The High Fives Heard in Milwaukee

There were high fives heard all over Milwaukee last week. Reading the headlines and stories that came from Harley-Davidson’s Mega Monday announcement, one could only conclude that the American icon was back. They did it. They were showing signs of life again. Boomshackalacka. No one saw an adventure-touring bike with knobby tires coming from the Bar & Shield brand, and the idea of a sport bike from Harley-Davidson seemed inconceivable just over a week ago as well. Milwaukee even impressed with its more “core” offerings, with the Harley-Davidson Custom being perhaps the first cruiser we would want sitting in our garage. It looks gorgeous, and is just sporty and modern enough to be “a real motorcycle” in our eyes…we think.

Ducati’s Project 1309 Reveals a New Diavel Coming

We didn’t hear too much about “Project 1309” from World Ducati Week 2018, which is surprising considering what the past has shown us about Ducati’s secret reveals, but the Bologna brand was once again giving a teaser to fans in Misano. In the past, World Ducati Week has been the place where Ducati showed us the first Scrambler model, and last year the event debuted the return of the Ducati SuperSport. This year, it is another new bike. A new Diavel, to be precise. Set to compliment the current XDiavel model, the new Diavel features the same 1,262cc DVT engine with variable valve timing, but puts it into the more sport Diavel riding platform. This means tucked in feet on rearsets, rather than the XDiavel’s foot-forward controls.

VW CEO Outlines Two Possible Futures for Ducati

The Clash’s hit song “Should I Stay, Or Should I Go” might perhaps perfectly fit the business situation for Ducati, within its parent company, Volkswagen AG. The Italian motorcycle brand’s status in the German conglomerate has for the past few years been held on a tenuous string. Rumor about its divestiture, its selling to another company, are constantly dogging the iconic brand. Talking to Bloomberg TV after Volkswagen’s quarterly earnings report, VW CEO Herbert Diess explained that there are two paths forward for Ducati, and one of them includes selling Ducati to the highest bidder. “We have to look which is the best ownership for Ducati,” said Diess to Bloomberg.

KTM’s Counter-Rotating MotoGP Engine Debuts at Brno

Ever since Jerez, when the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team debuted a new engine with a counter-rotating crankshaft, fans and journalists have been asking when factory riders Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith would be able to use the new engine on a race weekend. KTM test rider Mika Kallio had been very positive about the engine during the Jerez weekend, and Smith and Espargaro had spoken in glowing terms about it after the Jerez test. KTM’s response was always that it would not be ready until at least after the summer break. Reversing the direction of crankshaft rotation is not as simple as sticking an intermediate gear between the crank and the clutch, to allow the crank to spin in the opposite direction while maintaining forward thrust.

Retro Livery Pops on the Suzuki GSX-R1000R Superbike

We are big fans of the creations that Team Classic Suzuki has been churning out. Stop what you’re doing right now, look at this Katana race bike, and try to disagree with our enthusiasm. It cannot be done. Taking their touch to the current Suzuki GSX-R1000R superbike, we see what this tire-shredder would look like in a retro-mod livery that is inspired by the bodywork found on the original GSX-R750. So far it sounds like the bike is a one-off, done by our friends across the pond, but we think Suzuki should seriously consider some throwback paint schemes in its lineup. Until then, items of note include a number of tasty Giles-made bits, straight from the Suzuki performance catalog, otherwise the bike shown here is pretty much stock.

BMW Plans To Launch Nine New Motorcycles

It might be still be summer, but our eyes are looking ahead to the new bike season in the fall and winter, where the major motorcycle manufacturers will debut their new motorcycles for the future. The big trade shows to watch are INTERMOT and EICMA, as these have traditionally been the venues of choice for new model unveils, prototype teasers, and concept debuts. One brand that is certainly going to be showing us some new motorcycles is BMW Motorrad, with the German company saying that it plans to launch nine new models in 2018. What those nine models will be is up for conjecture, though we have some good ideas, and some bad ideas, on what they could be. Let’s take a look.

Up-Close with the 2018 Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000R Suzuka 8-Hours Race Bike

In all our coverage of the 2018 Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race, the name Suzuki has woefully not been in much of the conversation. This isn’t to say that the brand from Hamamatsu wasn’t present at this prestigious event, but its level of involvement and readiness certainly wasn’t on par with the other three Japanese brands. Fielding the Yoshimura Suzuki factory-backed team yet again, this year saw a big milestone take place, as Suzuki’s endurance efforts are now being conducted on the current-generation superbike. This has caused some issues in the paddock, most notably in the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT), which is Suzuki’s factory-backed team in the FIM World Endurance Championship.

Up-Close with the Kawasaki Team Green Suzuka Bike

The race-winner that could have been. Kawasaki Team Green was the Suzuka 8-Hours favorite coming out of Saturday’s Top 10 qualifying session, and the factory-backed Kawasaki team traded corners with Yamaha during the opening laps of Sunday’s endurance race. What looked like an upset in the making, turned out to be a fizzle, largely because of a poor fueling and pit stop strategy, which saw Jonathan Rea first run out of gas, and then stay out on slicks during a rain storm. As he tumbled down the asphalt, you have to wonder if the World Superbike champion saw his Suzuka fortunes tumbling with him.

Up-Close with the Suzuka-Winning Yamaha YZF-R1

This is it. This is the biggest, baddest, meanest superbike on the Suzuka 8-Hours grid. Setting the high-water mark in Japan FOUR YEARS IN A ROW now, the Yamaha YZF-R1 from the Yamaha Factory Racing Team is the pinnacle of the sport. And while the Yamaha YZF-R1 is a motorcycle that you can pick up at any dealership in the United States (so long as it isn’t for a Superbike Deathmatch), the machine on the Suzuka Circuit this past weekend is anything but ordinary. I sent our man Steve English down to the pits to get some shots of this mysterious machine, and the Japanese team was being “very Japanese” about letting us taking photos, as Steve puts it. That didn’t stop us from getting some photos though. Go ahead, go get a towel before you continue further. We’ll wait.

Harley-Davidson Outlines Its Future Electric Lineup

The biggest announcement from Harley-Davidson today wasn’t its adventure-touring motorcycle (though it looks interesting), and it wasn’t its new Streetfighter or Custom models either (one of these I like, the other not so much). The big news wasn’t the Livewire getting closer to production, though that is close to the mark, and where this story is ultimately headed. All of these announcement would have been worthy of their own day in the press cycle, but the real news from the Bar & Shield brand is a look at Harley-Davidson’s upcoming electric lineup, which is coming across as very robust, and shows a decisive plan for the future. I never thought I would see the day, but here it is. Harley-Davidson is going electric, in a big way.

The future of MV Agusta has hinged on a crucial court decision for the past five months now – one that would allow the Italian motorcycle brand to restructure its debt, thus reducing its financial liabilities and freeing up a greater portion of its cash flow for continued production.

News comes today from Varese, Italy that a local court has approved MV Agusta’s new business plan, and allowed the motorcycle manufacturer to restructure its debts with creditors and suppliers.

This is positive news for MV Agusta, and it sets in motion a number of possibilities for the Italian brand, namely closing its investment deal with Black Ocean, an Anglo-Russian private equity firm.

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The Great Motorcycle Buyer Divide

12/13/2016 @ 12:13 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

In my last A&R Pro article, I argued that the recently debuted and updated Honda Rebel was the most important new motorcycle that we have seen thus far for the 2017 model year.

That is a bold statement, as many pointed out, especially when you consider the bevy of intriguing new models that were unveiled at the various industry trade shows this year, and also considering the lack-luster product the outgoing Honda Rebel 250 proved to be for many.

In that story, the bulk of my argument was that motorcycling needs an affordable gateway for young and new riders to come into the industry, and with cruisers accounting for over half of the new motorcycles sold in the United States, having cruiser-styled entry models is a shrewd move by Honda.

There is more to that argument though, which I want to touch upon today. It concerns the growing divide of motorcycle buyers, and how their access to capital greatly affects the motorcycles they can, and do, purchase.

American motorcycles sales fall almost entirely under what is called consumer discretionary income, and when it comes to how we spend our hard-earned money, there are two ways we do so: with cash and with credit.

That is the fairly obvious part of this argument, but this is an important concept for us as enthusiasts and consumers to understand, as it allows us to make better sense of the strategies behind the new models we see from manufacturers. It also allows us to peer into the future of the motorcycle industry.

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The Precarious State of MV Agusta

03/23/2016 @ 2:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler39 COMMENTS

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MV Agusta as a motorcycle company has always seemed to have feet of clay, especially when its financial future is concerned. Today is no different, as MV Agusta has announced its intentions to restructure its debt, in order to keep the company afloat.

Afloat is an interesting phrase, as the storied Italian brand has changed hands four times in the past 12 years, with two of those purchase prices being a token euro, as MV Agusta’s liabilities far outstripped the company’s assets and holdings.

Fast-forward in time and it would be easy to say that not much has changed, as MV Agusta now has €40 million in liabilities on its balance sheet, all non-essential staff have been furloughed, the production lines in Varese recently have been motionless.

While this seems like more of the same from MV Agusta, the situation is far more complex, and for once in its lifetime, it isn’t MV Agusta’s lack of sales that are to blame. In fact, it’s the opposite, as it is MV Agusta’s success in growing its motorcycles that is the cause of its current financial situation.

That might seem like a counterintuitive notion, but if you understand the relationships between chickens, eggs, and which came first, then you will understand the situation at hand here with MV Agusta.

And while this impasse isn’t a new one in the business world, it doesn’t change the fact that the future of MV Agusta is in a precarious state.

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Trouble Brewing for the MV Agusta F3?

08/30/2011 @ 3:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

All is not well regarding the new MV Agusta F3, several sources have now told Asphalt & Rubber. Teasing the F3 motorcycle for almost two years now, the three-cylinder supersport has been on the radar of two-wheeled enthusiasts since well before its 2010 debut at the EICMA show. While the latest creation from Varese is undisputedly a stunner, and promises some more than peppy performance and features, eyebrows within the industry were raised with its very pre-mature debut in Milan, and its accompanying lack of any real concrete technical specifications.

With products traditionally launched at the November EICMA show going on sale immediately the next model year, MV Agusta made a shocking announcement in 2010 that the F3 would be a 2012 model. Obviously launched with the intention of generating immediate buzz about the newly re-acquired MV Agusta brand, and its goal of becoming a larger volume producer (and actually a profitable company for a change), the F3 and its progeny like the MV Agusta Brutale B3 are supposed to usher in a new era for the Italian brand.

Apparently teased early to help prove demand for MV’s new product offering, this new ethos unfortunately has apparently done little to sway creditors and investors on the viabiliy of the brand, especially since the names associated with driving MV Agusta into the ground are still associted with the decidedly not-so-new regime. Though the Castiglionis were able to negotiate a stellar deal with Harley-Davidson regarding the purchase of MV Agusta (they bought the company for one euro, and got an operating cash flow of 20 million in the bank), according to our sources that are close to MV, the Italian company has had a hard time raising additional working capital, and has also found negotiations with parts suppliers to be difficult, with the outside firms demanding to be paid up-front for their wares.

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The New York Times ran a great article this week about the challenges facing Harley-Davidson, both from the current economic depression, and more generally as the quintessential Harley rider gets older in age.

In summation, Harley-Davidson dealers around the US and overseas are seeing sales drop dramatically as people scale back their expensive purchases, and as the access to credit becomes increasingly difficult.

There’s no real surprise there, and any hardcore fan will be quick to tell you that Harley will be back on top once this financial turmoil is over. However, looking farther down the road at Harley-Davidson’s long-term business position, there is additional trouble brewing as well.

Baby boomers account for the majority of Harley sales, and they are getting older. The NY times ends there with its commentary, but we think there’s more to the story on Harley-Davidson and the American bike market in general. 

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Honda COO Sees Industry Wide Slowdown

11/25/2008 @ 4:00 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Honda Motorcycle’s COO, Tatsuhiro Oyama is forecasting that there will be worldwide industry drop in bike sales as the credit fiasco finally rears its ugly head in motorcycling. Like the car industry, the motorcycle industry helps move product by offering financing options and extending credit to the purchasers of their bikes. Typically these credit liabilities are flipped to third-party creditors, who handle the debt from there (all unbeknownst to us the consumer), but with the state of economy and the meltdown of the credit industry, many of these creditors are either no long amongst the living, or not taking on any more debt.

Oyama was credited as saying, “There’s been a bit of a lag, but credit is being squeezed. I think if we have flat sales next (business) year we’d be lucky,” adding that forecasts for this year might need adjusting too.

This news leaves companies like GMAC, and in this case Honda, in a lurch. Unable to swiftly exchange the credit liability, they have to be more cautious on who they extend money too. This means more credit refusals, and higher interest rates, which in turn means more people who can’t afford a motorcycle purchase.

At the end of the day, it is Honda and the other manufacturers (except perhaps Ducati) who are left holding the bag with excess product sitting on the showroom floor come December.

There is some good news. Oyama went on to say that the motorcycle business as a whole was holding up better than the car side. So no government bail outs…yet.

Source: visordown