Aug 5, 2011

All the News that Didn't Fit

Two Motorcyclists Down in Mankato
At approximately 11AM on July 20th, a 17-year-old delivery driver for Arctic Ice, a Mankato packaged ice delivery service, crossed the center line on Highway 14 outside of North Mankato and killed two west-bound motorcyclists, Lars A. Albrecht, 49, of Rio Rancho, New Mexico, and Robert N. Austin, 61, of Canby, Oregon. A car driver and his son were also injured by the out-of-control truck. The driver of the truck was slightly injured. The Minnesota state patrol said the teenager fell asleep at the wheel and allowed the company-owned Dodge pickup to drift into the opposite traffic lane.

Albrecht was pronounced dead at the scene and Austin was flown to St. Mary's in Rochester where he died of injuries. The truck driver's name has not been released because he is underage. Both motorcyclists were wearing helmets.

Motorcycle Hitchhiker
A Victorville, CA motorist discovered a semi-conscious motorcyclist in his backseat as a result of a rear end collision. After a motorcycle slid into the back of a turning minivan, the van driver continued a short distance to his home to call the police before returning to the scene of the crash. Meanwhile, police had arrived at the scene, found a damaged motorcycle, but no victim. The motorcyclist had crashed through the van's rear window and ended up dazed and confused in the van's rear passenger seat. Other than asking for an ice pack for an injured hand, the motorcyclist was, apparently, uninjured. Police said his helmet "sustained most of the impact," No charges were filed and the crash was listed as a "non-injury collision with a twist," according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's office.

American V-Twin Dealer Show
First they have segregated racing events, with each boutique manufacturer lumbering around a track tailed by a dozen identical motorcycles. Now, they want to have their own dealer show without the hassle of those nasty current technology manufacturers messing up the lines of giant chrome cruisers. So, Advanstar Communications is accommodating the "premium" v-twin brands with "The American V-Twin Dealer Show" at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis February 17-19, 2012.The event is designed to be "a haven for Independent Specialty V-Twin Dealers, Harley-Davidson Dealers, Custom Bike Builders/Designers and Multi-Franchise Dealerships with large cruiser lines." No motorcycles with any connection to 21st Century technology will be allowed.

Airbag Jackets and Vests
An US company, SaferMoto, is marketing a line of "airbag-equipped jackets and vests for all ages" that can "deploy in less than a quarter of a second. A tether cord connects the vest or jacket to the motorcycle, and inflation from a compact replaceable CO2 cartridge is triggered instantly when the rider falls." Airbag gear is used by the Tokyo Police Department, is marketed in more than 30 countries, and has been credited with saving lives and limbs by all sorts of riders. The company makes airbag gear for equestrians, too.

Suzuki Evacuates the Beach
Suzuki Motor Corporation announced that it would move the motorcycle business from Iwata City to north central Hamamatsu to consolidate operations and to be further from the Japanese sea shore. The new facility, tentatively called the "Miyakoda Technical Center," will be the hub for motorcycle and next-gen alternative energy vehicles engineering and research. The Miyakoda Plant will assemble motorcycle engines and should be in production by 2017. The current facility is only 200 meters from the ocean and Suzuki hopes to avoid catastrophe from the next Tokai earthquake.

Honda vs. India
In March, Honda dissolved its arrangement with Hero Motors, selling the 26% share and severed dealer and distribution arrangements with the Indian manufacturer. While it appeared that Honda was abandoning the massive and Indian two-wheel market (11.79 million units sold in 2010), the company's actual plan is to take on that market directly. Honda opened a new plant in June and will be adding a third manufacturing facility with the intent to increase Indian manufacturing capacity 2.5 times to 4 million units by 2015. The company expects to double its dealerships in 4-5 years, also. Currently, Honda owns a 10% Indian market-share. Hero Motors sold 5.26 million domestic units in 2010 (India, alone) and control 44.7% of that market. In 2014, Honda Hero dealers will have to decide to sell Honda or Hero and both companies are pressuring dealers to make the decision soon. Hero has gone on an engineering raid of the local Yamaha organization and rival Bajaj Auto and has more than four times (approximately 4,000 dealers) Honda's sales outlets.100-110cc commuter bikes, selling for approximately $900, are the volume product in the Indian market Honda is releasing several models in this size and price range.

If you've ever considered the possibility that the US might not be the motorcycling center of the universe, these numbers should shed some light on that discussion. In 2010, all domestic and importing manufacturers sold about 664,000 units in the US, with about half of the sales going to the 250cc-and-above category. The US manufacturers exported 493,464 units, 70% of which were over 250cc's and half of our export production went to Europe.

Triumph vs. India?
In a related story, Hinckley, Leicestershire, UK's Triumph Motorcycles (sometimes regarded as the "fastest growing motorcycle company in the world") appointed a "Managing Director for India" and issued a PR statement saying, “India is a very important motorcycle market and Triumph has assessed it carefully before deciding to step in. We see it as the next step in our global business model. The appointment of Ashish Joshi is a signal of our seriousness about success in India. I wish him the best and look forward to comprehensive growth from the Indian market.” [Wonder how a 100-110cc market will react to Triumph's 2,300cc Rocket III? Triumph's smallest bike is the Daytona 675.]

Land of the Brave and Free?
French drivers and motorcyclists banned together on June 18th to stage a protest against their government's draconian attacks on drivers and riders. Across the country, 75,000 motorcyclists staged a ride-in under the guidance of the French Federation of Angry Bikers. In Paris alone, 15,000 participated in the protest. Local police assisted in directing traffic and managing the protest riders' safety. Two of the prime considerations for protest were the banning of lane splitting and filtering and speed trap targeting of motorcycles. While in the US, we can't even manage to get a noticeable showing of motorcycles on the road for Ride to Work Day. [Almost makes you proud to eat French Fries, doesn't it?]

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