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small-displacement

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For some time now, we have known that KTM intended to bring a 300cc-class version of its KTM 125 Duke motorcycle to market, thanks primarily to a leaked product road map that covered the Austrian company’s product line-up clear through the 2014 model year.

Slotted to bring the KTM 390 Duke to the US market this coming spring, the leaked road map has so far proven to be accurate, and has two interesting machines listed for 2014: the KTM Moto3 350 & KTM Enduro 350.

Now confirmed by KTM’s CEO Stefan Pierer, KTM will debut a “faired” model (the KTM Moto3 350) and a “travel” model (KTM Enduro 350), which are based off the KTM 390 Duke platform, and will share the bike’s 375cc single-cylinder engine.

According to The Economic Times, India’s premier financial newspaper, Hero MotoCorp is working on a 250cc sport bike, in conjunction with Erik Buell Racing. You may recall that Hero and EBR have already agreed to a technical partnership, which also saw the Indian motorcycle manufacturer become Erik Buell Racing’s title sponsor in the AMA Pro Racing Superbike series.

After its break up with Honda in the Hero Honda relationship, Hero MotoCorp has been relying on other firms for its technical developments. The Economic Times suggests the same can be said for this 250cc sport bike, with EBR handling the development of the machine, while Hero handles the business end of things, namely the quarter-liter’s production and distribution.

Are you ready for KTM’s little thumper to come to US soil? Likely our runner-up  for Best in Show at EICMA 2012, the Austrians have been teasing the idea of the KTM 390 Duke for far too long. Expected to be here in Spring 2013, the bigger baby Duke sports ABS and 43hp for its 300 lbs hulk (sans gas).

A strong contender in the brewing small-displacement wars, American buyers will have the pleasure of choosing between the Honda CBR250R, KTM 390 Duke, Kawasaki Ninja 300, and Suzuki GW250 next year, with Yamaha expected to enter the quarter-liter market in 2014. Does the 2013 KTM 390 Duke tickle your fancy? We’ve got 13 high-res photos for you after the jump.

Officially official now, there isn’t much about the 2013 KTM 390 Duke that we don’t already know ahead of the opening of the EICMA show. Built in India by KTM minority shareholder Bajaj, the KTM 390 Duke is a 373cc single-cylinder bike that shares the same chassis as the KTM 125 Duke & KTM 200 Duke.

Suitable for Europe’s A2 licensing system, the largest baby Duke competes well against bikes like the Honda CBR500R and Kawasaki Ninja 300, and thus finishes out the Austrian’s bid to control the small-displacement market.

News coming out of India and Southeast Asia (which Cycle World is bizarrely taking credit for starting, despite being months late to the party), is that Yamaha is set to debut a 250cc sport bike for the world market. Said to be visually similar to the Yamaha YZF-R6 (concept sketch above), the quarter-liter four-stroke machine is certainly a response to the recent offerings from Honda and Kawasaki.

Expected to be a 2013 or 2014 model, we will almost certainly get our first glimpse of the bike, or its concept, at the upcoming 2012 EICMA motorcycle show in Milan. With details about the “Yamaha YZF-R250” being scarce, we would wager a 2014 launch date, but as always, time will tell. Expect pricing to be sub-$5,000 though, with optional ABS.

Courtesy of the folks at Zigwheels, details about the KTM 390 Duke (previously of KTM 350 Duke & KTM 375 Duke fame) continue to emerge ahead of the EICMA show in Milan, including what is expected to be the official designation of the small-displacement motorcycle. Coming in a 375cc single-cylinder format, KTM continues its misleading numbering scheme for motorcycles with a “390” designation, though we think you will forgive the Austrian brand, as its American-bound mini-Duke is said to come with 45hp and a 331 lbs curb-weight.

For those keeping score, that means that the KTM 390 Duke will have more power than the Kawasaki Ninja 300, and weigh less than the Honda CBR250R, making it a very formidable package in the small-displacement market. To be made in India by Bajaj (a major stakeholder in KTM’s public stock), the Indian company is expected to make its own version of the model, similar to what it has done with the Pulsar 200NS, which is based off the KTM 200 Duke.

Confirming what we already knew, the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 300 broke cover today, and is Team Green’s newest small-displacement sport bike in its motorcycle lineup. 296cc’s of twin-cylinder fury, Kawasaki the Ninja 300 boasts 40hp, twin-butterfly valves, fuel injection, a slipper clutch, a 140mm rear tire, and has optional ABS. A part of a larger movement within Kawasaki, the Ninja 300 exemplifies the “no replacement for displacement” school of thought, and will sell along-side the recently updated (and virtually visually identical) Kawasaki Ninja 250R in more than a few markets.

While we know that the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 300 is set to debut for our European readers, the big question mark will be whether the small sport bike will come to the North American markets. A spreadsheet from the EPA seems to suggest that will be the case, though it points to a carbureted Kawasaki Ninja 205R and fuel-injected Kawasaki Ninja 400R coming to the US as well, making for one impacted learner-bike market. Meanwhile, reports from Canada confirm that their 250R will also be of the carbureted variety.

The news confirms out suspicion that the Ninja 250R will remain the under-powered, and standard-styled, carbureted learner-bike it has always been in North America, while the Ninja 300 becomes the peppy small-displacement sport bike that we haven’t realized that we will lust over later this fall. Presumably then, the Kawasaki Ninja 300 will go head-to-head with the CBR250R and upcoming KTM Moto3-inspired street bike, among other models.

Like many other brands ahead of it, Triumph is getting ready to enter the Indian market in a serious way. Eyeing a piece of property in Narasapur in the Karnataka region of India, Triumph’s initial plan is to build a facility capable of producing 250,000 units per year, with an expansion plan that could double that number. Currently producing 50,000 units a year in its British and Thai facilities, Triumph’s move into India could increase the company’s production ten-fold per annum.

Said to be bringing mostly its full-size premium offerings to the Indian market, Triumph is also rumored to be working on a small-displacement single-cylinder motorcycle that could be developed with the Indian and Southeast Asian markets specifically in mind. With India’s premium motorcycle market still quite small, though growing, the initial quarter-million unit estimates from the British brand are sure to be heavily relying on this new small-displacement model, rumored to be called the Triumph Cub.

The big news out of India today is that the country’s fourth-largest motorcycle manufacturer, TVS,  is in talks with Germany’s leading two-wheeled maker, BMW Motorrad. While there are few details on what is occurring between the two companies, it is being reported by the Wall Street Journal that TVS is hoping to get some technical know-how from BMW in making larger-displacement motorcycles.

Likely to end in some sort of strategic partnership, BMW is surely eyeing TVS’s distribution network in exchange for its 500cc+ help, as all the major OEMs are currently jockeying for position in the growing Indian market. Other rumors around the deal suggest that TVS could help BMW create smaller-displacement machines, specifically designed for India, which would presumably also be available in other emerging markets like South America and Southeast Asia.

Regular readers of Asphalt & Rubber will have noticed by now that I like to talk about what is going on with motorcycling in emerging markets like India, Southeast Asia, Brazil, etc. The fact of the matter is that it is these markets, not North America or Europe, that are going to serve as the future for the motorcycle industry, and the sooner us westerners get used to that idea, the better. For an industry built around and defined by the rebellious archetypes portrayed by James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Steve McQueen, the reality is that motorcyclists as a whole are conservative by nature, and resistant to change…especially in the United States.

We like our bikes loud, our helmets off, and bikes built by real blue-collar ‘mericans. Our skin prickles at the thought of manufacturing outside the borders of our blessed Union, and every time a company opens a factory in India, Southeast Asia, or South America, we talk about the outsourcing of American labor, the downfall of our economy, or something equally hyperbolic.

This has been the same broken record that has been played for the better part of the past 100 years, and has re-manifests itself each decade to address the next perceived threat to our domestic economy. While there is much to say about the shifting of America’s GDP from manufacturing to service industries, the real germane subject for discussion here centers around the idea that all too often Chicken Little rears his head when an American company opens a factory outside of the United States.

Such is the case with Harley-Davidson, which setup manufacturing in India back in 2011. Contrary to belief that the sky was falling, the Bar & Shield brand was not getting ready to massively outsource its production abroad (though it was heavily re-negotiating with its unionized labor force), but instead very deliberately and wisely chose to bypass India’s extraordinarily high tariffs by building and assembling its Indian market bikes locally. This move allowed Harley-Davidson to competitively and reasonably price its motorcycle in the Indian market, which in turn helped the brand expand its presence in one of the largest motorcycle markets in the world.

While this plan so far has proved to be fruitful for Harley-Davidson, the recent news that Harley Davidson India CEO Anoop Prakash has confirmed that H-D will not be making a sub-800cc bike specifically for the Indian market shows a misstep for Harley-Davidson with its international strategy, especially as it pertains to the major growth markets for motorcycling.

Honda Motor Co. just released its sales figures for motorcycles in 2010, and surprisingly the Japanese company has done very well during an otherwise dismal year for the motorcycle industry. The secret to Honda’s success? The Asian market. Eight out of ten motorcycles Honda produces, ends up in Asia…and this figure excludes motorcycles sold in Japan and China.

Honda sold 14.3 million motorcycles in what it calls Asian countries last year (17.7 million globally), a record for the company, and a figure that is 23% higher than the previous record, which was set last year (another horrible year for the motorcycle industry we might add). Compare that staggering quantity to the 1.3 million units sold in China (the largest single country for Honda sales), 261,000 units sold in Europe, and 210,000 in North America, and the true value of the growing Asian economy becomes apparent.