The launch of the 2011 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R has been a rocky one for Team Green. First there was the new that the ZX-10R’s class leading power figures wouldn’t be making it to the American market, as the Japanese manufacturer was honoring new EPA noise standards, which necessitated the Kawasaki ZX-10R getting its wings clipped by 750RPM and approximately 20hp. With this sort of impediment soon to become a common occurrence in the North American markets, the 2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R is just the first of many bikes likely coming to the Land of the Free with less power than its European counterparts.

The next big blow for the ZX-10R occurred just a few weeks ago when Kawasaki put a worldwide technical hold on the model, and asked for units already sold in the United States to be returned to the manufacturer. Kawasaki was tight-lipped on the actual reason for the technical hold, but rumors that a piston problem was the cause quickly emerged. Now releasing more information about the technical hold, Kawasaki says that its engine issue was not in the pistons, but instead was due to an intake valve seating issue was the cause of the non-recall.

According to Kawasaki engineers, the sales hold resulted from a finding that indicated a possible surging of the intake valve springs when the ZX-10R is operated under unique riding conditions (read: when riding on a racetrack, or other “spirited” riding conditions). Apparently the surge could cause the intake valves to seat improperly, resulting in poor engine performance, which could mean it affected the engine power output, engine reliability, or both.

As a remedy Kawasaki replaced the camshaft, valve springs, and spring retainers on the 2011 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, which should prevent the surging, and maintain the ZX-10R’s engine performance. Additionally, Kawasaki USA has announced that sales of the Ninja ZX-10R are expected to resume in late January 2011.

Source: Kawasaki USA

  • Keith

    Oh SNAP!!!

  • 76

    Is this whole “Technical Hold” a ego/PR move or is there still something bigger behind this? I mean this vrs the common “Recall”. They even went as far as the whole “buyback” thing, coupled with the non-reasons any of it was happening. The strangest move in at least recent memory.

    Strange, very strange, all for a valve not seating properly they buyback the entire bike? I’m still on the fence calling BS

  • PR move? I don’t think so. You don’t build a brand based on technology and reliability by instilling doubt to the consumer on those two elements when you release one of the most important bikes in your line-up.

    The reason this was a “technical hold” instead of a recall is because of where in the sales process the problem was found. The USA was virtually the only market where ZX-10R’s made it into the hands of customers, so it looks weird from our perspective (I’m also not convinced Kawasaki has to do a recall for this issue based on US law), but for all the other markets, this was an unreleased motorcycle. While buy-backs are occurring here, for customers in Europe for example, this announcement just means they’ll wait another month or so longer to get their bikes.

    I haven’t had a chance to talk to Kawasaki about this yet, but if the process is like similar engine issues, these bought-back motors will likely be going back to Japan to be reviewed by engineers (and shown to parts suppliers, etc), while customers will likely be getting either brand new bikes, or bikes with completely new motors.

    The issue here is now that a defect is known, they don’t want it to be the reason a customer comes back with a blown bike in 3 years with a motor issue, and says “well how do yo know it wasn’t because of those bad valve springs.” So Kawi buys the bikes back (there can’t be more than a couple hundred of them out there), sucks up the loss, and knows they won’t have a huge warranty liability hanging over their head down the line. In the process they get some good mojo from customers for addressing the issue quickly, and making a suitable remedy.

  • 76

    PR does not necessarily mean whatever you end up talking about is good. In no way do I think some guys hanging out at Kawi thought hey lets drum up some buzz by saying something is wrong. So in essence you are saying this was purely a ego (nothing is wrong, and if it is we’re not saying) & PR calling it a technical hold.

    OK so in the case of Ape and the RSV4, bad connecting rods, found that out, released info and shipped and gave customers brand new engines. In this case yes they stood up said something was wrong, said we will give you a new one. This was within the almost exact same release time and even a more critical fix. They didnt do this “we need to buy back all the bikes” thing and well because of a unspec “Technical hold”. What a month later they are finally saying what the problem might be?

    To me they made the nighmare worse, where aprilia had even a bigger fckup and came out for the better. I think the biggest issue with all of it was they knew there was an issue, hence the hold/buyback and then a month later they say what it might relate too? How does that make any sense?

  • “So in essence you are saying this was purely a ego (nothing is wrong, and if it is we’re not saying) & PR calling it a technical hold.”

    No that’s not what I’m saying. There’s a definitional difference between a recall and technical hold . This was essentially a technical hold.

    Since a technical hold is an internal process, Kawasaki’s and Aprilia’s protocol in dealing with it is going to be different. I believe the end process is mostly the same, from what I recall Aprilia brought out engineers from Italy to do the motor swaps on the RSV4. It wasn’t a dealer-level maintenance item.

    I don’t think Kawasaki made the right decision by holding back the reason for the technical hold in the first place, but it knowing how Japanese business relationships work, if there was a parts supplier at fault (or just involved) in this hold, the action seen here isn’t that uncommon.

  • I’ve been waiting to see this in person but all these delays and the loss of power has me leaning toward the BMW at the moment

  • buellracerx

    If there was a suspected issue with a supplier, but not completely founded (suspected out of tolerance), then it would have taken awhile to do the proper engineering testing to identify the problem and find a solution. If the severity was there (dropping a valve at redline), then a recall or “tech hold” would have been initiated immediately.

    A lot of people don’t realize how intricate and time-consuming tolerance stackups can be. Many times testing is done with “perfect nominal” parts and DOE doesn’t catch a potential issue. Do things slip through the cracks? Yes. Is this still a badass bike (that looks pretty sick)? I’d hit it

    Kudos to Kawi engineers for finding & fixing the ohshit problem before it became bigger.

  • BikePilot

    If its a problem with high rpm valve float, you’d think the 750 rpm reduction for the US market would have spared those bikes (or maybe kawak is being nice and fixing them anyway so that when we bypass the lower rev limit it doesn’t have problems).

  • buellracerx

    ha yea definitely see “euro-spec” ecms being the hot item for these bikes…

  • Ricardo

    Kawasaki clearly stated that the issue was gonna be more obvious at racetrack days. Most of the bikes used for this purpose aren’t stock or are ridden way harder then on the street.