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John and Melinda formed J&M in 1978

John and Melinda formed J&M in 1978

No, I’m not talking about the drama of motorcycle clubs or the FX television show “Son’s of Anarchy.”

The story starts in Tucson in 1978 when John Lazzeroni married Melinda Carevich.

Both were motorcycle enthusiasts, so for a wedding gift John arranged to have a new Honda Gold Wing delivered during the ceremony.  After the “I do’s”, they changed clothes, hopped on the motorcycle and headed to Las Vegas.

While on their honeymoon, John was disappointed that even on the quiet Gold Wing, he and Melinda had a difficult time talking to one another or hearing the radio.  Upon returning home he went to a motorcycle accessories store figuring someone had made a helmet with a built-in speaker and intercom system.  No one did!  He then decided to make one for himself… on the kitchen table.  In the end the product worked.  So well in fact that John and Melinda found themselves taking orders for similar headsets from their friends.  Realizing they may be on to something they took their last $400 and placed an ad in Rider Magazine.  The first day the ad appeared they took enough orders to pay for it and that’s when  they formed J&M Corp.

Today J&M is a leader in motorcycle audio equipment.  They manufacture top of the line helmet headsets along with integrated systems featuring intercom, CB radio, FRS, cell phone, radar detection, blue-tooth and GPS audio capability.  J&M is also an OEM supplier of helmet headsets for Honda, Yamaha, BMW and Kawasaki.  The products are marketed around the world.  John and Melinda have been awarded many U.S. patents for designs of headsets, microphones, and integrated audio gear.  In fact, J&M is the exclusive licensee of Reissue Patent Number 34,525 (“the ’525 patent”) directed to helmet accessories for mounting a microphone and an electrical plug on a motorcycle helmet.

What about Harley-Davidson motorcycles?  H-D bought accessories from J&M until 1991.  In the summer of 1989, however, H-D approached Radio Sound about manufacturing accessories for resale.  H-D and Radio Sound produced their first accessories in 1990.   In 1997, Radio Sound and Harley-Davidson began to manufacture and sell two new versions of their helmet accessories, model numbers 77147-98 and 77147-91C.  J&M brought a legal suit against Harley-Davidson in November 1997, claiming that the accessories infringed its ‘525 patent.  It turns out that the legal system didn’t see it the same way.   These accessories had an integrated mount for the microphone boom and the electrical plug, attach to the helmet with a single clamp, and did not extend below the lower edge of the motorcycle helmet and was determined to NOT be a patent infringement.  You can read the legal opinion/brief HERE if you’d like more detail.

Lazzeroni L2000

Lazzeroni L2000

At any rate, motorcycle audio accessories is hardly the background of what you might expect from the founder of a firearms company, right?

Nonetheless, while working to get the motorcycle audio equipment company going John, who was an active hunter and hand-loader got the “Magnum” bug.  It was the late 80’s and he owned several Weatherby rifles.  He began “necking down” the rifles and doing a lot of ballistic experimenting.  He was ahead of his time as the traditional manufactures would later introduce .30/378 caliber rifles.  Lazzeroni Arms was formed and in 1992 John set out to design his own rifle and series of cartridges for short-action magnums.  Today they are known for high-quality and the “flattest shooting” and hardest hitting hunting rifles on the planet.  The rifles are built to fire extremely powerful proprietary magnum Lazzeroni cartridges which are distinguished by their high operating pressures and the very high muzzle velocities they produce.

Kudo’s to John and Melinda Lazzeroni who have accomplished a lot in both the firearm and motorcycle audio accessory business.

Photo courtesy of Petersen’s Rifle Shooter

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HSC55In June, Honda celebrated the 50th anniversary of its arrival in the U.S.  I posted an article on the event HERE.

Sadly, this week Honda re-confirmed in the Tokyo Nikkei, its intent to indeed wind down the U.S. motorcycle production due to declining demand.  The closure this month ends a 30 year run of motorcycle production in the U.S.  Honda launched U.S. production in 1979 and was the first among Japanese firms to make motorcycles in North America.  The plant in Marysville, Ohio produced the Gold Wing, a heavy-weight class 1,800cc touring bike, and had an annual output capacity of about 70,000 units.

1963_AdHonda launched its first overseas subsidiary in the U.S. on June 11, 1959.  Honda bought an old photo studio in Los Angeles and sent its associates off in Chevy pickups to pitch their bikes to local hardware stores and motorcycle shops.  The lead products were the Dream, Benly, and Super Cub (called the Honda 50, in the U.S.).  An ad campaign and slogan “You meet the nicest people on a Honda” reshaped how Americans looked at motorcycles and by 1968 Honda had become the bestselling motorcycle with sales exceeding a million.

Honda quickly followed up and entered the U.S. car market in 1969, selling a handful of its tiny sedans in Hawaii before launching on the mainland in 1970.  The oil crisis of 1973-1974 helped put the company on the minds of all Americans.  Honda became the first Asian automaker to set up production in the U.S., with the first motorcycle rolling off the Ohio assembly line Sept. 10, 1979, and the first car built Nov. 1, 1982.  In 1988 Honda began exporting the U.S.-built Accord to Japan ending any debate as to doubts as to whether quality standards could be maintained.

We’ve witness the American motorcycle market shrink to 1.32 million units in 2008, down almost 30% from a peak of 1.79 million units in 2005. Honda’s Q1’09 net income plummeted 95% and motorcycle/ATV units were down 32% from a year ago.  We’ve seen dismal financial results from Harley-Davidson too.

Affordability is a strong theme with motorcycle manufactures these days and Honda seems to prosper in difficult times.  They’ve concluded that the advantages of local motorcycle production have faded and will now export products from Japan to the U.S. market instead.  Despite the closure, its worldwide motorcycle business is fairly solid and they are boosting production in regions where demand is growing, mainly in Asia.

Photo’s courtesy of Honda archives.

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