accordingly, misalignment of the brake pads in relation to the rotor may cause reduced front braking performance, which could lead to a possible crash and potential injury or death of the rider.

The pertinent models and build dates are as follows:

  • 2009 Zero S – September 2, 2009 through December 22, 2009
  • 2009 Zero DS – July 27, 2009 through December 28, 2009
  • 2010 Zero S – February 1, 2010 through March 31, 2011
  • 2010 Zero DS – January 20, 2010 through March 31, 2011

Zero Motorcycles Adds Polaris Executive to Board of Directors – But What Does It Mean?

05/17/2011 @ 10:03 am, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Zero Motorcycles has quietly announced some interesting news: that Mark Blackwell, V.P. of Motorcycles at Polaris Industries, will be joining the electric motorcycle company’s Board of Directors. With a plethora of reasons as to why an industry veteran like Blackwell would join Zero’s board, it’s been no secret that the Scotts Valley company has been collecting seasoned industry professionals like pokemon characters, seemingly building a brain trust of people who actually know how to run a motorcycle company.

Blackwell’s addition to Zero is interesting because it could signal a relationship with the Polaris V.P. that goes beyond merely an advisory/visionary position, which is the core responsibility of a companies board. The timing is interesting as well, as Polaris has been on a buying spree, first acquiring the original American motorcycle company brand: Indian Motorcycles, and a few days later electric car manufacturer GEM. With a Polaris executive sitting on Zero’s board almost immediately after these aquisitions, one has to wonder if this isn’t a precursor to some sort of larger arrangement between the two companies.

This is What Electric Mini Moto Racing Looks Like

05/12/2011 @ 6:59 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Unless you were there, you probably missed the AMA Mini Moto SX racing action last Friday in Las Vegas, which saw the debut of two bikes by Brammo, an electric mini moto the Brammo Encite, along with the full-sized Brammo Engage dirt bike. Featuring the company’s Integrated Electric Transmission (IET), Brammo took to the dirt to compete with some Zero electric bikes (Quantya seemingly abstained from the event), as well as a field of traditional gasoline-powered mini motos.

With footage from aboard Trevor Doniak’s Zero MX, we get to see what racing in the Vegas Mini Moto SX was like from behind the handlebars. Besides having a traffic jam of slower gas-powered bikes start ahead of them (it’s creepy how quiet the start for the electrics was in comparison), the old addage that “rubbin’ is racing” comes to mind as we see our protagonist hit the dirt, not once, not twice, but three times, seemingly always with a Brammo rider nearby.

We’re not saying that Doniak’s Zero was intentionally looking to take out the Brammo of Kris Keefer, thus assuring a podium sweep by Zero, but others are. Video after the jump.

The Great Distribution Experiment is Over

04/12/2011 @ 1:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

As we write the timeline on the evolution of the electric motorcycle, the bullet points for 2011 will note a few key events, and one of them surely will be the adoption of a traditional sales distribution scheme. It’s not a sexy event, but it’s an important one in the growth of this side of the industry. You see when resourced-backed electric motorcycle manufacturers entered the scene, the idea was that a new drivetrain meant a new set of rules, and from that a new playbook was drafted. The idea of selling electric motorcycles at traditional motorcycle dealerships was abandoned, and in its place these companies tried new approaches — some clever, and some not so much.

Direct-to-consumer sales approaches, online purchasing, ad hoc customer sales leads, and even Best Buy all entered into these new models of how to get a motorcycle into a purchaser’s hands…and they all failed. It is no small feat to start a motorcycle company, and it is an even taller order to make an electric one. Not only do you have to sell your would-be-buyer on the features of your motorcycle, but you then also have to sell them on why their purchase should be an electric motorcycle, and not its ICE equivalent.

The undertaking of proving out a new method of selling motorcycles is a burden in its own right for an established motorcycle manufacturer, let alone a startup, so its failure should come as little surprise to those in the industry with this experience. It is therefore not surprising that we get news that both Zero Motorcycles and Brammo have abandoned their previous sales distribution schemes, in favor of adopting a more traditional dealer network approach.

Officially Official: Gene Banman Steps Down at Zero Motorcycles – Karl Wharton in as CEO

04/05/2011 @ 9:07 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

It’s Tuesday, and in the world of electrics that means another Zero Motorcycles press release, and another weekly confirmation that Asphalt & Rubber is still on the Santa Cruz company’s “ultra double-secret probation” list of publications that no longer get media communiqués and press invites to its media events. That clearly hasn’t stopped us though, as today’s news release confirms what we already knew: Zero Motorcycles CEO Gene Banman has stepped down from his position in the company, although he will continue to serve on the company’s Board of Directors.

“Don’t Call It a Management Shake-up” Continues at Zero Motorcycles – Gene Banman Out at as CEO

03/28/2011 @ 7:38 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

We’ve gotten confirmation from several Bothan spies sources that Zero Motorcycle CEO Gene Banman will no longer hold a position at Zero Motorcycles. We first reported on a management shake-up at Zero last month, with news that high-level changes at the Scotts Valley electric motorcycle company were underway. At the time we could only confirm that Zero Motorcycles founder Neal Saiki was out of his position as the company CTO, and now we can confirm that then CEO Gene Banman was also shown the door during that uprooting.

Zero Motorcycles Gets $17 Million Investment

03/17/2011 @ 2:36 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

Using strictly the Charlie Sheen sense of the word, Zero Motorcycles is WINNING right now. Announcing today that it closed another round of financing, Zero has $17 million of a $26 million round confirmed ($9 million still outstanding). The funding continues to be lead by the Invus investment group, who have been the major financial backbone at Zero Motorcycles. A funding round of that size can only mean one thing for a motorcycle company: going into mass production. Surely enough Zero states its intended use of the funds will go towards ramping up its US-based production plans.

Out of all the electric motorcycle vehicle players, Zero has been the most active in the funding department lately, closing round after round of capital investment. With those investments we’ve already seen changes at the Santa Cruz company, with the 2011 Zero Motorcycles line-up featuring upgrade motorcycles, as well as founder Neal Saiki departing the company.

Officially Official: Neal Saiki out at Zero Motorcycles

03/08/2011 @ 9:52 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

You can file this one under “news we broke a month ago,” but Zero Motorcycles has finally officially announced the departure of company founder Neal Saiki, despite sending an email to its employees last week that Saiki had not been sacked from his position.

According to Zero Motorcycles, Saiki is leaving his position to enter into the Igor I. Sikorski Human Powered Helicopter Competition, which Saiki first competed in while attending Cal Poly as aeronautical engineering student in 1989. However, our sources have told us Saiki’s departure was prompted by a fundamental shift in the company, precipitated by the Zero’s financial backers.

Management Shake-Up at Zero Motorcycles – Neal Saiki Out

02/11/2011 @ 4:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

The news coming out of the Santa Cruz area today is that there’s been a management shake-up at Zero Motorcycles, as multiple people at the top of the company’s leadership have been given pink slips, including company Founder & CTO Neal Saiki. Recently talking to PlugBike.com‘s John Adamo, Zero Motorcycles CEO Gene Banman denied that Saiki had been let go from the company, saying that Saiki’s absence at the company was due to his child’s recent birth and Saiki’s desire to spend time with his newborn.

However multiple sources close to the company have confirmed to Asphalt & Rubber that Neal Saiki was a part of a larger management shake-up that was precipitated by the company’s lead investor. With many of the terminations expected to be finalized next month, and spanning more than one division at the California-based startup, there appears to be a considerable personnel and culture shift occurring at Zero at this point in time.

2011 Zero Motorcycles Get Quick-Charge Option and More

02/08/2011 @ 7:12 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Fresh off its latest $2 million fundraiser, we get more news from Zero Motorcycles, as the Santa Cruz, CA company has released its 2011 line of electric motorcycles. Immediately noticeable is new livery and color schemes, but we think it’s the technical changes that will get people truly excited. Most prominant in the model year unveiling is the fact that every bike in Zero’s 2011 line-up can have a quick-charge option installed.

A major highlight, the quick-charge system will allow Zero Motorcycles with the add-on feature to be charged in nearly half the time of the standard version. Also a part of this technology’s allure is the ability for Zero Motorcycles to be charged off the J1772 public charging stations, which municipalities are starting to install in public parking spots.