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Archive for the ‘2011 Models’ Category

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 3.41.17 PMI’ve never been ask this question, but I was curious how you know if you’re under Federal investigation?

In Harley-Davidson’s case it might have been a knock on the door of the Milwaukee HQ.

As it turns out, the U.S. government is investigating complaints from Harley-Davidson owners who say their motorcycle brakes failed without warning.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states the investigation covers 430,000 motorcycles with model years from 2008 through 2011 and the investigation stems from motorcycles with an anti-lock braking system.

A common motorcycle maintenance task is to replace the hydraulic fluid in the brake system.  Check your service manual, but for many Harley-Davidson models it’s recommended to change the D.O.T. 4 fluid and flush the brake system every two years.

Did you know brake fluid can collect condensation over time from the outside air?  Brake fluid collects water in a similar fashion as your McDonald’s soda cup has water droplets on the outside. Hydraulic fluid will over time absorb water which causes the fluid to boil when the brakes are applied and will reduce effectiveness of the system.  A spongy brake feel might be a combination of contaminated brake fluid or air in the system. Either way, changing the brake fluid is often recommended.

41300152_obBut, I’ve digressed.  Motorcyclists have reported that the brakes on the hand lever and foot pedal did not work, causing one driver to crash into a garage door.

Government regulators said they’ve received 43 complaints, three reports of crashes and two reports of injuries.  The NHTSA said it is possible that some riders who experienced brake failure did not change the motorcycle’s brake fluid every two years as recommended by Harley-Davidson Inc.  The old fluid may corrode valves in the anti-lock braking system, but even if riders did not change the fluid, the sudden brake failure “is a concern.”This is not a motorcycle product safety recall as of yet.

Harley-Davidson stated it was aware of the Federal investigation and that it was cooperating with regulators.

Photos courtesy of H-D.

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Can-Am Spyder

Can-Am Spyder

Hype, or is Bombardier taking a gamble?  But, lets start at the beginning.

U.S. safety regulators are investigating two reports of fires in the Can-Am Spyder three-wheeled motorcycles.

The motorcycles are made by Bombardier Recreational Products Inc.  (BRP) of Canada and the probe covers about 52,000 motorcycles from the 2008 through 2014 model years and they are looking into what is causing the fires.

Bombardier has had three recalls to date in 2012 and 2013, and all involved the risk of fires. Last year, the company recalled about 8,200 Spyders because brake fluid leaks could cause fires. In 2012 it recalled about 34,000 because fuel vapors could leak due to an ill-fitting gas cap. It also recalled 9,600 because fuel vapors could exit a vent hose in the engine compartment.

I don’t want to draw any similarities because these are very different situations, but many of you might recall the Ford Pinto.  It was one of the biggest continuing automotive news stories in the late 1970s with dramatic tales of exploding Fords on the highway and considerable awards from civil-court juries that were presented to victims of accidents involving the cars.

At the time, experts calculated the value of a human life at around $200,000, while a serious burn injury was worth about $67,000. Using an estimate of 180 deaths and 180 serious burns, someone at Ford put on paper that the cost to redesign and rework the Pinto’s gas tank would cost close to $137 million, while possible liability costs worked out to around $49 million.

Ford’s corporate legal machine went to work, however, when the memos regarding the liability assessments were leaked and entered into evidence, the cases were as good as over and Ford paid dearly in civil claims, public image and as a brand for product safety.

Former Ford exec Lee Iacocca reflecting on the Pinto incident and Ford’s attempts to control the damage, made this summation in his book Talking Straight“Clamming up is what we did at Ford in the late ’70s when we were bombarded with suits over the Pinto, which was involved in a lot of gas tank fires. The suits might have bankrupted the company, so we kept our mouths shut for fear of saying anything that just one jury might have construed as an admission of guilt. Winning in court was our top priority; nothing else mattered.”

BRP is a world leader in the design, manufacturing, distribution, and marketing of motorized recreational vehicles and powersports engines.

The term “transparency” means much more than the standard business definition and its my hope that the company will be candid with the motorcycle riding public beyond the narrow interpretation of legal compliance on the risk of fires.

Photo courtesy of BRP.

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Purpose-2012With a cocktail of high-strength steel, aluminum, magnesium, rubber and plastic Harley-Davidson adds flexibility, functionality and refreshed paint schemes to their model lineup each year.

By the numbers, 2012 was a pivotal year for Harley-Davidson.  Earnings per share up 16.7%, revenue growth up 6%, $280M annual savings from restructuring, sales outreach with the 18-34 demographic grew at twice the rate of core customers, but in the first ever Consumer Reports’ motorcycle reliability survey, conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center about 1-in-4 owners of Harley-Davidson motorcycles reported experiencing a major problem with the motorcycle in the previous four years.

Twenty-five percent had a major problem!

H-D Executive Leadership Team

H-D Executive Leadership Team

It turns out that BMW motorcycles were even less reliable than a Harley-Davidson with about 1-in-3 owners reporting problems in the previous four years.  How did the Japanese manufactures perform?  Only about 1-in-10 Yamaha owners experienced issues during that time, followed closely by Kawasaki and Honda.

However, reliability problems don’t seem to affect the satisfaction scores of owners and their bikes.  When asked whether, considering everything, they would buy their bike again if they had to do it over, 75% of Harley-Davidson owners said definitely yes, closely followed by 74% of BMW owners and 72% of Honda owners.  In contrast, only 63 and 60% of Yamaha and Kawasaki owners, respectively, would buy their bike again.

Both BMW and Harley-Davidson riders have segments that skew more toward the enthusiast and hardcore, meaning they tend to keep bikes longer and I wonder if this says something about the riders than the bikes.  Could H-D riders be more critical about problems?

AZ Proving Grounds Video

AZ Proving Grounds Video

In 2012, the average U.S. retail purchaser of a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle had a median household income of approximately $89,500. The Company defined its U.S. core customer base as Caucasian men over the age of 35 and its U.S. outreach customers as women, young adults, African-American adults, and Latino adults. (Sources: 2012 Company 10K and 2012 Annual Review)  The motor company no longer provides data on age demographics which had been rising in recent years.

Reliability is only one of several factors buyers consider when purchasing a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.  Among the bikes that needed repairs, survey respondents reporting having the most trouble with accessories, such as lights, instruments, switches, and radios (21 percent), brakes (20 percent), the electrical system (16 percent), and the fuel system (15 percent).  Most of the repairs were fairly inexpensive, but for a company whose reputation relies heavily on the quality of its products the 1-in-4 number is perplexing.

The survey results can be viewed by subscribers at the ConsumerReports.org web site and in the May issue of Consumer Reports.

Photos courtesy of H-D.  

H-D Executive Leadership Team photo: (Left to Right — Tonit Calaway (VP, Human Resources); John Olin (Sr. VP and CFO); Keith Wandell (Chairman, President and CEO); Lawrence Hund (President and COO HDFS); John Baker (GM, Corp Strategy and Business Development); Joanne Bischmann (VP, Communications); Paul Jones (VP, General Counsel))

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H-D Brake Light Switch

Harley-Davidson issues a recall notice, NHTSA Campaign ID Number 11V506000NHTSA, earlier in the week.  The component in question is the brake light switch.

According to the recall report excessive heat from the exhaust may cause the switch to not activate the brake lamp or activate the brake lamp when no brake is applied and/or cause a brake fluid leak at the brake light switch.  H-D is recalling certain model year 2009 – 2012 Touring, CVO Touring and Trike motorcycles manufactured from June 6, 2008 – September 16, 2011.
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The list of affected models is significant and the potential number of units is over 250,000.  H-D will notify owners and dealers will install a rear brake light switch kit free of charge.  The recall is expected begin on or about October 31, 2011.  Owners may contact H-D at (414)343-4056 or go to NHTSA for more information.
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Photo courtesy of H-D.
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H-D Liberation Video

Last night, Harley-Davidson launched the next version of their No Cages campaign during the season premiere of Sons of Anarchy (SOA) on FX.

The advertising spot, called “Liberation“, adds to the limited portfolio of creative developed as part of the motor companies crowd sourcing strategy, introduced last year.

Sons of Anarchy Cast

Mark-Hans Richer, Harley-Davidson’s Chief Marketing Officer stated: “This latest effort builds upon our momentum as the on-road motorcycles market share leader in the U.S., as well as our leadership in sales to young adults, women, Hispanics and African-Americans and the growth we’ve made in international markets.”  He went on to say… “this process has helped to liberate the creativity of our most passionate of fans.”

Like previous No Cages creative, crowd-sourcing partner Victors & Spoils shared the Harley-Davidson creative brief broadly online, and the best idea was further developed and the creator rewarded. In the Liberation case, the idea came from 30-year-old film maker and visual content creator Benjamin Swan of Sioux Falls, SD, who believes that collaboration breeds creation.

And speaking of Sons of Anarchy and last night’s premier for the 4th season. Below are eight video clips from the new season that you might want to check out whether you tuned-in last night or not.

Season Preview
SOA is back for an all new season HERE.

Sneak Peek
Watch an exclusive scene from the all new season of Sons of Anarchy HERE.

Bike Mechanic
Check out the bikes from Sons of Anarchy HERE.

Production Design
Go behind the scenes of SOA and get an inside look into the show’s set and production design HERE.

Make Up
The bruises of SOA tell a story. Go behind the scenes and see how the show creates the gruesome makeup effects HERE.

Wardrobe
Go behind the scenes of the biker style of SOA HERE.

Charlie’s Prison Haircut
Go behind the scenes and find out why “Jax” cut his hair for season 4 HERE.

Hiatus
Take an inside look into what the cast does in between seasons HERE.

Photos courtesy of H-D Facebook and FX/SOA.

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Steve Dorn Burn-Out at N/W Nitro Nationals

I attended the AHDRA (All Harley Drag Racing Association) drag race about a week ago in Woodburn, Oregon.

Before we go any further, allow me to interject a disclaimer:  I’m not a big racing fan.  In fact, I attended NASCAR (Daytona 500) a few years ago – the so-called ‘superbowl’ of racing — on a work gig and for me watching guys make left-handed turns hour after hour ad nauseam was boring.  Fortunately watching the fans worship drivers with brightly colored advertising attire while discussing race strategy in that southern accent made the event.  Watching the tire changes in the pit were entertaining for awhile, but they can’t hold a person’s interest forever.

The Steve Dorn and Latus Nitro H-D

At any rate I walked through the AHDRA pits in Woodburn and got my fill of all the Nitro Methane action I could possibly handle. The rev/roar of engines created a race atmosphere and there was indeed some great racing competition on the track from the various fields.  As a “newbie” to the AHDRA, I had no clue who was on the 2011 qualifying and elimination sheets or did I understand the difference between Top Fuel, Pro Fuel and the Screaming Eagle backed classes other than the obvious noise level in the motor differences.  My observation was that after the too few Nitro Methane class motorcycles finished their runs everything else seemed in slow motion.  Yeah, the non-nitro motorcycles were fast, but there is a huge perceptual difference from 150MPH vs. 220MPH.

I love the smell of nitro in the morning...

When standing around the staging area/pits I did overhear some rumblings about how the entire AHDRA series is awaiting its demise.  Being a nu-bee at this motorcycle drag race gig I wouldn’t know about attendance figures.  I typically sit behind a desk and tap on a keyboard.  Clearly the economy has impacted most everyone so why wouldn’t race organizations be struggling (NHRA, NASCAR, ADRL, AHDRA) or see a drop in attendance and racers too?

I did leave feeling of bit hungry due to the fact there was no action in the new Draggin Bagger class.  A class that the H-D Motor Company backed and promoted heavily in December of last year for the 2011 racing season.  There was an amateur contestant who took his fully loaded cruiser, tour pak with dual antenna’s out there to run the strip.  I’ll give the dude a shout out for doing a burn out on that thousand pound behemoth.

On departure there seemed to be a number of people who had a secret fantasy of being an AHDRA driver.  The Steve Dorn wannabe’s came out as I was driving the bike 75MPH in a 65MPH zone, trying to shake the guys who were riding in my draft.  It seemed like the normal speed limit no longer existed and riders were looking for a side-bank to pass on the shoulder.  This went on for about 15 miles then the Wilsonville I-5 construction had brake lights flashing as an old lady (yes, older than me) shot a dirty look in the rearview mirror while she jockeyed for a pole position in a lane that was moving ever so faster.

Vroom, go granny, go.

The Northwest Nitro National race results are HERE.

Photos taken by author.

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No, it’s not a new motorcycle club.  It’s not even a reference to the 40+ continuous days of 100°+ temperatures in Texas.

I’m talking about litigation “heat” for the motor company.

Recently a Federal Court Judge has denied a Harley-Davidson motion to dismiss Harley bikers’ claims for fraudulent and unfair business practices, violations of Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA), and unjust enrichment. As a result a class action lawsuit** will now go forward against Harley-Davidson alleging certain Harley motorcycle engines produce severe, and excessive heat causing burn injuries and clothing to catch on fire.

Class action lawsuit filings are nothing new to Harley-Davidson.   Back in 2005 there was a lawsuit/complaint against the company alleging securities law violations.  Of course the company believed that that lawsuit was without merit and vigorously defended against any action just like they will on this latest case.  Talk about keeping the legal department busy, this class action suit adds to another lawsuit by Brando Enterprises HERE on the “Brando Boot.”

At any rate last week, a federal judge ruled that a class action overheating & burn lawsuit against Harley-Davidson could go forward, siding with four bikers who claimed their Harley-Davidson motorcycles were defectively designed because their engines ran so hot as to pose a constant danger to riders of being burned and were therefore not fit for their intended use.

The complaint alleges that since 1999, Twin Cam 88, 96, 103 and 110 cubic inch engines in Harley motorcycles produce severe, excessive heat causing clothing to catch on fire, burn injuries and the danger of burn injury to riders and passengers as well as overheating causing premature engine wear and is in models manufactured after 2006, transmission failure.  Although Harley-Davidson asked the Eastern District of California court to throw out the claims under state law, the U.S. District Judge sided with the plaintiffs.

Harley-Davidson will now face a Class Action Certification process at the end of the month.

**Case No. 2:10-CV-02443-JAM-EFB in the Eastern District of California (Plaintiff’s represented by Owen, Patterson & Owen)

Photo courtesy of Jeff Hoffman.net

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