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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.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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The 2012 Progressive International Motorcycle show will soon hit the northwest on December 16-18th at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle.

Attendees can check-out new bikes from Aprilia, Beta, BMW, Brammo, BRP, Darwin, Ducati, Erik Buell Racing, Gas Gas, Harley-Davidson, Honda, Husqvarna, Indian, Kawasaki, KTM, Moto Guzzi, MV Agusta, Norton, Star, Suzuki, Triumph, Victory and Yamaha.  There will also be the latest aftermarket parts and accessories.

Not only will there be new bikes, but the show is jammed pack with other events and activities.

There is the Learning Curve – an interactive stage with industry experts presenting a variety of motorcycling topics for both new and experienced riders including adventure riding, motorcycle maintenance, increasing bike performance, seminars for women riders and more.   There will be Demo Rides for licensed motorcyclists.  There is the Custom Bike Show – where motorcycle builders will showcase elite-level custom motorcycles competing for a piece of a $90,000 cash purse prize and a chance to compete in the U.S. Championship, at the Daytona Beach Motorcycle Show, in March.

The Smage Bros will have a motorcycle trials stunt riding show and attendees will also get a chance to create their own motorcycle design at the Kawasaki Design-A-Bike kiosk, featuring a brand new digital spray-painting technology available only at these shows.

See you there!

Photo courtesy of Progressive.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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H-D Sprint Model on Varese, Italy Assembly Line

Congrats Ken!  You follow in the famous celebrity footsteps of Eddie Murphy, George Clooney, Meg Ryan, Woody Harrelson and Michael J. Fox who also turn 50 years old this year.

Factually speaking,  Ken was born March 11, 1961.  The year marks the “swingin’ sixties,” being a member of the baby boomer generation when John F. Kennedy was president, when race riots occurred throughout cities in the U.S., when the Peace Corps was established and the president advises American families to build bomb shelters as the cold war worsens when U.S.S.R. detonates a 50-megaton hydrogen bomb in the largest man-made explosion in history.  Then the U.S. broke diplomatic relations with Cuba, twenty-eight men died on Texas Tower No. 4 in the North Atlantic and by year’s end there were more than 2,000 U.S. military “advisors” in South Vietnam.

In popular culture, 1961 brought the last episode of “I Love Lucy” to air, FCC Chairman (Newton Minow) claims that television is a “vast wasteland” (déjà vu all over again!), Johnson & Johnson introduced Tylenol, Harley-Davidson introduced the Italian assembled Sprint model, FM stereo is introduced and Ken got a hawt girlfriend, Barbie.  Yeah that Ken & Barbie – Ken Carson.

H-D Barbie Collectible Ken Doll #2

It was 50 years ago when Mattel introduced Ken with his trim crew cut, stiff carriage, and vacant eyes ready to do Barbie’s bidding.  That aging Ken now has a scruffy beard, shoulder-length hair and a patch of old-growth chest hair that might make Tom Selleck proud.  It certainly looks a lot like the core targeted customer segment of H-D.

But what about the new Ken?  The new modeling paradigm of American masculinity today seems to be that of men in their 20’s who hang out in a novel sort of limbo land – sort of a hybrid state of adolescence and responsible self-reliance — many still living at home with their parents!  These so-called “men” talk about ‘Star Wars’ like it’s not a movie made for people half their age and their idea of a perfect guys-night-out is a hanging around the PlayStation 3 with your guitar “bandmates,” or a trip down to the local ‘bucks’ with college friends who have yet to complete two semesters and are perpetually looking to land that dream job…  Yeah, the twenty-something’s have the appetite for luxury, but not the cash and given the slow pace of economic recovery it may be a long while on that job.

My advice?  Mattel should consider partnering Ken up with the likes of BRP/Can-Am to promote Ken & Barbies electric-hybrid roadster sensibilities and showcase that it’s okay to be more fuel-efficient and have greener CO2 emissions on the open road.

Photos courtesy of H-D and Mattel.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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HD Servi-Car

HD Servi-Car

Harley-Davidson built a Servi-Car (a three-wheeled utility motorcycle) from 1932 to 1973.  Then for the 2009 model year Harley introduced the new Tri-Glide Classic

Customers who are turned off by the thought of sliding atop a motorcycle have more options these days, but few options exist for small displacement (below 400cc) trikes.  

I’m speculating here, but Harley may be looking to change this and bring a more diverse selection to new riders entering the sport.  According to the Wired Magazine Blog, Harley is planning to introduce a “leaning trike” at the Intermot Motorcycle show in Cologne, Germany next month.  They surfed across information and images from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and posted the information which shows a trike with 2-wheels upfront and pivoting on an independent suspension to provide motorcycle-like “leaning” capability.

One could argue this is similar to the Can-am Spyder Roadster designed by Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) and that Harley is playing copy-cat in its effort to create a new category of on-road vehicles.  Who knows.

If indeed small displacement then clearly it’s all about sales of Harley products.  Scooter sales have skyrocketed in the first half of 2008.  Up 66% as compared to a year ago and at the same time overall motorcycle sales have only achieved a meager 0.5% increase.  Meanwhile Harley sales have decreased 8.7% so for them to go looking at other alternatives would seem prudent for the stockholders.

However, the last time I was on a trike I was 5 years old.  I had a neighbor buddy that stated the only reason to ride something with three wheels was that I was too scared to ride something with two…I reacted and went to two.

Clearly I’m not a motoring writer and just not connecting with these.  Is it closer to a car than a motorbike?  Do you steer it like a snowmobile and forget that the brake is on your foot rather than the handlebars?  Do you clamp your thighs to it like it’s a Quad in the sand dunes or did I lose you all with that semi-bikespeak and should be using horse riding metaphors?

Two-wheels up front or two in back, a trike is a trike and they have an image problem as a toy.  Even the fact that you don’t have to have a motorcycle license doesn’t make sense to me.  And if you are a biker who has reach that “certain age” and starting to think it would be nice to…these will look just as silly being trailered as the motorcycle’s do today.

Images courtesy of Wired and U.S. Patent Office.

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Lehman TrikeWe’re all familiar with trikes. Most are a solid rear axle with two rear wheels bolted to an  Electra Glide, right? (Photo courtesy Lehman Trike web site)

Last year Harley Davidson signed a deal with Lehman Trikes USA of Spearfish, SD to design and build Harley based trikes for its riders.

Part of this move is the demographics of Harley riders who are getting older and HD is looking to expand its fan base so, it’s looking to fill the three-wheel niche.  And speaking of niche, the Canadian company BRP is showing off the Can-Am Spyder (MSRP: $14,999).  It sits about 45″ tall, and promises sports-car handling and has it pair of wheels in the front rather than the rear.  It looks like a personal watercraft or snowmobile on wheels.  BRP is a privately held spin off of aerospace company Bombardier which happens to be one of the largest makers of watercrafts and snowmobiles so, the comparisons are natural.
 
Can-Am SpyderIn front, the double A-arm suspension offers 5.7″ of travel to the pair of 14-inch wheels. An anti-roll bar limits the amount of lean on corners. The rear end uses a mono-shock on a conventional swingarm, with an aluminum 15 x 7-inch wheel on an automotive-type 225/50 rear tire. (Spyder Can-Am photo by Jim Smithson, Bombardier)

The marketing spin is… the Spyder is the “perfect balance between performance and peace of mind” or so says Marc Lacroix, Product Mgr.

Further complicating the trike issue is that in three states (CA, Del, SC) you don’t need an motorcycle endorsement to drive one!  There are only 11 states who have resale rights to the Spyder.  Nothing in the Northwest so, you’ll need to head to CA. to put down some money for your spring ’08 anticipated delivery date.  If the wait is too long then Piaggio (MP3) makes a similar (MSRP: $6999) dual-front wheel scooter

So is this just another step in the evolution of Harley Davidson into a motorized “wheelchair” company as they follow the “blue hairs” to the grave?  Is it something to take your poodle for a ride or a legitimate use to target the safety-conscious and support the disabled?

You choose…

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