Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

DSC_0164It was 73 years ago today – December 7, 1941 – that bombs fell on Pearl Harbor.

It was a stealthy attack that took the lives of more than 2,400 Americans, threaten internment of 150,000 people of Japanese ancestry in Hawaii and was a tipping point for the nation which jumped headlong into its 2nd major war of the century.  It was a day filled with sacrifices and heroism – one that should not be forgotten.

DSC_0160Just six years earlier Harley-Davidson founded the Japanese motorcycle industry.  In fact, from the H-D history page it states:

“1935 — The Japanese motorcycle industry is founded as a result of Harley-Davidson licensing blueprints, tools, dies and machinery to the Sankyo Company of Japan. The result is the Rikuo motorcycle.”

Visiting the U.S.S. Arizona memorial is always a somber experience and this event still effects our world…

Photos by author.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

NW Hog Lamp - In the Shop

Old motorcycles represent good memories for me and I suspect for many of you reading this blog.

Honda introduced the CB750 motorcycle to the U.S. in 1969.  The bike was targeted directly at the U.S. market after company officials fully understood the opportunity for a larger bike.  It had 750-cc, 4-cylinder SOHC engine, electric start and disc brakes.  The motorcycle set the bar very high for manufactures.  Disc front brake and an inline four cylinder engine were previously unavailable on mainstream production bikes. And with a price under $1500 (U.S.) it had significant advantages over British competition.

All those new motorcycles left Japan for America and some forty odd years later you’ll find them forgotten in the auto wrecking yards across this land.

Finished lamp on the desk

John Ryland scours the Richmond, Virginia junk yards in search of the motorcycles and their recycled parts.  His main business is rescuing and creating retro-cool-custom bikes from the rustic heaps.  Not the West Coast Chopper or OCC slick and polished, rather the brutally sparse and elegant.  You see the steel and welding is straight up and honest.  At the time he worked in an ad agency, but the economy had its way and what was a hobby began as full-time adventure building motorcycles from parts and frames he found in junkyards and classified ads. The operation is called – Classified Moto.

I ran across John while catching the tail end of a CNN segment that featured a custom motorcycle builder who on a whim decided to a build a lamp.  Yes, the kind that lights up your life, or workshop or home décor.

As I watched this behind the scenes video I could almost smell the gasoline, grease and arc welder as John grinded and then aligned the metal springs and shocks on his workbench along with the transmissions gears and brake rotors.  The walls in one corner of his ‘office’ were covered in chalkboards and scribbled notes about how the lamps were built.  I decided right then that I had to have one of these “Road Warrior” welded and hammered out creations and decided to upgrade my desk – Classified Style!

Born Date

I did the ‘Google’ and placed an order a couple months back.  I ordered up “Honda CB750” circa 1980.   Yeah, I run with V-twins these days, but I’m talking about the four-into-four exhaust pipes classic!  Japanese models are widely regarded as the purest specimens and besides many collector’s may well make this invaluable.  John’s wife Betsy helps out in the shop and she kept me up-to-date on the order as it progressed.  They are a real joy to work with.  At one point they were running low on parts and had to run a special ops into S.C. where they scored a truck load of parts to keep up with the high-demand.

So, to the spirit of those who still find adventure behind the grips of an old motorcycle I say check out Classified Moto.  You’ll be humbled as people walk past and look twice while saying cool lamp!

Photos taken by author and courtesy of Classified Moto.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

Read Full Post »

H-D announced Q2’11 financial results this morning.

In a word – Booyah!

By every financial measure Harley-Davidson generated improvements in the second quarter of 2011, with strong earnings growth, increased shipments and growth in its dealers’ new motorcycle sales both in the U.S. and globally.  Here are some of the stats that CEO Keith Wandell and CFO John Olin reviewed from Anaheim, CA. where the annual dealer meeting and new product launch was in progress:

  • Revenue in Q2’11 was $1.51B (up 15%) with income up 36.8% to $190.6M
  • Motorcycle shipments up 7,769 in Q2’11 vs. Q2’10; Motorcycle segment revenue up $204.6M (18%) vs. Q2’10
  • Touring motorcycle shipments made up 38.3% in Q2’11; up 3.6%
  • International shipments were 36.2% in Q2’11 vs. Q2’10 at 42.5%
  • Shipment forecast for 2011 rose by about 8% and now H-D expects to ship between 228,000 and 235,000 motorcycles worldwide
  • Market segment share (651+cc) is 53.8%; up 0.2% from 2010
  • U.S. dealer network sales of uses motorcycles up 11% through May; Used bikes sales continue to firm up (meaning they offer the dealer a method to help offset the “sticker shock” of new bikes)

Did anything go less positive?  Well that depends on your viewpoint.  From a shareholder’s perspective it’s “Houston, we’re ready to throttle up”!   Stock price set a new 52-week high at $46.88.

As a rider/layman the touring motorcycle shipment increases were offset by the decreases in Custom and Sportster declines.  There were no age demographics quoted in the analyst call, but we’ve been told that typically “youngsters” don’t buy the higher priced baggers.  In addition, the new 2012 touring models that were announced earlier in the month have… shall we say… “lean” engineering innovation compared to previous years.  In a number of cases there we’re only paint palette changes and price increases made up the so-called “new” touring models.  There was about a 1% price increase in the U.S. market.  The lack of innovation is especially troubling (to me) given that product development spending was up $7M in the first half of 2011 which was described as a continuation of their strategy and focus on leaner engineering.  Sure metals and fuel costs are up, but the lack of stronger product changes is not always a recipe for long term success.

Nothing was noted on the call about the recent expansion in India.  Not sure why given that SG&A expenses were up about $13M on the strategy to grow 100 – 150 international dealers by 2014.  Latin America saw a decrease in retail sales which was largely due to all Brazil dealers being terminated.  There was a restart in that country and the new dealers (6) were coming up to speed.

Congrats to H-D on a great quarter!

UPDATE: Full transcript of the analyst call is HERE courtesy of SeekingAlpha.

Photo courtesy of H-D.  Full Disclosure: I don’t own H-D stock

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

Read Full Post »

The Japan earthquake (9.0) rates in the top four with the 1952 Kamchatka quake, the 1960 quake in Chile with 9.5, the Alaska quake in 1964 with 9.2 and the Sumatra quake in 2004 with 9.1.

I’ve visited Tokyo and the surrounding areas a number of times and want to express my sympathy to those affected by this tragedy during what can only be described as very painful times.  Faced with the horrific news and pictures from Japan, everybody wants to do something, and the obvious thing to do is to donate money to some relief fund or other.  Or if you prefer something different (I’m not making this up) someone set up a well-intentioned “Socks for Japan” drive.

I’m not insensitive to the nuclear dangers, but the tragic loss of life and destruction caused by the earthquake and tsunami will likely dwarf the damage caused by the problems associated with the nuclear plants, however, the media is now doing a “Charlie Sheen” minute-by-minute obsession with these plants.  According to a number of reports (including the more negative HERE) the Japan situation isn’t going to be another Chernobyl.  And speaking of Chernobyl, next month marks the 24th anniversary of the Chernobyl (April 25, 1986) accident.   Back in 2009 I blogged about the Chernobyl Motorcycle Ride and due to recent events in Japan it seems to be getting a lot of hits. Unfortunately.  But I’ve digressed.

There will be repercussions in the Worldwide motorcycle community as the economic impact and stories of the prices we pay and heavy losses are just beginning to ratchet up.  All the motorcycle manufactures are cooperating with electricity conservation efforts and the rolling blackouts to help in the prioritizing of the relief and recovery of affected areas.  For example the motorcycle production facilities at:

Honda: The company reported on some of the more serious damages including the death of a 43-year old male employee at its research and development center in Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo, as the wall of a cafeteria crumbled. Honda said that more than 30 employees at several facilities in the same prefecture were injured.   The company also decided the following:

  1. As of March 14, all production activities are suspended at the following Honda plants: Sayama Plant at Saitama Factory (Sayama, Saitama), Ogawa Plant (Ogawa-machi, Hiki-gun Saitama), Tochigi Factory (Moka, Tochigi), Hamamatsu Factory (Hamamatsu, Shizuoka) and Suzuka Factory (Suzuka, Mie).
  2. From March 15 through 20, Honda will suspend all production activities at its plants listed above as well as at Kumamoto Factory (Ozu-machi, Kikuchi-gun, Kumamoto).
  3. From March 14 through 20, Honda will suspend regular operations at all Honda facilities in the Tochigi area, where damage was more serious, (including Tochigi Factory, Honda R&D Co., Ltd. R&D Center (Tochigi) , Honda Engineering Co., Ltd., etc.), and focus on the recovery of each operation. Honda associates will not come to work during this time.

Yamaha: reported one employee injured and sections of the roads surrounding their Motor Sports facility had collapsed.

Suzuki: shut down all of its plants (including Takatsuka and Toyokawa facilities) and will consider re-establishing operations after March 17th

Bridgestone:  reported no serious damage to five of its production facilities in the affected regions, however the company has a number of sites in the Tochigi Prefecture, including the Nasu tire plant. The Nasu facility is the sole motorcycle tire production site for Bridgestone worldwide. The production at these sites was stopped, pending safety evaluations and Bridgestone plans to resume production “based on electricity restrictions and other issues.”

Wild Road Choppers: the owner Souji Abe is located in Sendai City and while he personally is safe the damage to the area where his shop is located is clearly extensive.

Motorcycle Show Cancellations: Osaka Motorcycle Show and the 38th Tokyo Motorcycle Show (March 25)

In addition there is unofficial word about the Japanese Grand Prix which was to be held April 24th at Motegi is being reviewed and dependent on the Mobilityland complex and physical structure may get cancelled.  For reference, Motegi is about 110miles from Sendhai (near the epicenter) and Fukishima, where the damaged nuclear reactors are located is about 75miles north of Motegi.

The area of Japan affected by the earthquake and tsunami produces around 4.1% of the country’s GDP, suggesting that first-round economic effects could be limited, yet at this stage, with the fate of the Fukushima nuclear reactors still unclear, it’s too early to come up with any meaningful estimates of the overall impact to the motorcycle community.

My thoughts and prayers are with the survivors and the families.

UPDATE: March 25, 2011 – A couple of weeks after all the destruction in Japan some of the motorcycle manufactures have reopened with limited production.  A good report HERE at Power Sport News.

Photo courtesy of Google Maps.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

Read Full Post »

It was a Dark Sky Film made in 1970.

The film also appeared under the title Nam’s Angels.  The plot included a biker gang, the Devil’s Advocates who were recruited by the CIA to execute a daring rescue behind enemy lines in Cambodia. After customizing their Yamahas into combat-ready death machines, the gang roars into action on this unlikely suicide mission. Heavy casualties ensue. I kid you not.

I’m not sure if the movie did much if anything to propel Yamaha sales, but this week there are reports the Japanese motorcycle maker (Yamaha Motor) has plans to close seven factories globally with a loss of 1,000 jobs.  This is all in an effort to bounce back from a  Y216.1 billion ($2.7 billion) annual loss in 2009.  Yamaha is the world’s second biggest motorcycle manufacturer after Honda and this streamlining is in addition to a previously announced 10% reduction in the company’s global workforce of 17,000 which is underway.  This is Yamaha’s first loss in 26 years.

Specific plant closure include 5 of its 12 domestic factories by 2012, all in Shizuoka prefecture (central Japan) who now produce parts for motorcycles, marine products and buggies.  In addition, Yamaha will close a motorcycle factory in Italy and a marine products plant in Florida.

It looks like the only motorcycle manufacture beating down the 2009 slowing motorcycle trend was BMW Motorrad.  New products like the K1300GT, S1000 RR Superbike along with the opening of 8 new dealers in the past 5 months has them bullish on the future.

An interesting side bar on The Losers — it’s playing on a television in the background of a motel-room scene between Bruce Willis and Maria de Medeiros in Pulp Fiction. Clearly Quentin Tarantino is one of its fans.

Photo courtesy of Dark Sky.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

Read Full Post »

Pearl Harbor

It was 68 years ago today – December 7, 1941 – that bombs fell on Pearl Harbor.  It was a stealthy attack that took the lives of more than 2,400 Americans, threaten internment of 150,000 people of Japanese ancestry in Hawaii and was a tipping point for the nation which jumped headlong into its 2nd major war of the century.  It was a day filled with sacrifices and heroism – one that should not be forgotten.

Just six years earlier Harley-Davidson founded the Japanese motorcycle industry.  In fact, from the H-D history page it states:

“1935 — The Japanese motorcycle industry is founded as a result of Harley-Davidson licensing blueprints, tools, dies and machinery to the Sankyo Company of Japan. The result is the Rikuo motorcycle.”

Rikuo Motorcycle

Very little is known about the specifics and mindful of the results Harley-Davidson isn’t doing much talking.  It bears a similarity to the clandestine support the U.S. provided Muslim fighters during the 10-years the U.S.S.R. fought in Afghanistan.  Maybe that’s an overreach?   At any rate, the highly ironic consequence of Milwaukee’s quest for export markets in the 1920s resulted in helping Japan ready for World War II.   It was during the “economic slump” of the 1930s that the creation of a Japanese big twin occurred. It’s known that during the 1920s, Arthur Davidson had aggressively pursued new sales openings, including the establishment of the Harley-Davidson Sales Company of Japan.  It had a comprehensive network of dealers, agencies and spares. In fact, the Milwaukee motorcycle stood so high that Harley’s soon became Japan’s official police motorcycle.

Harley-Davidson exports to Japan all but ceased in the wake of the 1929 Wall Street crash and Great Depression as the global economic crisis crippled the yen. The story might have stopped there but for Alfred Childs, head of Harley’s Japanese operation, who asked: “Why not build Harleys there?”

The motor company was skeptical, but Childs’ persistence finally convince management and the first overseas factory began production at Shinagawa, near Tokyo.  Motorcycles built with tooling, plans, blueprints and expertise directly from Milwaukee — Harley-Davidson built a factory that was considered the most modern in the world. By 1935 Shinagawa was manufacturing complete motorcycles, mainly 74-inch V-series flathead twins.  In 1930, these had become the official motorcycle of the Japanese Imperial Army. Later, when the army became the effective civil power, it declined the chance to convert production to the new OHV Knucklehead, preferring the proven durability of the H-D side-valve twin. It was at this point that the Sankyo corporation forcibly took over control of the “H-D” factory and began selling Japanese Harleys under the Rikuo name. The “74” twin became the Rikuo Model 97.

As it became clear that Japan readied for World War II, Harley cut its losses and got out.  As military demand increased (especially after the Japanese invasion of China in 1937), Rikuo sub-licensed the product to Nihon Jidosha (“Japan Combustion Equipment Co.”). Its “Harleys” were variants of the model 97s, entitled Kuro Hagane (“Black Iron”).

Eerily, the factory had only a few more years to run. Nihon Jidosha was located in Hiroshima.

Research Sources:
Yokohama Kanagawa Prefecture photos of Japanese Harley History HERE.
Classic Bike article (1998) by Hugo Vanneck HERE.
Rikuo (Riku’O) Motor Web Site HERE.
H-D Museum Photos HERE.
FBI History 1930 – 1945 HERE.

Photo courtesy of Nippon News and National Archives.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

Read Full Post »

ginza-3Gravity is more of a nuisance than a law until the day you go flying off your motorcycle.  Then the landing hurts!

Three years ago I was on an extended trip in Tokyo, Japan.  I had a fair bit of time for shopping and remember running across motorcycle riding apparel which incorporated technological advancements for safety.  It was no ordinary riding apparel.  The jacket included an air bag shock buffering system which provided protection for the neck, back, hip and torso.  All of this in a department store that included routine groceries!

I did a quick yen-to-dollar conversion and remember thinking wow it’s pricey, but still tried on the jacket.  I immediately had more sales help than I could neither understand or wanted, but do recall the fit being comfortable before putting it back on the rack.  I grabbed a product flyer and made a mental note to contact the company when I returned home.  The airbag jacket was not approved for use in the U.S. as they were processing regulatory approval.  Since that trip a number of airbag jackets have made their way to the U.S. market.  One notable is the Hit-Air system. The idea of using a type of “air bag” for motorcycle apparel has been around for a long time and while early versions were bulky and hot that is no longer the case.

apc_helmetNow comes another technological advancement.  An airbag-equipped helmet from APC Systems.  The helmet features a collar-shaped airbag incorporated into a standard motorcycle helmet. Inflation of the airbag occurs without cables or other physical elements linking the rider to the motorcycle. A small control box fitted under the motorcycle’s seat is synchronized wirelessly with the helmet.  Depending on any outside stimulus the determination algorithms tell the helmet to inflate in less than 15 hundredths of a second.

The technological advancements in motorcycle design have in some cases exceeded the skills of riders.   I believe this is one of many reasons for an increase in motorcycle accidents.  With ordinary helmets or riding apparel very little separates you after gravity kicks in from the pavement other than leather or maybe some ballistics textile. An air bag shock buffering system and an air bag equipped helmet might just be the protection devices mandated by the government in the future.

Interested in more?  Give the web sites a look.  The APC site includes high speed camera footage of various scooter accidents which help visualize air bag deployment during point of impact.  If you can watch those and not get a little queasy then more power to you.

APC photo courtesy of web site.

 

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: