by Thomas Day
Buell is Gone
In August, Eric Buell announced that the Buell Blast would be discontinued because the Blast was “not innovative, not breakthrough, not a sportbike…” October 15th, Harley-Davidson announced that Buell motorcycles would be terminated. “The decision has been made. We will no longer be making Buell motorcycles,” announced Eric Buell on the company’s website. On November 13th, the last Buell, a Lightening XB12SCG, rolled off the assembly line in East Troy, Wisconsin. All of the 180 Buell employees will be laid off by December 18, 2009.
Buell built 136,923 motorcycles in the company’s 26-years of existence, but Harley is reeling from a 30% decrease in sales and a 91% drop in 2nd quarter profits. The company is concentrating on its core business and is also trying to unload the $109 million MV Agusta brand that it bought just 17 months ago. As Harley-Davidson Spokesman, Paul James explained, “The fact is, a dollar invested into Harley-Davidson, there’s more impact than the same dollar invested elsewhere when it comes to reaching new riders and enriching the experience of our core customers.”
There are rumors that Eric and the East Troy community leaders haven’t given up yet. The Walworth County Economic Development Alliance (WCEDA) is contacting investors and the Motor Company about purchasing the business. Bob Klein, a Harley spokesman, said Harley is “discontinuing the Buell product line rather than selling the business because of how deeply integrated Buell is into our business systems and distribution network.” Sounds like they want Buell to stay dead.
Harley is offering substantial discounts on the remaining inventory. Parts and warranty will still be handled by Harley-Davidson dealers.
Distracted Driving Hearings
On October 28th and 29th, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation and the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, held independent hearings on the subject of “distracted driving.”
John D. Rockefeller IV said, in his opening statement, “this very moment, 11 percent of all drivers on the road are holding an electronic device:
“They are calling home on their cell phone or reading a text from a friend; they are sending an email to the office on their Blackberry or looking up directions with a GPS system.
“That amounts to 812,000 distracted drivers at any given moment. 812,000 drivers focused on something other than the road. 812,000 drivers putting their own lives, their passengers’ lives — and the lives of everyone else on the road at risk.”
Motorcyclists are high on the “everyone else on the road at risk” list.
In his statement to the committee, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said, “This is not a problem caused by just a few negligent drivers. To the contrary, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a nonprofit educational and research organization, reports that 67 percent of drivers admitted to talking on their cell phone within the last 30 days while behind the wheel, and 21 percent of drivers indicated they had read or sent a text or e-mail message, a figure that rose to 40 percent for those drivers under the age of 35.”
These are sobering numbers for motorcyclists. Be aware that nearly a majority of the drivers on the road are disabled close to the point of intoxication by their electronic distractions. Watch out for these people. They are not in control of their vehicles.
Bring Kids’ Bikes Back
From the AMA, “Senate Resolution 153, which would request that the U.S. Congress amend the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 to exclude dirtbikes, ATVs and snowmobiles, has passed out of the Senate Environmental Resources Committee. The resolution, introduced by Sen. John Wozniak (D-Johnstown), will now go before the full Senate.”
Leandro Mercado Wins the AMA SuperSport National Championship
At Daytona, Kawasaki’s Leandro Mercado, averaging 113.800 mph on the track, passed Josh Day (Yamaha) on the last lap of the Pro Daytona series round to earn the #1 AMA SuperSport plate for 2010. The 17-year-old Argentinean won 3 races this season, but visa problems that caused him to miss two races this season. Third place went to Colombian rider, Tomas Puerta (Yamaha), followed by his teammate, Joey Pascarella (Yamaha).
Mees is the 2009 Grand National Twins Champ
Jared Mees won his his first AMA Grand National Twins championship on a Harley-Davidson/Screamin’ Eagle in the season’s last race at Pomona. Mees finished 5th in the race and Henry Wiles won the race on a Harley-Davidson XR-750. In the final race Mees, from Clio, Michigan, only needed eighth or better to win the series. Kenny Coolbeth was in good position to take the series from Mees until he broke his shoulder training for the Labor Day Springfield Mile. Mees picked up a 15 point lead on Coolbeth at that race and never looked back.
Navy Motorcycle TrainingReduces Deaths by 61%
The Navy had 13 motorcycle fatalities in 2009, compared to 33 fatalities the previous year. In 2009, 2,415 Navy motorcycle safety training courses trained 17,663 riders compared to 7,000 riders/year average of past years. The Navy estimates the service has 30,298 motorcycle riders and 11,745 are on sportbikes. As of September 30, 72% have completed the Basic MSF RiderCourse and 60% have completed the MSRC (Military Sport Bike Rider Course).
BMW’s new 6-cylinder concept vehicle, the 1600cc Concept 6, is 4” thinner than any previous design for a 6-cylinder motorcycle. BMW’s sport bike competition for the Goldwing is supposed to be an expansion of the K-series motorcycles. The motor is supposed to punch out 170 horsepower and 130 Nm of torque at 2000rpm. It looks suspiciously like a Buell, don’t you think?
Honda previewed a collection of electric scooters at the 25th Tokyo Motor Show. The two-wheel, motor-in-wheel drive, EV-Cub blast-from-the-past was one of several examples of Honda’s electric commuter concept vehicles. The EVE-neo scooter is a more traditional looking approach to electric scooters. The 125cc PCX, which will be coming to the US soon, is a gas-powered scooter with an idle-stop system to increase efficiency, reduce pollution and noise, and substantial storage space to enhance practicality. Of course, Honda is still taunting us with the super-cool VTR250 that won’t be imported into the US.
The Indian Returns
Stellican Ltd., a British investment company, acquired the Gilroy, California assets of the most recent edition of Indian Motorcycles. They also own Chris-Craft and managing a respectable revival of that company’s fortunes and reputation. The 2009 Chief Classic and Roadmaster are 800 pound monsters that live up to the big bad cruiser standard. It will be interesting to see how this version of Indian does, with it’s entry level starting at $26,000 for the Chief Standard.
The Cleveland Group has projected 2013 motorcycle sales of 113 million. Since about 1 million bikes are sold in the US, that means motorcycle sales are doing their big growth elsewhere. 82% of motorcycle sales currently come from Asia and that is likely to increase as Asian economic power and fuel costs increase. In this projection, a motorcycle is anything with two wheels and some kind of motor. The overwhelming majority of sales are of 350cc and smaller, and scooters and step-throughs are a big part of that market. In fact, if the US and Europe quit buying motorcycles, the economic impact would be minor.
Harleys on South Park Motorcyclists, at least the loud ones, have joined a long list of human behaviors, religions, sacred cows, and famous people being ridiculed by Comedy Central’s South Park. Kyle, Stan, Kenny, and Eric pit South Park against that often-reviled sort of motorcyclist defined as “extremely annoying, inconsiderate person most commonly associated with Harley riders“ resulting in a redefined politically-incorrect word in “The F Word.” The biker blogosphere and politically correct monitors were all together in taking offense; GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) and American Iron Magazine were among the offended. On the other hand, many other motorcyclists’ sites were practically unanimous in their agreement with the South Park point of view.
2008 NHTSA Crash Data
NHTSA has published two interesting bits of 2008 data: the Motorcycle Helmet Use and Head and Facial Injuries analysis and the 2008 Motorcycle Traffic Safety Facts data. Some of the more sobering facts from the Motorcycle Traffic Safety Facts analysis was “NHTSA estimates that helmets saved 1,829 motorcyclists’ lives in 2008, and that 823 more could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets” and “Per vehicle mile traveled, motorcyclists are about 37 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a traffic crash.” Motorcyclists are more likely to die drunk than any other vehicle operator and the state with the highest percentage of drunk motorcyclist deaths is Delaware. New Mexico riders are the least likely to be wearing helmets, at 4%.
BMW 2009 K1300GT & K1300S: Faulty handlebar-mounted multifunction directional signal indicator and on/off switch causes stall, no start, no shut off.
Ducati 2009 1098R, 1198S, & 2010 F1098 Streetfighter: Fuel hose comes off the fuel pump causing stalling or gas leak.
Qingqi: 2008 ZAP Xebra: The brake design’s failure to meet DOT requirements for a separate brake fluid reservoir for the front and rear brakes. The brake design fails to stop the motorcycle in the DOT required distance.
Triumph 2005-09 Sprint ST 1050: Corrosion causes the rear suspension drag link assembly to break allowing part of the suspension to drop causing the rear tire mudguard to contact the rear tire, which could cause a crash.