Euro Gossip August 2009

August 18, 2009
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.

As we head towards August when traditionally Italy closes down for the holidays, the whole motorcycle scene in Europe has gone quite quiet. Very little news is filtering out apart from gloomy sales figures and even the big four Japanese manufacturers are now having to really start cutting back on production.

One thing for sure is the Milan Show (EICMA) in November is going to be one of the most interesting shows ever. Will manufacturers wait for this remaining major show, or will they start launching in September to try and steal the marketing lead of their rivals in a shrinking market? Interesting time for sure!

KTM Logo


Thanks to some intervention by a syndicate of Austrian banks, KTM lives to fight another day. The KTM group now has the necessary funding to allow it to keep trading, as well as on-board financial advice to help it continue developing new models during the current economic difficulties besetting all manufacturers.


Long established French leather manufacturer Furygan recently moved into a new factory in the south of France. The new facility is about four times larger than the old one and it houses production, design, warehousing and offices all under one roof. The company is offering to train dealers at the factory to try and combat loss of sales to the internet.

Peugot Speedfight 3 Scooter First Look

Piaggio MP3 LT 400
The Piaggio 400 MP3 LT has taken off in Europe, and has managed to even stablize motorcycle registration numbers.

Latest French registration figures for the first four months of this year show a drop of 8.2%. compared to a year earlier. This would have been a lot lower; in fact nearly 14% down were it not for the success of the Piaggio 400 MP3 LT which managed to add just over 3500 units to the sales figures as well as outselling everything else by a big margin!

A French website has announced that the market for motorcycle tires has contracted by 20%, compared to 10% for cars. This claim has been backed up by the likes of Michelin announcing job losses and plant closures in France, along with Continental announcing it will close its Clairoix plant. Pirelli and Bridgestone say they are still selling well in France compared to previous years and have no need to cut back on production or staff.


Despite the cancellation of shows this year, the massive German INTERMOT Motorcycle Scooter and Bicycle Fair at Cologne will run a week earlier than normal in 2010. The show will run from October 6-10, assuming, of course, the market does not continue to contract even more!

The German authorities have recently reported that 21 motorcycle companies went bankrupt in the first quarter of this year. This was less than expected considering the general tough market, which saw an 8% fall in sales in line with other European countries. As one might expect BMW with the 1200GS model still tops the sales chart!


Ducati’s GS rival which we have been mentioning here a lot seems to be not too far from appearing in its final form, given the increasing number of spy shots that are now appearing across Europe. What is news though is that there may well be two versions of it, one with higher spec running gear. Given that the factory will close for all of August they will not have long to finalize both bikes in time for the November Milan show!

ANESDOR has stepped in to help Spain’s motorcycle manufacturers in this tough sales market.

Another set of spy shots circulating show the new V4 Aprilia Tuono undergoing final testing at the Mugello circuit. The shots clearly show a very tidy and street ready machine, which is clearly going to wow the crowds when it officially breaks cover at the forthcoming Milan EICMA show in November. Apart from the upright riding position and lack of fairing, it looks to be identical in specification to the RSV4 Factory, which will mean that it will be likely command a similar pricetag.


We reported some months ago that despite having its own motorcycle manufacturers, as well as a thriving accessory market, Spain seemed to be getting hit harder that the rest of Europe in the latest recession and had appealed for government help.

It seems that plea has now been heard and ANESDOR, Spain’s Motorcycle Industry Association, has welcomed the stimulus package announced by the country’s Council of Ministers to help support the struggling industry, which has been hit by a staggering 50% drop in sales. A mix of state and regional incentives and discounts by the manufacturers will help sustain the demand for motorcycles and mopeds.

United Kingdom 

Mac Motorcycles Spud
Mac Motorcycles Spud
Mac Motorcycles Roarer
Mac Motorcycles Roarer

MAC Motorcycles is a brand new manufacturer with a four model line-up all powered by the motor from the Buell Blast. (Interestingly, the Blast never having been on sale in the UK.) The bikes will feature tubular backbone frames and come with a range of tuning and specification options, called Spud, Ruby, Peashooter and Roarer. It is intended that production will be limited to several hundred of each model.  

Norton 961 SE Commando First Look

Hesketh Motorcycles Now Scooters

While other major motorcycle shows are being cancelled, the UK’s big event still seems to be steaming ahead and on track for a late November opening. However, it is not without its worries with first Honda announcing it would not be attending and now Harley-Davidson and Buell UK having come to the decision not to exhibit either.

Both major companies, who traditionally take some of the biggest exhibition space, cite the decision is a result of the increased focus on multi-location experiential programs for consumers in 2009 which they see as more beneficial for the money spent!

Whatever, the real reasons, the show cannot afford to lose any more manufacturers from the line-up which has seen absences from Moto Guzzi and Aprilia over the past few years and even the loss of Ducati for one year! 

BMW motorcycles has been reported to have had a lot of recalls, with BMW being very quiet about the situation.

BMW have topped one of the most important UK charts, but it is probably not something they will want to boast about. The latest figures published by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA), a government agency responsible for the safe operation of vehicles, show the German manufacturer has issued the highest number of safety recalls. Not only that, they have the highest number of machines affected by recalls as well.

The recalls relate to gearboxes and brake problems, but despite BMW playing it down, owners point out that the VOSA table only relates to potential life threatening problems and does not take into account other issues, of which there are plenty!

Following on from previous columns where we have mentioned the new motorcycle riding test fiasco which has resulted in trainees suffering injuries, the UK Government has finally launched an official inquiry!

However, in some ways this is not as important as the imposing restrictions on their way from Europe for the year 2013. Without getting to technical about all the various options, the changes could mean that learner riders may lose the right to ride unaccompanied and then have to go through various stages to get to ride a full-bore sportbike!

This would mean that they would need to find a qualified instructor each time they wanted to go for a ride until they passed their test, effectively killing the small bike market. If it becomes too difficult to get a license people won’t bother, potentially resulting in many job losses industry insiders fear. Given the Government’s current lack of backbone over the new test, they are not being paranoid!


Another controversy which has been highlighted here regarding the UK Government’s SHARP crash helmet testing scheme continues to run with an acknowledged expert in the field, a Dr. Nigel Mills of Birmingham University, having recently published a very critical review of the system and calling for it to be totally scrapped due to the many flaws in the evaluation system being used. Considering it was supposed to make the consumers life easier, so they could see the true worth and protection level of the helmet, it has just complicated the matter even further with nobody knowing what to believe! 

Triumph motorcycles has recently announced that it had a 19% rise in unit sales last year, with a 29% in turnover in the year until June 2008. The privately-owned company does not have to publish all its financial figures unlike other manufacturers, but state they remain optimistic even in the current down turn in sales figures.

Rest of the World


Honda Logo
With China being a hotbed for copyright infringement lately, Honda has struck a blow to stop blatant copying of company names and logos.

It would seem that internally the courts in China are finding it difficult to back some of the very obvious trademark infringements being committed by some of its own companies. News just in shows that Honda has just won another case, according to local press sources. A Beijing district court issued a ruling supporting Honda Motor Co.’s claim that Chongqing Lifan Industry Group Co. pirated the Japanese company’s logo. The Japanese giant had gone to court to seek a cancellation of its registration of its trademark that is pronounced “Hongda.”


India Motorcycle Sales Strong

New Zealand

New Water-cooled Piston 2-Stroke on Tap

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