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Posts Tagged ‘Kawasaki’

CR-MotorcyclesThat is, according to Consumer Reports.

You know, the independent, consumer-oriented not-for-profit organization, replete with consumer activists.

Recognized as an automotive quality and value authority, Consumer Reports branched out and started reviewing motorcycles last year.  They published the first-ever report on the most reliable motorcycles from five of the biggest brands — Harley, BMW, Honda, Kawasaki, and Yamaha.  For some odd reason, Polaris’ Victory and Indian brands didn’t make enough of an impact in the market to attract Consumer Reports attention by the time of the survey.

percentage-of-bikes-with-problems_largeFrom its research Consumer Reports discovered that quality varies “significantly” among brands — and the best brand, Yamaha, is about six times more reliable than the worst, BMW.

Only about one Yamaha motorcycle in 10 has experienced a major problem or required a serious repair over the past four years, according to the 4,424 motorcycle owners surveyed by Consumer Reports. In contrast, about one BMW motorcycle in three has suffered from such a complaint — and one Harley in four.

Consumer Reports found that major, big-ticket repairs were few and far between in its research. Regardless of bike and regardless of brand, only about 3% of all problems reported to Consumer Reports involved a motorcycle’s engine, only 3% a transmission, and only 7% a clutch. More common were issues with a vehicle’s brakes or electrical or fuel system, and with the accessories.

Overall, Consumer Reports noted that about 75% of the repairs reported to it were performed for $200 or less.

Photo courtesy of Consumer Reports.

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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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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.

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There is no place more empty than the spot where your motorcycle used to be!

Motorcyclists often put a great deal of money and attention into customization of their cycles, from elaborate paint schemes, high-performance motor upgrades, exhaust systems to billet custom wheels.  It’s not uncommon for aftermarket parts to add thousands of dollars to the original cost of the motorcycle and the hard earned efforts also capture the attention of thieves.

According to a new report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), motorcycle thefts nationwide have declined at about the same percentage rate as motorcycle sales trends.  A total of 56,093 motorcycles nationwide were reported stolen to law enforcement in 2009, down from 64,492 reported in 2008 or a 13% drop.

The top five manufactures stolen last year and top five states were:

Manufacture Number Stolen Top 5 States (#Stolen)
Honda 13,688 California (6,273)
Yamaha 11,148 Texas (5,526)
Suzuki 9,154 Florida (5,009)
Kawasaki 5,911 North Carolina (3,045)
Harley-Davidson 3,529 Georgia (2,067)
Total 43,430 Total of 5 States (21,920)

The summer months of July (6,319); August (6,079); and June (5,672) saw the most theft activity while the fewest thefts were recorded during the winter months of December (2,927); January (3,570); and February (3,100).

Photo courtesy of NICB.

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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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TTTI landed on the Discovery channel the other night and watched a rare look inside the MV Augusta factory, where they built the F4-312. 

You may recall Harley-Davidson acquired MV Augusta last year for $108M which was previously blogged HERE.

At any rate, I’ve watched the ‘Twist The Throttle‘ documentary series in the past, but MV Augusta was one story I had not viewed on the world’s most famous sport motorcycling brand.  The series reviews various brands (Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Ducati, Bimota, BMW and Alpinestars) histories, what happens behind the scenes at their factories, inside their research and development centers and ultimately what it’s like to ride the machines on some of the great motorcycle roads and race tracks around the world.  The series is available on the Discovery Turbo website.

For example I learned it takes 11 hours to build the F4 engine and 4.5 hours to build just one motorcycle.  It was also interesting to hear several of the on camera interviews evangelized the lack of any hard-core time-based manufacturing processes… huh?  Isn’t MV a motorcycle manufacture?  Watching the story you couldn’t help but think a bottle of red wine followed each motorcycle down the assembly line like a cocktail soiree and when it’s done, it’s done.  No rush…we’re artists!  Wow, the Italian build process seemed opposite and very casual compared to the Milwaukee plant tour I attended last year.

DADS Simulation

DADS Simulation

In fact, Harley-Davidson uses advanced engineering and simulation tools to compress design cycles as well as other tools to reduce the overall manufacturing process time.  For example the application DADS from CADSI (now part of LMS of Coralville, IA) is used for full 3-D prototyping and to simulate the handling of the motorcycle during a lane change, j-turn or weave maneuvers.   For a company that produces 12 different parts made of 4615 material with complex profiles of 20-42 teeth and robots measuring parts baskets with door-to-door cycle time of 11.3 seconds and overall grind times of 56 seconds…I find it astonishing that MV Augusta/H-D exec’s would go on camera pontificating the merits of the aristocratic craftsmen — “no motorcycle before it’s time” philosophy.

Is it time to exchange the Girard-Perreguax watch for a Timex and bring on the accountant dawgs to rehabilitate the long lunch wine drinking staff?

Photo courtesy LMS and H-D.

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