Tomorrow we will be among the first to ride the Harley-Davidson Livewire, the Bar & Shield brand’s first electric motorcycle.

The model marks a paradigm shift for the American company, as well as the motorcycle industry as a whole, so you can imagine that a great deal of attention will be on the machine’s debut.

Before we get our own first-hand experience with the bike, there is some talk about Harley-Davidson’s pre-sales activity on the Livewire.

BMO Capital Markets analyst Gerrick Johnson has tipped to Powersports Business that roughly 50% of Harley-Davidson’s initial batch of Livewire deliveries have deposits on them.

On Tuesday, the Volkswagen Group struck a major deal with its union-back workforce, which will see the German automotive conglomerate begin a new restructuring plan.

The linchpin for the restructuring plan is a €1 billion commitment to make a new battery factory for future electric vehicle models, which will be located in Lower Saxony.

This is important because Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess has been on a mission to slim down the VW Group, but his workforce, more specifically its labor unions, have been resistant to this change, as it would inevitably mean fewer jobs for its labor force.

Now with a substantial commitment to create jobs in the battery cell production space, VW’s labor unions are more amenable to the idea of trimming VW’s non-core businesses, which has some big implications.

Call it the British Connection, because four firms from the United Kingdom have just agreed to partner on making electric two-wheelers and associated technologies. 

The collaboration is going to be a two-year deal between Triumph Motorcycles, Williams Advanced Engineering, Integral Powertrain Ltd.’s e-Drive Division, and WMG at the University of Warwick.

Additionally, the group will receive funding from theUK government’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) via Innovate UK

As you might expect, the goal of the partnership is to develop and bring to market technologies that will help power the next generation of motorcycles, namely electric motorcycles.

The 2019 model year is looking good for Ducati, with the Italian brand reporting a 5% sales increase in the first quarter of this year, over the same time period in 2018.

In total, Ducati sold 12,541 motorcycles in Q1 2019, compared to the 11,949 units it moved in Q1 2018, with most segments from the Italian manufacturer showing growth.

That growth was highlighted with strong sales for Hypermotard 950, though it is bookended with the superbike segment, which saw a noticeable drop (13.5%) at the start of this year.

Harley-Davidson is reporting its first-quarter results for 2019, and as you might expect, the Bar & Shield brand continues to sink with its worldwide sales figures. As such, Harley-Davidson saw sales decrease worldwide by 3.8% in Q1 2019, with US sales down 4.2% compared to the same time last year (international sales were down 3.3%).

This news continues a trend for Harley-Davidson, as it continues to see its sales figure moving downward, which is following the overall trend in the US motorcycle industry, where sales are down 4.7% in Q1 2019.

From a relative point of view, this news is perhaps not so bad for Harley-Davidson, as it outperformed the market (though it owns a considerable size of the relevant segments), and in the process of that, the American brand picked up marketshare in its home market

This is of course the business equivalent of escaping being eaten by lion, by merely out-running the person fleeing next to you.

The electric motorcycle segment is beginning to mature. We know this because word from Japan has Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha collaborating together on various standards for electric motorcycles.

If it doesn’t immediately strike you as such, this is incredibly big news.

The move sees the Big Four creating a consortium that will work together to bring homogenized battery, charging, infrastructure, and other items into reality so that there can be interoperability between the brands and less confusion in the marketplace. 

Earlier today, the British site Visordown reported that Norton Motorcycles was set to go out of business, as the British Companies House (a sort of business registrar in the United Kingdom) was striking Norton Motors UK Ltd from its list and dissolving the business for inactivity.

It was a shocking development, to say the least, and though Norton is a small company, the news came as a surprise. After all, the last few months have not been kind for the small manufacturers in the motorcycle industry, with the deaths of Alta and Motus still fresh on our minds..

In a terse press release this morning, Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) announced that it has acquired select assets of Alta Motors’ parent company Faster-Faster, Inc.

Those assets include “certain intellectual property, patents and some limited physical assets from the former all-electric motorcycle design and manufacturing company,” to put it in BRP’s words.

BRP plans to use these assets as part of its ongoing research into electric and hybrid drives for recreational vehicles, and hopes that the technology will help jumpstart its own efforts for electric transportation products.

The Canadian company is very quick to point out, however, that BRP has no interest in restarting operations of Alta Motors and assumes no liabilities.

Motorcycle racing is a profitable business, it turns out. The leading UK financial paper Financial Times reported yesterday that Bridgepoint Capital, the private equity firm that owns Dorna, among many other assets, has hit upon a relatively novel way of paying out investors, by transferring the roughly 40% of Dorna that it owns between one Bridgepoint fund and another. 

The proposed sale is a result of a review carried out by merchant bankers Lazard at the end of last year, with the aim of fixing a value and finding potential buyers. According to the FT, several private equity firms expressed an interesting in buying Bridgepoint’s stake, including former owners CVC. 

Here is some interesting automotive news for you that has bearing over our two-wheeled world, as CNN is reporting that more Americans are behind on their car loans than ever before.

The news accounts for two trends that we are seeing in the United States. One, the decline of automobile ownership; and two, the rising debt load amongst citizens, especially millennial buyers.

What this translates into the car world – namely that buyers are increasingly defaulting on their auto loans – likely bears the same reality in the motorcycle industry, since so many motorbikes are bought through financed payment schemes.