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“We have to look which is the best ownership for Ducati. Either we find a way forward for Ducati, which provides some growth, some probably additional brands, or we have to look for new ownerships...I wouldn’t exclude that.”

Ever since Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess said those words, I have been perseverating on their meaning. Many in the industry have taken Herr Diess to mean that Ducati is once again for sale, and that Ducati's time within Audi AG is coming to an end.

As Diess says himself, we can't exclude that possibility. But, what about the part of his statement that proceeds that notion?

How does one make Ducati Motor Holding more profitable? More sustainable? Better suited for the trends we are seeing in the motorcycle industry? In the changing world that transportation is facing?

How does the Italian company fit into all those questions marks, and more? This is the thought that has been burning a hole on my notepad recently, and I keep coming back to Diess' thought that Ducati should have some additional brands.

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Ducati's announcement that it is making its final production run of the Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition got me thinking this week. This could be the very last v-twin superbike from the Italian brand, making it a true "Final Edition" motorcycle? It certainly appears so.

Right now, the Italian marque is betting its superbike future on the V4 platform, which means it could be another 5 years or longer (10 years could be a reasonable number, even) before Ducati debuts its next superbike platform.

What do we imagine that motorcycle will look like? Where do we imagine the motorcycle industry will be in the next five to ten years? That future isn't too far away, but the answer is still hard to fathom.

Can we really see a future where Ducati builds another v-twin engine? Understand, the Superquadro motor is the pinnacle of v-twin design, and pushes the limits of what kind of power such an engine configuration can create.

This is the very reason that Ducati abandoned the Superquadro v-twin design for the Desmosedici Stradale V4. That is a big deal in Ducatista land, but it is a notable move for the motorcycle industry as a whole.

So, the thought experiment evolves from this, and we begin to wonder what is not only in store for a brand like Ducati, whose history is rooted in a particular engine design, but also what is in store for the other brands of the motorcycle industry, who have been tied to thermic engines for over a century.

For the Japanese brands, the hand that holds that future has been tipped, with turbocharged and supercharged designs teased by three out of the Big Four manufacturers. We have even see Kawasaki bringing its own supercharged motorcycles already to market already.

But, is this really the future? Or, is this resurgence of forced induction for motorcycles dead on arrival?

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In our round-ups of the EICMA show of Milan, I am not sure if we have saved the best for last, but we certainly have saved the most important for last. There has been no shortage of news from MV Agusta this month already, and the Italian brand ran a skillful guerrilla campaign in Milan this year - a show that takes place in the company's own backyard.

In this month alone, MV Agusta has announced a €40 million investment, a new CEO, a new four-cylinder platform, and a bevy of special edition models. Recently too, the iconic motorcycle brand has entered into the Moto2 World Championship, withdrawn from the World Superbike paddock, and positioned itself as the ultra-premium offering in the two-wheeled space.

So, what does this all mean? Well...we certainly have a lot to talk about.

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Next up on our analysis of the EICMA show in Milan are the Japanese brands: Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha.

You can usually count on the Big Four to bring out some popular new bike launches and intriguing concepts to EICMA, and this year...well...the Japanese brands phoned it in, for the most part.

Before we get into Jensen's complete feeling of disappointment, I first have to apologize because I failed you as a publisher. Much of the disappointment that comes from the INTERMOT and EICMA shows comes from the implications of the Euro5 emissions standards. As a publication, we should have prepared you  better for this reality, and we didn't.

There is very little incentive right now for a motorcycle OEM to release a new model. Euro5 comes online for new models in 2020, and for existing models in 2021, which means that many of the motorcycle brands are holding onto their new bike launches for those model years.

As such, the 2019 model year is very much a "development year" for the industry. This doesn't change the fact that the Japanese brands had a weak showing in Milan, especially compared to the Europeans, but at least it explains why...for the most part.

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Sometimes, I wonder why brands debut their machines at the EICMA, or any trade show for that matter, but especially the one in Milan.

Asphalt & Rubber published close to 50 new bike stories from Milan, and we still have a few more minor announcements to get out the door, so imagine for a minute that you are the marketing manager for a brand which  is trying to stand out in that crowd.

This EICMA marked the first year where we really saw some brands abandoning the rat race of EICMA, choosing to release their new models ahead of the show, in order to generate some buzz, and dominate the headlines for a day or two. 

And, no one executed this strategy better than Aprilia.

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Done and dusted, the EICMA show in Milan is the biggest trade event in the motorcycle industry, and each year we see dozens and dozens of machines debut in Italy, with much fanfare.

With the bevy of new model releases that occur though, it is easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees. So, we are going to break down the big headlines and moments from this new bike season for you, starting with one of our most talked about brands: Ducati.

Ducati traditionally starts off the EICMA festivities, hosting a pre-event somewhere in Milan days before EICMA. The day of this launch seems to get pushed back further and further each year, as other brands have jockeyed for position, and so this year's pre-event event was held on the Sunday before EICMA.

To its credit, Ducati does EICMA right, and the Italian company has honed to perfection the balance between of hosting a live event for gathered press and VIPs that is also suitable and entertaining enough to be broadcast live on Italian TV and across the internet.

The EICMA show unveiling might be geared now for mainstream consumption, but for those in the industry there are still some valuable inferences to learn from what is said...and what isn't said.

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Over the course of 228 races, Tom Sykes made himself into a Kawasaki legend. It's easy to look at the last four years and to only see the success that Jonathan Rea has achieved on the green machine, but before 2010 the Japanese firm was struggling. Chris Walker's win in the wet at Assen was a bright spot that punctuated ten years of failure.

From the turn of the millennium, until Sykes joined, the team had three wins, a home double at Sugo in 2010 by wildcard rider Hitoyasu Izutsu and Walker's famous result. These weren't lean times for Kawasaki - this was a famine. With only 19 podiums in the ten years prior to his arrival, it's remarkable what the Englishman has achieved with the team.

“It’s the end of a great era,” reflected Sykes. “It’s been a great time, and I feel that we’ve done a great job together. We've all grown up a lot together. We had the chance to be three-times world champions and I’m very, very fortunate to be able to say that I’m a world champion.”

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The INTERMOT show is done and dusted, and we have had some time to chew on the models that we saw in Cologne, Germany...or didn't see, as the case might be. The second largest trade show in the motorcycle industry, one can wonder though whether the INTERMOT show is the second most important.

Having two major shows on European soil, with INTERMOT coming every other year, creates a Sophie's Choice for motorcycle manufacturers. EICMA might draw the crowds and the press, but it is also a maelstrom of new models, and it is easy for a bike's launch and debut to be lost in the chaos.

To that vein, INTERMOT provides an opportunity for manufacturers to see the forest for the trees. It is less pressure, with most manufacturers choosing to debut more minor releases at the German show, but this makes it ripe for some surprises as well. For 2018, things were no different.

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“Who's the greatest” has been a question asked in every sport over the years. Whether it's Muhammad Ali self proclaiming himself, or Tiger Woods being anointed by the masses, a general consensus quickly forms about a pecking order.

In football, it quickly comes down to Pele or Maradonna, Ronaldo or Messi, or another combination from a certain era. In tennis it comes down to dominance over a sustained period, with one era blending into the next of Rod Laver to Bjorn Borg to Pete Sampras to Roger Federer.

Motorcycle racing is similar in a lot of ways with riders typically earning their titles in spurts of sustained excellence.

Superbike racing is however a curious subset. With domestic series feeding into World championships, and some of the brightest WorldSBK stars being offered MotoGP seats after only a couple of years, at the same as riders step across to Superbike racing from Grand Prix for only a handful of seasons at the end of their careers, it's a strange combination of fluidity and constant change.

When you ask a Superbike fan who the greatest is you certainly get more than your fair share of choice.

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Today, I am going to share with you a look behind the curtain - a look at several sides of the motorcycle industry that you don't usually get to see. Our story concerns the Indian FTR1200 street tracker motorcycle, which just debuted in Cologne, Germany at the INTERMOT show...but really, this story started three months ago, back in the United States.

It starts with a leaked photo of the Indian FTR1200, taken from a production event in Los Angeles, which was then sent to Asphalt & Rubber by a loyal reader. This turned into A&R finding its way to Minnesota to ride a prototype of the FTR1200, and us being amongst the first to ride this highly anticipated motorcycle.

An exclusive media event, Indian's plan was to have the largest publication from each critical market present, to give an early evaluation of this ground-breaking machine for the American brand.

While there were sole-representatives from the UK, Italy, Germany, Australia, Asia, etc - because of our efforts, from the United States there would now be two publications. Sorry for partying.

I have no doubt that the coverage from these other publications will read like initial reviews, part critique and part marketing pieces for the Indian Motorcycle Company. That's not a slight to my colleagues, that is just the reality of the situation. How do you evaluate a prototype motorcycle?

"I have no idea what they are talking about," I told an Indian staff member, while our post-ride video reviews/debriefs were being filmed. We had just ridden for a half a day on a motorcycle that we knew nothing about, and now we were expected to stand in front of a camera, and espouse our impressions of it.

Because of the looming weather, our tech briefing was after the ride, which is a frustrating thing when it comes to evaluating a motorcycle. As such, our impressions would be limited and relative. The power felt "good"...the brakes were "ok"...this exhaust looks like the work of a drunk plumber.

With no specs, no prices, no production volumes, no set list of features...what were these journalists talking about in their videos? I still don't know.At $9,000, the FTR1200 could be one of the best motorcycles on the market, but at $20,000 Indian would have clearly missed the mark.

I'm still not sure how I feel about the $13,000 / $15,000 price points for the base and S models, respectively. It feels high...but we will get to that in a minute.

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