Euro Gossip March 2008

March 21, 2008
Ian Kerr
Contributing Editor | Articles | RSS | Blog | Blog RSS

Our man in Europe, Ian delivers a monthly dose of those tasty rumors and hearsay from across the pond that make up our Euro Gossip column.

Austria
KTM boss Stefan Pierer  left  has his sights on becoming the biggest European producer of motorcycles and plans are in the works for a naked and adventure offshoot of KTM s RC8.
KTM boss Stefan Pierer (left) has his sights on becoming the biggest European producer of motorcycles and plans are in the works for a naked and adventure offshoot of KTM’s RC8.

As we reported here, last year KTM tied up a deal with Bajaj in India regarding production of KTM machines. Now it seems they already have a 125cc road bike ready to roll into dealer showrooms and work is already on way with a 250cc version, which will be followed by a 500cc V-Twin.

All ranges will offer three models, a road, an Enduro and a Supermoto-styled model. The bikes will be designed by KTM and built in India to allow them to compete financially with the Japanese. Bajaj will also sell them through its dealer network.

Speaking about the new models, KTM boss Stefan Pierer also revealed that the recently launched RC8 will lead to other models, including a naked version, which will be followed by an Adventure model. However, he stressed that while the intention was to become the biggest European producer of motorcycles, he would not bring out models with short life spans like the Japanese, but offer customers stability and maintain prices.

He also stated that he intended to push progress in the car side of things forward in order that they could eventually become the Austrian version of British sports car firm Lotus, with small-volume, high-performance cars. On the motorcycle front he is aiming for 200,000 bikes per year by 2020.

Given that he has managed a 20% per year growth since he took over 15 years ago, these are not unrealistic claims. However, he stated that the six-cylinder bike we have mentioned here before is definitely now dead in the water due to production costs!

Germany

With the success of the HP2 Sport in the Daytona 200 recently  we can t wait until BMW unveils its K46 190 190 World Superbike.
With the success of the HP2 Sport in the Daytona 200 recently, we can’t wait until BMW unveils its K46 190/190 World Superbike.

The long time boss of BMW’s motorcycle division, Dr. Herbert Diess, has stepped down in favor of Hendrick Von Kuenheim. (He is the son of Eberhard Von Kuenheim, who was in charge of the entire BMW brand from 1970 until 1993.) Unlike his predecessor who has an engineering background, the new man comes from marketing and has been appointed to further change the brand image in line with all the new recent releases of new sportier models.

We have mentioned before that there is the distinct possibility of BMW

producing a new tourer in the near future, possibly with a brand-new six-cylinder motor powering it.

Well, sources now suggest that it has actually reached the design stage and aerodynamic tests are taking place on the fixed luggage system. It appears to have aero-foils on it for stability, a horizontal one on the top box and vertical ones on the panniers. No doubt these are for stability, but should give the new LT a very futuristic look!

The K46 BMW prototype World Superbike project has appeared here quite often. If the 190/190 (its alternative name because the bike is expected to make 190 hp and weigh 190 kg) achieves its target ratio, the motorcycle will come off the production line well ahead of any current Japanese WSB bike, a very exciting proposition indeed. Now more spy shots have been seen of the bike wearing its own fairing as opposed to the Yamaha R6 one it was last seen sporting. These pictures show that the bike is even smaller than first thought, both in the road and race versions.

While still little in the way of technical details is emerging, BMW is definitely not entering to make up the numbers. This will be a serious motorcycle. With Aprilia and KTM likely to enter the fray at the same time with their new race bikes, it will certainly need to be!

BMW nearly entered the WSB series before, back in the early ’90s with a water-cooled Flat Twin called the R1 (this was before Yamaha used it). It was quick and well up to the job, but BMW bosses believed that you needed a Four to compete and shelved the project. Ducati, of course, proved that a Twin could win!

Dutch baker  Tjitze Tjoelker always wanted a Morbidelli V8  pictured   but only seven were ever built  so he did the next best thing - he took two Honda 400 Fours and put them together and made his own V8 motorcycle.
Dutch baker, Tjitze Tjoelker always wanted a Morbidelli V8 (pictured), but only seven were ever built, so he did the next best thing – he took two Honda 400 Fours and put them together and made his own V8 motorcycle.

Holland

Dutch baker, Tjitze Tjoelker always wanted one of the Morbidelli V8’s from the ’90s, of which only seven were ever built because of the high cost of producing the engine. Most of us would be happy to look at the pictures or view one in the factory museum, but not Tjoelker. He built his own version.

Despite having no mechanical training, he took two Honda 400 Fours and joined them together to form one V8 unit that now produces 120 hp at 10,000 rpm. Over 2500 hours of work went into the project, which included mating the powerplant to the gearbox and driveshaft from a 350 Moto Guzzi. The Guzzi also donated its wheels. Apparently the frame took just one day to build around the engine! Although not road legal, the bike is in full running condition, demonstrated by various videos of it being aired on the worldwide web! 

A better-known producer of bikes in Holland is the legendary Nico Bakker, but his latest offering is also far from conventional. Take a semi-race tuned GSX-R 1000 engine pumping out 180 hp, wrap it in a frame, make it look like a GS BMW and you have the ‘Bakker Grizzly.’ It was designed to tempt the round the world traveler who wants performance as well as mild off-road capability that is not run of the mill. It certainly succeeds in its aim to not being run of the mill.

With his reputation and 900 hours of work, the bike is claimed to handle as well as any sports bike, but is far more comfortable thanks to its upright riding position, even if it doesn’t look that pretty. Still, if this seems like your type of bike, he is now going to offer kits so you can build your own. Contact www.bakker-framebouw.nl

Italy We have been mentioning the Aprilia V4 machine that has been designed for World Superbike racing for some time. Well, it has finally broken cover in front of 1200 dealers, albeit in race form, devoid of lights or other legal niceties.

Holland bike builder Nico Bakker has constructed his own version of the sport-tourer  the Bakker Grizzly  with a race-tuned GSX-R1000 engine and what look like BMW panniers and topcase.
Holland bike builder Nico Bakker has constructed his own version of the sport-tourer, the Bakker Grizzly, with a race-tuned GSX-R1000 engine and what look like BMW panniers and topcase.

The bike is set to be the fastest and most expensive bike the company has ever produced. It will also be one of the first that does not use a Rotax engine, as the deal between the two companies ends shortly. However, there are currently no plans to use the V4 motor in any other models other than the race bike and the road version necessary for homologation.

The engine, a 65-degree V-Twin, has been developed over the last year and insiders say it is already giving over 200 hp in race trim. The road version will still put out around 180 -190 hp and will use fly-by-wire throttle technology as well as items like the Brembo brakes and Ohlin’s suspension shown on the race bike.

On the downside, apparently Aprilia has needed to recall some of the 850 Mana models due to a manufacturing defect. The factory recall, which was also reported on the website of the Italian Ministry of Transport, also gives chassis numbers of the affected bikes. It is based on a possible malfunction of the power system and transmission.

Last year we mentioned that Benelli had been testing a turbo version of its TnT 1130 at the factory. It now appears they have a 750 twin-cylinder engine all turbo’ed up in full working order for one of their jet skis.

Benelli was testing a turbo version of its TnT 1130 engine last year  and now appear to have a 750 twin-cylinder turbo in the works for a jet ski that conveniently fits in the frame of its 2ue motorcycle as well.
Benelli was testing a turbo version of its TnT 1130 engine last year, and now appear to have a 750 twin-cylinder turbo in the works for a jet ski that conveniently fits in the frame of its 2ue motorcycle as well.

However, the motor is almost identical to the one they are using in their ‘2ue’ road bike and sources suggest it would fit straight into the bike frame. If so, this would be the first turbo production bike since the Honda and Kawasaki’s of the eighties!

MV Agusta seems to be producing so many limited editions, you can’t help wondering if they have lost the plot. The ‘Brutale by Percy’ is the latest, with just three examples being built with a £20,000 price tag attached. The all-white bikes have been ‘designed’ by fashion guru Percy Irausquin, who has also designed the leathers that come with it, no doubt in white with gold stitching like the bikes seat!

MotoGP icon Valentino Rossi faces a tax bill of 26 million pounds for 2001-2006, according to the Italian Fiscal Department. Just in case you are wondering, insiders estimate he currently earns around 11 million pounds from Yamaha and this will end up around 20 million with bonus and clothing related payments, so he should be able to pay!

An exhibition of early Russian Soviet motorcycles has opened in Vladivostok at the Automobile and Motorcycle Antiques Museum. From what we can tell by this photo  Russian bikers like to put on their riding gear  hang out with buddies  drink a few beers and wrench on bikes. Who says our countries are that much different
An exhibition of early Russian/Soviet motorcycles has opened in Vladivostok at the Automobile and Motorcycle Antiques Museum. From what we can tell by this photo, Russian bikers like to put on their riding gear, hang out with buddies, drink a few beers and wrench on bikes. Who says our countries are that much different?

Russia

An exhibition of early Russian Soviet motorcycles has opened in Vladivostok at the Automobile and Motorcycle Antiques Museum. All bikes manufactured in Russia are being shown, including a 1935 TIZ-Am 600 which produced a whopping 16 hp, making it the most powerful bike of its day!

Switzerland

The recent Geneva Motor Show saw yet another four-wheeled ‘motorcycle’ joining the ever increasing number of these multi- wheeled bikes. Designer Franco Sbarro showed his concept Pendalauto, a four-wheeled machine which leans into corners. It is believed the bike is more about design than practicality as none of his previous showings in the ‘motorcycle’ world have come into production!

United Kingdom

Despite rising interest rates, falling house prices, record oil prices, the credit crunch and even poor weather, there has been some good news for the motorcycle industry in the UK. The recent motorcycle, moped and scooter registrations showed a rise of 8.6% last year to record the biggest increase in seven years. Registrations of all powered two wheelers (PTW) totalled 144,583 in 2007 – the highest figure since 2003, and well ahead of the 133,076 registrations in 2006. 

Despite a sagging economy  the motorcycle industry in the UK has shown a rise in powered two wheeler registration  motorcycles and scooters   with the largest area of growth being in the adventure-sport sector.
Despite a sagging economy, the motorcycle industry in the UK has shown a rise in powered two wheeler registration (motorcycles and scooters), with the largest area of growth being in the adventure-sport sector.

By comparison, passenger car registrations last year increased by only 2.5 percent. PTWs with engines of 51 to 125cc took the lion’s share of the market, but the biggest sector of growth, almost 32%, was in the adventure-sport sector. The custom and touring sectors also made gains of 6.5 and 11.2 % respectively, reflecting the use of bigger bikes for leisure and longer distance touring. A 13.4% gain in naked bike registrations also indicates increasing commuter and practical use of PTWs.

I will continue to put Royal Enfield under the UK heading despite its current Indian ownership, as that is where they started in the industry. Word is that a brand new fuel-injected motor will be out in 2009 that will pass all current and perceived standards, like the stringent Euro 3 codes. It will, of course, have electronic ignition, but the overall appearance of the bikes will remain firmly in the classic mold!

Rest of the World
Japan

Honda is to start using uniform specifications for engines, frames and other motorcycle parts made in Southeast Asia and other emerging markets. Through this move, the world’s top motorcycle maker is seeking to reduce the development costs on parts and spur price competition among suppliers. It is hoped that this will cut overall expenses by more than 10%, enabling them to compete with the rising exports from up-and-coming Chinese rivals.

Honda is looking to get all of its parts manufacturers in Southeast Asia on the same page using uniform specs for engines  frames and other motorcycle parts in an effort to spur price competition among suppliers and to reduce development costs.
Honda is looking to get all of its parts manufacturers in Southeast Asia on the same page using uniform specs for engines, frames and other motorcycle parts in an effort to spur price competition among suppliers and to reduce development costs.

The standardized parts will actually still be designed by Honda themselves and they will then order them from the various suppliers. By adopting a uniform standard for literally millions of motorcycles it sells in Southeast Asia, Honda will no longer need to design and develop parts for each market. Apart from the obvious massive savings involved, it will also be easier for them to compare manufacturing costs at source. This will have the effect of creating more competitive prices and higher quality at the parts manufacturers.

The 100cc-level motorbikes are to be consolidated first, as this represents the greatest export range. These bikes will also be fitted with a new engine that will give about 10% better fuel economy than current models. Motorcycles featuring the new standardized parts are to debut in Thailand this May. They will then be released in Vietnam and Indonesia around 2009.

On a more domestic front, as part of its cost cutting worldwide, Honda has also announced that it will stop making motorcycles in the USA in Spring 2009. Machines produced in the U.S. will now be produced at a factory in Kumamoto.

Honda actually began producing motorcycles in America in 1979. According to Honda, its Marysville, Ohio plant manufactured 44,000 motorbikes last year, including large models, as well as about 440,000 cars.

Meanwhile, rival manufacturer Suzuki is putting out a more positive and upbeat message. Suzuki announced a consolidated net profit for the April-December period, up 18% on the year to 67.6 billion yen, a record for a nine-month period, thanks mainly to solid subcompact sales in Asia and Europe. Interestingly, their actual domestic auto sales fell 3%, while overseas sales climbed 15% to 1.27 million units. Sales in India (where they have been opening plants of late) jumped 17% to 525,000 units and sales in Europe increased 17% to 257,000 units. Overall, Suzuki’s global motorcycle sales climbed 8% to 2.47 million units.

Burn  baby  burn. No matter how angry you get  we don t advise setting any motorcycle on fire deliberately. What was that guy from Seville thinking
Burn, baby, burn. No matter how angry you get, we don’t advise setting any motorcycle on fire deliberately. What was that guy from Seville thinking?

But like Honda, some rationalizing is taking place, with Suzuki investing in its aging Aichi production plant. They are moving outboard production to a new 9 billion yen plant in Shizuoka prefecture and then revamping the Aichi plant to improve motorcycle production efficiency there.

Not so good news for Yamaha though. Thanks to the Tokyo stock market still being very jittery over the U.S. economic outlook, investors are selling shares in companies that are prone to swings in U.S. consumer spending. Yamaha Motor Co.’s stock tumbled more than most, about 20% at the beginning of February, after the company said it was forecasting an operating profit decline for the fiscal year through December.

And Finally!

A motorcyclist pulled over by traffic cops really did get hot under the collar. The 43-year-old from Seville was stopped for not wearing his helmet and having incorrect documentation for the bike. As result of the confrontation, he set fire to his bike and the two police officers to make his point – needless to say, he got to cool down in jail!

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