The Future of Fast, A Review of the Alta Redshift MXR

I always joke with industry folk that “it’s called Asphalt & Rubber for a reason,” as I am a dyed in the wool street bike guy. So when Alta Motors invited A&R to ride the new Alta Redshift MXR, I knew there were better people for the job than I. This is where heterosexual life partner Carlin Dunne comes into the mix. On top of being one of the fastest men ever up Pikes Peak on two wheels, as well as the fastest electric motorcycle to compete in The Race to the Clouds, Carlin is an accomplished off-road racer – both with and without a motor between his legs. So, we sent Carlin down to Southern California to ride Alta’s newest machines, and with already a bevy of time in the saddle on electric motorcycles, I can’t think of a better person’s opinion for these electron-powered off-road racers.

What A Trade War Means for Motorcycles

Strangely enough, we have talked about trade wars several times before, here on Asphalt & Rubber, as the Trump administration has been keen to use this tool in its toolbox, often with effects that reach into the motorcycle industry. The first time around, we talked about how the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) affected the motorcycle industry, namely Harley-Davidson, and how the United States’ withdrawal from the agreement would likely be a negative effect for US motorcyclists. We have also had to talk about how fighting over beef imports could lead to possible tariffs on small-displacement European motorcycles in the United States, a tariff that would seriously hurt Piaggio/Vespa scooter sales and KTM dirt bike sales.

KTM and Tech3 Team Up in MotoGP for the 2019 Season

It was a shock to hear that the venerable Tech3 team would be leaving the Yamaha family, come the 2019 MotoGP season, after all Tech3 boss Hervé Poncharal cut his teeth with Yamaha. But, once the news of his move sunk in, we are not surprised to hear that he is headed to KTM for the 2019 season, as was officially announced today (and rumored for well over a week). That is right, for the 2019 MotoGP Championship, the Tech3 team – one of the most regarded satellite teams in the GP Paddock – will be racing the KTM RC16 MotoGP race bike, with full-factory machines from Austria. That last caveat is likely the tipping point and main reason for Poncharal’s switch, with Tech3 long having to put-up with having the leftovers from the Yamaha Racing factory squad.

What If Harley-Davidson and Alta Motors Had a Baby?

With the news that Harley-Davidson has invested an undisclosed sum in electric motorcycle manufacturer Alta Motors, the following concept might seem like a no-brainer. That is because the folks at Carbon Projects invisions the partnership between the two American brands as lending itself to the creation of an electric street-tracker model. Taking the heritage-focused roots of Harley-Davidson, and applying them to Alta’s Redshift platform, the resulting model is quite a looker, if we do say so. Of course, we should remember that Alta has already shown a street tracker concept of its own, displaying the Alta Motors Redshift ST concept at last year’s One Moto Show, in Portland, Oregon.

This Week’s Suzuki Hayabusa Rumor, Redux

In this installment of “This Week’s Suzuki Hayabusa Rumor,” we again take a look at the motor of this venerable sport bike. The rumor going around the interwebs right now is that the 2019 Suzuki Hayabusa will feature a “semi-automatic” gearbox. Side-stepping the part where saying a gearbox is semi-automatic is  a lot like saying someone is “semi-pregnant” (you either are, or aren’t), the rumor stems from a patent filed by Suzuki that shows a gear-shifting mechanism with the foot-shifter that doesn’t require a clutch. If this sounds a lot like an up/down quickshifter system, then you score extra bonus points today for being a rational human being, but you would be very wrong about what this whole rumor should actually be about.

Harley-Davidson Invests in Alta Motors

Harley-Davidson has announced its strategic investment in Alta Motors, which will see the two American companies co-developing two new electric motorcycle models. As one can imagine, the news has big ramifications for both brands. For Harley-Davidson, it means having access to cutting-edge electric vehicle technology, and a technical partner that can help them navigate the coming shift to electric drivetrains. And for Alta Motors the news is perhaps even more impactful, as Harley-Davidson brings not only a key monetary investment into the San Francisco startup, but the deal likely provides access to a variety of assets for Alta, namely purchasing power with parts supplier, access to a worldwide dealer network, and instant credibility with other future investors.

Here Comes a New Complaint About Californian Drivers…

If you are riding in California anytime soon, you might want to think twice before blaming the state’s fleet of drivers, as The Golden State just made it legal for self-driving cars to operate without a human behind the wheel. While similar actions have stalled in the US Congress (the SELF DRIVE ACT is stuck in a Senate committee), states have begun to take matters into their own hands, like they did in Arizona. That is right, the dawn of truly autonomous vehicles has just arrived, and it is primed to change the driving landscape as we know it, which by correlation means changes for the motorcycle community as well. Announced on Monday, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) approved rules that would make it legal for automated vehicles to operate without a human behind the wheel. 

BMW S675RR Concept by Nicolas Petit

I really like the idea of BMW making a supersport model, to compliment the already potent BMW S1000RR. The category is a tough one though, and it is dominated by the Japanese brands. Maybe, this is why BMW Motorrad is the perfect brand to disrupt the supersport segment. The S1000RR made a killing in the liter-bike space, because it brought European features and performance, at a Japanese price-point. Because of the success that resulted from that formula, maybe the Germans can do the same in the 600cc segment. Putting some pen and paper to this thought, Nicolas Petit has inked together a render of a proposed BMW supersport machine, which he dubs the BMW S675RR.

Say What??! – Tech3 and Yamaha Will Part Ways in 2019

If you thought the 2019 MotoGP Silly Season was already in high gear, a bombshell announcement has just put it into overdrive. Today, the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team announced that from 2019, they will be parting ways. Tech3 will no longer be a satellite Yamaha team. The split brings to an end an association of nearly 20 years with Yamaha. They first started in 1999 with Shinya Nakano and Olivier Jacque in 250cc, before switching to the premier class with the same pair in 2001. Tech3 has been a loyal partner for many years, giving up one seat to a factory-backed rider on a number of occasions, as occurred with Ben Spies, Colin Edwards, and Pol Espargaro. However, there had been a few signs of tension over the past few months.

Trademark Hints at Harley-Davidson Electric Motorcycle

Has Harley-Davidson just tipped its hand regarding its upcoming electric motorcycle? It would seem so, according to the latest trademark application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Registering the name “Revelation” with the USPTO, Harley-Davidson has set aside the trademark for two uses: 1) batteries for vehicles, and 2) drivetrains for electric motorcycles and vehicles. Other publications are running this story as the “Revelation” name being the moniker for Harley-Davidson’s production version of the Livewire electric motorcycle concept, but the actual trademark makes a very clear alternative to that narrative.

Reuters continues to dish on Ducati’s possible divestiture from the Volkswagen Group, with news that several bids have been placed on the Italian motorcycle brand. Reuters says that amongst the bidders are several key brands like, Polaris, Bajaj, and Royal Enfield’s owners Eicher Motors.

Noticeably absent from the list of potential buyers however was the much talked-about Harley-Davidson, a name that the same Reuters reporters first offered as Ducati’s potential future owner.

Now Reuters offers us another name as the likely front-runner, pointing to Italy’s Benetton family (as in, the United Colors of Benetton), which has reportedly submitted a bid of $1.2 billion, through its investment arm Edizione Holding.

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Audi Bought 100% of Ducati’s Stock

04/19/2012 @ 2:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

With the Volkswagen Group’s Board of Directors meeting done, ahead of the company’s shareholder meeting which is also now complete, details of Audi’s acquisition of Ducati are starting to emerge.

Paying €860 million ($1.1 billion) for the Italian motorcycle company, perhaps the biggest shocker to come from Audi’s acquisition is not the price, but the unconfirmed reports that Audi AG has bought 100% of the Ducati’s stock, meaning Borgo Panigale will now come under complete German control.

This news means that Audi not only bought out the 70% ownership of Investindustrial, but also the 30% remainder that was held by private equity fund BS, the Hospitals of Ontario Pension Plan, and other minority shareholders.

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As expected from yesterday’s news, Audi’s Board of Directors has approved the German car company’s acquisition of Ducati Motor Holding. While the grumblings from Ducati owners have already emerged over the news breaking yesterday, in reality the move is a boon for Ducati, which will receive access to an almost limitless bank account, global business expertise, and advanced manufacturing techniques.

Selling 42,000 motorcycles last year, Ducati has typically struggled to sell more than 30,000 units annually, a figure which is highly regarded as the Italian company’s break-even point. Historically selling under that amount, Ducati has racked up considerable debt from its operation, hence why nearly a quarter of the company’s purchase price is going to its outstanding financial liabilities.

For Ducati owners and Ducati fans around the world, the acquisition by Audi and the Volkswagen Group should be met with more resounding praise, as it means an increased layer of stability has been added to the Italian brand. While the hyperbole has been flowing online, we imagine that the first motorcycles sales success to come from the company post-acquisition will silence any resistance to the company’s new German ownership.

As irrelevant as that metric actually is in business terms, the reality is that Audi’s influence over Ducati will take several years to be fully realized, as it takes a considerable amount of time for new products to come to market, and business plans to be implemented. Press releases from both Investindustrial and Audi are after the jump.

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Audi Buys Ducati for $1.1 Billion

04/17/2012 @ 10:14 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

UPDATE: Audi’s Board of Directors has announced its approval of the acquisition of Ducati.

According to reports, Audi has finished its acquisition of Ducati Motor Holdings, to the tune of €860 million ($1.128 billion), and will announce the purchase tomorrow at is annual shareholders meeting. The deal reportedly sees Audi, through its parent company the Volkswagen Group, acquiring Ducati for roughly seven times what it earned in revenue last year, but Audi is also assuming all of Ducati’s debt, which has been rumored as high as €200 million, making the revenue multiple significantly smaller.

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Audi to Announce Purchase of Ducati Next Week

04/11/2012 @ 11:40 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Reports are coming in that Audi’s acquisition of Ducati is all but done, and just needs to the ink to dry. With the announcement of the purchase expected to come next week (Wednesday if you believe some reports), the German manufacturer has reportedly finished its due diligence on the acquisition, and found no major obstacles to the purchase.

With previous reports going back and forth as to whether Audi (read: the Volkswagen Group) would purchase only a controlling interest in Ducati Motor Holding, or would completely buyout Investindustrial’s 70% stake in the Italian motorcycle manufacturer, other reports are now saying that Investindustrial is only interested in talking to Audi about the acquisition.

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Audi Buying Only Part of Ducati? Daimler Bows Out

04/03/2012 @ 6:05 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

More reports are starting to surface about Audi’s pending purchase of Ducati Motor Holding from Investindustrial. Said last month to have offered the private equity firm somewhere in the neighborhood of €750 million, Reuters is now reporting the figure to have been closer to the €870 million to €875 million range, which is closer to the original rumored offer of €850 million by the German automaker. What is most interesting in the report by Reuters is the notion that Audi is not making an offer to buy all of Investindustrial’s financial position in Ducati Motor Holding, which accounts for about 70% of the company.

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Audi Offers €750 Million for Ducati

03/28/2012 @ 11:56 am, by Jensen Beeler34 COMMENTS

According to Italy’s Correrie di Bologna, the Volkswagen Group has made a €750 million bid on Ducati Motor Holdings. Just shy of Investindustrial’s reported €832 million asking price on the Italian motorcycle manufacturer. Reports are also saying that Volkswagen’s due diligence process has uncovered that Ducati has less debt on its books than previously thought (previously rumored to be in the €200 million range), and that the €750 million offer would nearly double  Investindustrial’s initial purchase price of the Italian company.

Said to have until the middle of April to make an offer, the Volkswagen Group’s current proposal is lower than the €850 million originally rumored earlier this month. Despite it being less than Investindustrial’s initial valuation of €1 billion, the deal is said to be close to finalization, with Italian politicians and union members weighing in on the prospect of German involvement with the Italian brand.

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Audi to Buy Ducati?

03/12/2012 @ 11:35 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

It has been almost a year now since we broke the news that Ducati Motor Holding was up for sale, and I still can’t tell if the appropriate metaphor for the ongoing acquisition is a game of musical chairs or Russian roulette. Vying for a seat or putting the chamber to its temple, our latest contestant in “Who Wants to Buy Ducati” is Audi, the four-ringed German car manufacturer. Reported to have a right of first refusal, Audi allegedly has until mid-April to finalize a deal with Investindustrial (Ducati’s main investor) to buy Ducati from the Italian investment group.

Though Ducati sold over 40,000 motorcycles in 2011, the Italian company has roughly €800 million in debt on its books. This means that any company interested in buying Ducati would have to assume the Italian company’s debt onto its own books, which changes the actual purchase price of Ducati dramatically. For its part, Audi is rumored to be making an offer in the €850 million range, which would put the actual purchase value of Ducati at over €50 million, and could put as much as €100 million on the table for Investindustrial to take.

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Two weeks and two separate rumors about Hero MotoCorp’s acquisition warpath. Last week the Indian motorcycle manufacturer was said to be eyeing a minority equity stake in Erik Buell Racing. Having already hired the American sport bike maker to help innovate on some of Hero’s upcoming small displacement machines, the two companies sweetened the deal with Hero becoming the title sponsor to EBR’s AMA Pro Superbike racing effort.

This week the spotlight shines on Ducati Motor Holding, which has quietly been for sale for almost a year now. Originally wooing an acquisition from Mercedes-Benz, the Italian motorcycle manufacturer has been linked to a variety of other companies, as well as a public offering on an Asian stock index. With our sources telling us that Ducati has been trimming the fat from its books in order to make its earnings more attractive, Hero MotoCorp is the latest potential buyer to enter the fray and to talk to bankers about a Ducati acquisition.

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The big non-racing news today is that Ducati is reportedly up for sale, with a price tag of €1 billion. To be honest, I’m fairly amused by how many emails I found in my inbox on this topic, and by how far this news item is spreading in the motorcycle news sector today. The buzz of course is that Ducati may be purchased by any number of large manufacturing firms, with smart money on a European automaker.

Either asleep at the switch for the past year, or just grossly inept at understanding financial news (guys, there is a big difference between one billion euros and one billion pounds), collectively the motorcycle news industry is reporting on an story that we first published nine months ago like it is a shot out of the dark.

For those that missed our ongoing coverage of the topic, Investindustrial actively spent the better part of 2011 looking to divest its majority position in Ducati Motor Holdings, and was in serious talks with Mercedes-Benz over the acquisition. Our Bothan Spies told us back in April that Investindustrial was very eager to sell Ducati to Mercedes-Benz, while the zie Germans were being very, well German about the whole thing.

With nothing coming to fruition on the Mercedes deal, Ducati again made waves in August when it was reported that the company was interested in making a private stock offering in 2012. Today’s news of course is the logical extension of that announcement, as it is both 2012 and Investindustrial is rumored to be in talks with several possible private buyers for Ducati. While none of this news should surprise anyone, what is of note is the price tag being attached to Ducati is €1 billion.

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