WorldSBK Approves the Use of Winglets*

The World Superbike Championship released the latest decision from the SBK Commission today, which clarified a few rules for the 2018 season, most notably the new rev-limiter and parts cost rules, which have been discussed already at great length here on Asphalt & Rubber (Part 1, Part 2, & Part 3). There was another interesting rule change of note though, which is likely to get over-looked by the racing community, and that is the World Superbike Championship permitting the use of winglets, although there is a catch. In its rules update, the SBK Commission decreed that teams and manufacturers may fit aerodynamic components (e.g. winglets) to their superbikes so long as the winglets are fitted to the homologated motorcycle.

Crunching the Numbers: Rea vs. MotoGP vs. WorldSBK

The start of December marks the beginning of what is rapidly becoming a tradition in the world of motorcycle racing. After the Jerez test in late November, it is now “Why Is Jonathan Rea Faster Than A MotoGP Bike” season. At Jerez, Rea pushed his Kawasaki ZX-10R WorldSBK machine – down 35+ bhp and up 10+ kg – to the fourth fastest overall time of the week, ahead of eleven MotoGP regulars (including two rookies), three MotoGP test riders and Alex Márquez, who the Marc VDS team were using to train up the new crew recruited to look after Tom Luthi’s side of the garage while the Swiss rider is still injured. How is this possible? And what does this mean? Are WorldSBK machines too close to MotoGP bikes?

Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX Priced at $19,000 for the USA

Kawasaki’s newest supercharged motorcycle is also its most affordable supercharged motorcycle, with the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX coming to the USA with an MSRP of $19,000. Even the better-equipped 2018 Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX SE is an “affordable” $22,000, when compared to the more sport-focused H2 models. Featuring a 200hp version of Kawasaki’s supercharged, four-cylinder, 998cc engine, the Ninja H2 SX is a fully faired sport-tourer, with an emphasis on the sport side of the equation. The base model comes in any color you want, so long as it’s black, while the Ninja H2 SX SE comes in the traditional Team Green color scheme of Kawasaki.

Oh Yes, The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE Is USA Bound

Good news sport bike fans, Kawasaki USA in its infinite wisdom has decided to bring the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE to the United States for the 2018 model year. Debuted at this year’s EICMA show, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE takes the potent superbike and most notably adds Showa’s new semi-active suspension to the package. Other perks include the seven-spoke forged aluminum Marchesini wheels, found already on the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR, as well as an up/down quickshifter. Like what you hear? Well brace yourself…If you want a 2018 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE in your garage, you are going to need to shell out $21,899 MSRP for it. That sticker price represents quite the premium over Team Green’s race homologation machine, the ZX-10RR, which goes for $18,899.

PJ Jacobsen Racing in WorldSBK for 2018

Patrick ‘PJ’ Jacobsen will be stepping up to the big show for the 2018 season, with today’s announcement that the American will be riding with the TripleM Honda WSBK Team. Moving off of the World Supersport grid and into the World Superbike Championship, Jacobsen will be riding the Honda CBR1000RR SP2 with the satellite Honda team effort that TripleM has put together. “I’m very excited to be making my World Superbike debut with TripleM Honda WSBK Team,” said PJ. “It’s a great opportunity for me to be finally racing in this class and I want to thank the team and Honda for making this possible. Both the team and I will be rookies in the WorldSBK championship so there’ll surely be a lot to learn, but it’s a challenge that stimulates me and I can’t wait to get started.”

Yamaha Selling Shares in Yamaha Motor to Raise Money

The Yamaha Corporation announced today that it will be selling 8 million shares of its holdings in Yamaha Motor Co., a movement of shares that will see roughly 2.3% of the voting power in the powersports company changing hands. This deal is expected to close on December 4th, and the Yamaha Corporation says that it will be selling its position to various unnamed securities companies, presumably to then be sold on the open market. At the current market price for Yamaha Motor stock, this deal should be worth close to ¥26 billion, and ¥18 billion after tax expenses have been factored. The news means that while the Yamaha Corporation will remain the single largest shareholder in Yamaha Motor Co., its ownership position as a shareholder will drop from 12.22% to 9.93%, as a result of the divestiture.

Valentino Rossi’s Winter Test Helmet Gets Mexican Flair

It is another winter testing period for the MotoGP riders, and that means that Valentino Rossi has another special “Winter Test” AGV helmet design for us. This year, The Doctor takes his inspiration from Huichol bead art, after he visited the region on a recent vacation to Mexico. As such, Rossi’s winter test AGV Pista GP R helmet features a hand-painted bead design that plays on the winter motif, with the Italian’s usual affinity for symbols. “Huichol art immediately intrigued me, because it uses many of my symbols, like the sun and moon or the turtle,” explained Valentino Rossi. “We have tried to recreate the effect of the beads that the Mexicans use to bring color and shape to these objects, but to do so with a Valentino Rossi twist.”

Jonathan Rea Talks About New WorldSBK Rules

Three years of unparalleled success has seen Jonathan Rea notch up 39 victories, 70 podiums, and 3 WorldSBK titles. To put those numbers into context, only Carl Fogarty, Troy Bayliss, and Noriyuki Haga have won more races in their WorldSBK careers. It truly has been a historic run of form for Rea and Kawasaki. For WorldSBK though the achievements have been outweighed by the reaction of fans to these results. Feeling that significant changes were needed to ensure a more competitive balance for the field, WorldSBK has introduced a wide range of new regulations to curtail the Kawasaki dominance. The goal isn’t to stop Rea and Kawasaki winning but simply to allow other manufacturers to get on an even keel.

The “Smart” Approach to Writing the WorldSBK Rulebook

Scott Smart has been tasked with writing and rewriting the rule book for Superbikes around the planet. The FIM Superbike Technical Director has been instrumental in bringing about the recent regulation changes for WorldSBK, and speaking at the season ending Qatar round he explained the philosophy behind the changes. “There’s a lot of benefits to these changes, but the biggest factor is that we want to find a way to have more exciting racing in WorldSBK,” explained Smart. “With the new regulations each team on the grid has the chance to run the same specification as the factory teams or to develop their own parts. This gives a private team the chance to have a bike with development work already having been completed by simply buying the relevant parts for their bike.”

Ben Spies Returns to Motorcycle Racing…On Dirt Bikes

Ben Spies fans will be happy to hear that the Texan is returning to racing motorcycles, announcing the news while talking to Matthew Miles at Cycle World. However, the news might not be as expected, as Spies isn’t returning to the superbike paddock, but instead will compete in the AMA National Enduro series next season. As such, Spies will take part in several rounds on the Full Gas Sprint Enduro calendar, in the mid-level “Pro2” class; as well as an ISDE qualifier, with an eye on making the squad for Team USA. Certainly not the MotoAmerica Superbike Championship bid that was reported earlier, though Spies confirmed that he had been in talks with Ducati about racing a Panigale, and had also spun some laps on a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R at a track day in Texas.

Harley-Davidson Returns to Profitability

04/20/2010 @ 2:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

Harley-Davidson has announced its Q1 quarterly earnings today, and the Milwaukee-based company posted a $68.7 million profit. This news comes after Harley-Davidson posted a $218 million loss last quarter, and finished in the hole over $55 million for the 2009 year. Harley’s return to profitability is partially due to the company’s restructuring of its financial services, which are once again generating money for the iconic American brand. Harley-Davidson Financial Services posted a profit of $26.7 million this past quarter, almost a third of HD’s net income in Q1.

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35 motorcycles, 7 model lines, 4 chassis, 3 motor families, & 1 market segment, that’s Harley-Davidson’s product line by the numbers. Where many large production motorcycle companies might have 30 or so motorcycles that span the entire gamut of motorcycling’s different sub-markets, Harley-Davidson has put all of its eggs in the heavy cruiser market. This singular pursuit of one market segment has not only been the cause for Harley’s success, but also a significant contributing factor to the company’s recent downfall, which has led to a recently rumored leveraged buyout.

As the old idiom goes, one should not put all their eggs in one basket, which is exactly the faux pas being committed here by Harley-Davidson in its product offering. Businesses, especially public ones, should always have an eye on sustained long-term growth, and a key element to that goal is a well-diversified position in their appropriate industry. Taking this lens and applying it to Harley-Davidson, one can immediately see a portfolio that has been extensively mismanaged by focusing on only one segment of the total motorcycle industry: the heavy cruiser market.

What this has effectively created is a motorcycle company that looks like Alfred Hitchcock’s take on Baskin Robins: 31 flavors, but they’re all Rocky Road.

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Blasphemy, heresy, stupidity, sacrilege, un-American, and downright irreverence. Go ahead, get all those words out of your system. I’ll wait.

The default opinion of marketers, analysts, and the general population is that Harley-Davidson has one of the strongest brands in the United States, this being confirmed by the fact that every business student in America has studied Harley’s marketing efforts if they’ve ever taken a brand management course. So why would I start a three-part series on how to fix Harley-Davidson by arguing to change one of the most revered marketing houses in the motorcycle industry?

Giving credit where credit is due, Harley-Davidson, or I should say its admirers in business school academia, wrote the book on demand generation marketing geared towards the baby-boomer generation. However, in defending this market position, Harley-Davidson has painted itself into a corner by only engaging a very small segment of the population with its product. Unless they redefine and reposition their company image and who it resonates with, Harley-Davidson is going to watch the continued erosion of its footing in the motorcycle industry, and also the continued deterioration of its only industry leading quality: its brand.

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For the Buell and MV loyal, Harley-Davidson’s latest earnings report should provide all the information as to why the Milwaukee manufacturer had to close and sell those brands respectively. Reporting a nearly 90% loss in annual income, Harley-Davidson earned only $70.6 million in 2009, compared to the $684.2 million Harley earned in 2008, which results in a staggering loss of income for the iconic motorcycle company.

For Q4 of 2009, Harley-Davidson actually operated in the red, and lost $218.7 million in net income by staying in business (Asphalt & Rubber actually made more money during the same time period than Harley-Davidson did, if that puts things into perspective). Additionally, Harley-Davidson is reporting a $147.2 million loss in revenue during its fourth quarter operations. The loss is associated with the reduction in production, and the $167.1 million in restructuring costs incurred because of the closure of the Buell Motorcycle brand.

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Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight: The Gen-X Sportster

01/22/2010 @ 1:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler56 COMMENTS

The Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty-Eight (or is it 48?), has made its way out of Milwaukee in time for the 2010 model year. Based on the Sportster 1200 platform, the Forty-Eight is the latest addition to Harley’s “custom” offering. It differs from its Nightser et al counterparts with a bobber meets cafe racer appeal, but keeps the ubiquitous orange and black color schemes.

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Harley-Davidson to Sell MV Agusta

10/15/2009 @ 2:44 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

MV-Agusta-for-sale-Harley-Davidson

In conjunction with Harley-Davidson’s Q3 financial results, and shutting down of Buell Motorcycles, the Milwaukee motorcycle manufacturer is announcing that it will be selling Italian sportbike manufacturer MV Agusta.

Harley-Davidson bought MV Agusta just under a year ago, and assumed a substantial amount of debt from the beleaguered company. This past quarter, Harley-Davidson recorded a one-time fixed-asset impairment charge of $14.2 million related to Buell and a goodwill impairment charge of $18.9 million related to MV Agusta.

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Buell Motorcycles To Go Out of Business

10/15/2009 @ 2:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

After releasing grim third-quarter financials today, Harley-Davidson has also announced that it is discontinuing Buell Motorcycles. In a somber video (posted after the jump), Erik Buell confirms the news, and praises the Buell team for taking on the industry giants with “this little American sportbike company.” Buell will continue to sell its motorcycle stock, and Harley-Davidson will continue to honor any warranties and part needs for Buell motorcycles.

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Harley-Davidson RIFs Another 1,000 Employees

07/16/2009 @ 5:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Harley_davidson_XR_1200_Trophy_1_G_header1000x500

With its second quarter sales dropping 35%, Harley-Davidson is going to be trimming its ranks in order to stay afloat. The Milwaukee based company will inject 700 hourly-wage workers, and 300 salaried workers into the ranks of the unemployed, with possibly more joining them in the future. These reductions come after Harley-Davidson earlier this year announced it was eliminating 1,400-1,500 hourly production positions in 2009-2010 along with 300 salary positions.

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harley_davidson_nightster-promo

At the end of last year, we announced Harley-Davidson’s promotion where if you bought a Sportster motorcycle (sadly, not the XR1200), you could receive the MSRP value of the bike if you traded it in the following year for “bigger” model.

The promotion was such a great success apparently, that now that it has ended, Harley-Davidson sales have slumped off.

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Harley-Davidson Responds to NY Times Article

04/01/2009 @ 12:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

harley-davidson-screw-it-lets-ride

You may remember the NY Times article that we mentioned a few days ago that was critical of the company’s current status and direction. In response to the NY Times article, Harley-Davidson is running the above ad in an attempt to provide a counter-argument to the criticism that the company is on shaky ground.

It should come with little surprise that Harley-Davidson is again playing on Patriotic themes and rhetoric that shifts the focus from the fact the company has serious issues ahead of it, and to date not clear plan on how they are going to overcome them. In addition to this ad, a message was sent out to all Harley-Davidson employees, read it after the jump.

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