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.
It has been a busy month since our inaugural edition of “What We’re Reading” column, so there is plenty to catch-up on reading-wise. Again, our reading list spans stories that go between the motorcycle industry and also non-endemic media outlets.
This edition focuses heavily on the racing world, and in it we get a glimpse into the world of the MotoGP Championship, from the riders’ perspective. We also see what’s happening in the automotive industry, as well as the media landscape as a whole.
Many of our stories can be brought back to the motorcycle industry, as our industry faces analogous problems to other sectors. Of course, some of the pieces made our list simply because I thought they were interesting and thought-provoking.
Part clearinghouse for stories that we will never get our full attention, and part book club for our loyal readers who are doing their best to survive the work day, say hello to the next installment of the “What We’re Reading” column series.
For quite some time now, manufacturers have been focusing on this concept called the “last mile” – the idea that the final mile of a daily commute will have to be undertaken with something other than an automobile.
Driving this concern is the vehicle crackdown in urban centers, with cities like London, Paris, and others already creating congestion zones for their city centers, which all but outlaw the ability for one to commute via car into a downtown area.
Mass transit is surely filling this void, as are taxis, but we have also seen a shift towards two-wheeled solutions. That is where today’s story kicks in, as Ford is looking at its own city center solution, patenting a car concept that has a built-in motorcycle.
If you are in the market for a track-only race car, might we suggest the Griip G1. Though featuring double the wheels that we’re used to, this carbon fiber clad Formula 1000 cart is powered by a very familiar power plant: the Aprilia RSV4 superbike’s V4 engine.
The RSV4 engine on the Griip G1 remains fairly stock, though it uses a drive shaft, instead of a chain drive, as it would on a motorcycles. As such, it makes roughly 201hp in this form, though the real value of the Griip G1 is the weight of the vehicle, which tips the scales at 860 lbs wet and fully fueled.
The day will come when we have to report to our autonomous vehicle overlords, and it will be an interesting day when that happens, as it will have big implications for the motorcycle industry.
Until autonomous vehicles become the status quo though, they will have to continue to conform to the transportation landscape as it is right now, and one of the more difficult challenges that automobile manufacturers face is how to handle motorcycles, especially as they filter and split lanes.
The Ford Motor Company is already working hard on that issue, and recently it was granted a patent by the USPTO for its lane-splitting detection system for autonomous vehicles.
The last we checked-in with the Suzuki/Volkswagen divorce, the German automobile maker was ordered by the London Court of International Arbitration to sell its 19.9% stake in the Japanese manufacturer (worth $2.8 billion at the time).
That was back in September 2015, and now that ordered has finally been fulfilled, with Volkswagen completely divesting itself from Suzuki – a move that has been four years in the making.
The big news this week might be about how Volkswagen falsified emissions reports on its diesel-powered automobiles – a move that today lead to Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn stepping down from his position in the company, and VW stock dropping nearly 30%, at the time of this writing.
Less well-known though is that Volkswagen has also lost its long-fought battle with Suzuki over the Japanese company’s stock ownership. VW and Suzuki were supposed to untie the knot back in 2011, but Volkswagen did not go quietly into that good night.
Taking the case to arbitration, the London Court of International Arbitration has finally handed the two parties its verdict. As such, Volkswagen will have to sell its 19.9% stake back to Suzuki.
Interesting things are afoot in the electric realm. Mission Motorcycles is about to expand beyond the two-wheels, as the company becomes officially called Mission Electric. The change comes about as Mission plans to expand into the automotive and marine segments, though the San Francisco company isn’t saying yet who it is partnering with in those spaces.
Mission says it will continue to offer consumer-side products, like its current crop of electric motorcycles, the Mission R and Mission RS. However, its business model will expand to offer business-side electric drivetrain components, which was previously the realm of Mission Motors.
From what our sources say, this move will mean that Mission Motorcycles and Mission Motors will once again become one entity — loyal readers will remember that Mission Motorcycles was spun out of Mission Motors two years ago.
We had to check the date on this one, because five-time Dakar Rally winner Cyril Despres has announced that he will not be on two-wheels for this year’s rally raid, and instead will campaign in the car class with Peugeot. The announcement comes as a bit of a shock, after Despres rocked the Dakar Rally world last year, announcing his switch from KTM to Yamaha.
After a difficult race in 2014, where Cyril still managed to finish fourth overall, it seems Despres is content with his five rally wins, though one cannot count the Frenchman out from future motorcycle engagements.
Signing a contract with Peugeot Sport, Despres will be leading the return of the marquee’s re-entry into rally racing, after taking a 25-year hiatus from the sport. Despres will be following in the footsteps of another French motorcycle rally raid racer, Stéphane Peterhansel, who like Despres moved from Yamaha Racing’s motorcycles into racing cars.