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.

Harley-Davidson Livewire Gets Closer to Production Form

Harley-Davidson made a big push today, showing a number of bikes and concepts that it plans to bring to market by 2022. All of them were a big surprise, but one of them we already knew about: the Harley-Davidson Livewire. While not as big of a shock as the adventure-touring Pan America concept, or the Harley-Davidson Streetfighter or Custom models (to say the least about its upcoming electric lineup), Harley-Davidson has given us something to talk about with this electric power cruiser. Namely, the Harley-Davidson Livewire looks ready in production and in form, even though its official debut is still a year away. Since we first saw the Livewire concept (below), a number of things have changed for the production model.

MV Agusta’s Moto2 Race Bike Predictably Looks Awesome

After a 42-year hiatus, MV Agusta is returning to the Grand Prix Championship. This iconic Italian motorcycle brand will not be competing in MotoGP however, and instead MV Agusta will make its return in the Moto2 category. Partnering with the Forward Racing team, MV Agusta aims to take advantage of the rule changes for the 2019 season, which will see a 765cc Triumph three-cylinder engine replacing the 600cc Honda four-cylinder engine that is currently in use. This change in the spec-engine rule will likely upheave the Moto2 Championship, and MV Agusta wants to be part of that sea change. As such, the bike you see in the photos here will be the machine that launches MV Agusta’s assault on the GP paddock.

The Harley-Davidson “Custom” Is the First Cruiser We Like

In case you missed the new, Harley-Davidson dropped a number of new model concepts on us today, all which are to go into production by the 2022 model year. We have already shown you the ADV concept, as well as the Streetfighter concept. There are a bevy of electric bikes to see as well, along with an e-bike program, but right now we want to focus your attention on the Harley-Davidson Custom, a modern take on the Sportster platform. It might be the first cruiser that we have actually lusted over. For the loyal Asphalt & Rubber readers on this page, that statement should certainly say something about how much we are digging this potent v-twin concept. Using the 1,250cc version of Harley-Davidson’s new modular engine, the Custom takes a number of cues from Harley-Davidsons of the past and future.

MotoGP Will Be Broadcasted in HD – 3D to Follow?

03/24/2010 @ 4:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Dorna Sports has announced that this year’s MotoGP season will be shot in HD and broadcasted in high definition where available. After suffering through years of regular definition coverage that was often grainy and poorly saturated (there’s a reason MotoGP bikes have bright colors), race fans will hopefully be able to see their favorite riders lap the track in more clarity. Bonus for us American viewers, SPEED Channel has agreed to carry the races on its HD channel.

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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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Harley-Davidson Saves York, Pennsylvania Plant

12/05/2009 @ 11:12 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Harley-Davidson announced this week that it was able to come to an agreement with its York, Pennsylvania plant employees and union members, thus allowing the plant to remain open and producing motorcycles. The move wasn’t easy though as half of the plant’s employees will lose their jobs in order to keep the Shield & Bar in the Springettsbury Township area.

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What do you do when the financial arm of your company goes from making $100 million a year to losing $100 million a year? Why you kill off two other brands in your company of course. That is the move the Keith Wandell and the Harley-Davidson board of directors made yesterday with their announcement of shutting down Buell, and selling off MV Agusta. Realizing that the Harley-Davidson brand accounts for the majority of Harley-Davidson Inc.’s income, Harley-Davidson executives saw there being little choice but to sacrifice its other two holdings to save their namesake.

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Harley-Davidson RIFs Another 1,000 Employees

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

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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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Things have been quiet on the Italian front after Harley-Davidson acquired premium sportbike manufacturer MV Agusta last year, with the American company apparently leaving the brand alone for a while after its purchase. The company we love to hate from Milwaukee has finally started to make some changes in the old Italian brand, drawing a clear line between what product lines will focus on a premium road bike experience for the rider, and what products will be developed for track day weaponry for the weekend warrior.

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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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Warren Buffett Invests $300MM in Harley-Davidson

02/04/2009 @ 12:43 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Harley-Davidson has announced that Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway group will invest $300 million in the motorcycle maker through a purchasee of senior unsecured notes that will mature in 2014. These funds match a similar investment by Davis Selected Advisers, L.P., which is already the largest shareholder of the company’s stock. Harley-Davidson will use the money to bolster its lending services, hopefully making it easier for the troubled motorcycle maker to lend cash to consumers. In exchange, Berkshire Hathaway will reportedly receive a lucrative 15% annual interest rate on the cash infusion.

The markets have responded to the news rather favorably, with Harley shares hitting $13.56 in trading yesterday afternoon – a 14% increase from where they started yesterday. Just about a week ago, Harley-Davidson announced a plan to shed 10% of its workforce. This move marks the first time that Buffett has ever invested in the company.

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Harley-Davidson Stock Shares Tumble

01/13/2009 @ 11:11 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

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Harley-Davidson (HOG) shares dropped 12% Monday as financial analysts grew bearish over motorcycle purchases in 2009. Sparking the plummet, Goldman Sachs downgraded Harley’s shares to sell, lowered its target price to $11, and cut its 2009 profit outlook by 50%. Goldman analyst Patrick Archambault said he expects Harley’s retail bike sales to fall by 30% this year, making it the worst year for new registrations since 1982.

Part of the reason for the downgrade is becauset Harley-Davidson CEO, James Ziemer, said last month that he plans to retire from his 40 years of service with Harley in 2009, and on Thursday last week, Sy Naqvi stepped down as interim president Harley’s finance unit.

Another concern has been Harley-Davidson’s financial services division. The division is expected to make less revenue in 2009 off of sales, lose more money on delinquent loans, and be stuck with loan obligations because of a frozen LBO and secondary loan markets.

Source: Visordown

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Harley-Davidson is getting creative with selling motorcycles, and we here at Asphalt & Rubber like it. HD must really want to capitalize on those sales, as it’s just announced a unique incentive to purchase a new Sportster, or alternatively to trade in your recently purchased model. 

All new 2008 and 2008 Sportsters, bought between December 26, 2008 and March 31, 2009, will be sold with a guarantee that Harley-Davidson will offer the full MSRP of the bike when traded in for a larger bike, within on year of the original purchase. The offer does not apply to the new XR1200, and the bike bought after the trade-in must be a Dyna, Softail, VRSC, or Touring model. 

Economically, this is an interesting deal. Harley-Davidsons, unlike most other marquees, generally appreciate in value over-time. This is mostly a function of long-waiting lists, and difficulty of purchasing abroad. Regardless, its a bonus point for buying the Milwaukee brand. The Sportster line, being at the bottom of the Harley totem pole, is the most susceptible to having this trend end with the economic crisis. This promotion, effectively squashes that possibility for the time being. Anyways, for the average consumer, revile in the fact that an otherwise depreciating object will hold its value for the next year minus the rate of inflation, and in the event of deflation in the value of the dollar, will actually be a decent investment. Booyaca!

Source: Harley-Davidson via Autoblog