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Posts Tagged ‘Yamaha’

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.

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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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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.

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Opening scene of Semper Ride

Opening scene of Semper Ride

I’ve blogged previously about the folks in the armed forces, the increased number of motorcycle accidents and dealer responsibility.  The military draws many parallels with motorcycling and with overtly male-dominated advertising the stats are very clear.

Military personnel have a higher fatality rate than the civilian population which is too high!  In fact, Yamaha launched and I commend them for doing so, an ad campaign specifically targeted to members of the military due to the increased number of riding accidents.  And let us not forget that the amount of female military personnel on active duty has increased from a 1.4% in 1970 to over 15% to today.  Although women make up only 10% of all riders they represent about 25% of new motorcycle purchases.

In a broad effort to promote more responsible riding the U.S. Marines have produced Semper Ride, a film and web site designed to catch the attention of young soldiers.  The seven minute movie combines big-action and a message on riding safety from stars such as Jason Britton, Keith Code, Jeremy McGrath and James Stewart.  The movie from One Eyed Bird Entertainment, uses a mix of educational and rider-to-rider advice from experts in freestyle motocross, racing and stunt riding.

The movie is very effective in conveying the message of riding responsibly, no matter what your experience level.  After watching it I felt compelled to purchase a dirt bike and hit Sand Lake!

Photo courtesy of U.S. Marines.

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2-Day_LaunchIn two days the Indian “Alphonso” mangoes will hit the U.S. supermarket shelves for the first time in 18 years!

I’m reminded of that Jimmy Buffett song “Last Mango in…”

I went down to Captain Tony’s to get out of the heat

When I hear a voice call out to me, “Son, come have a seat”

The “seat” in this case is attached to a Harley-Davidson.  In exchange for importing mangoes, H-D will be allowed to launch its 883 Sportster and Fatboy in the “land of a billion people” (a.k.a. India) on August 27th as long they comply with Euro-III emission norms. In a country that snaps up more than 6 million new motorcycles a year, H-D is a bit late to the party, but they have to be optimistic given the successes of Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda and Ducati “superbikes” (anything over 800cc are referred to superbike in India).  The bikes will be shipped to India and available as a CBUs (Completely Built Units).  Previously the Indian government had not specified emission standards for motorcycles over 500cc which effectively prohibited the import of H-D motorcycles who could not meet the standards set for scooters.

Speaking of standards…  I’m talking about a country that after more than six decades of independence, over 55% of the population (~660Million) defecate in the open! Given these statistics it’s no surprise the government was slow to specify emission standards on 500cc motorcycles when they clearly are busy with sanitation issues.

New Deli Traffic

New Deli Traffic

Until this week Royal Enfield (owned by Eicher Group) was the only motorcycle maker to offer cruisers in India.  Consistently large orders from the Indian government led to establishing a factory back in 1955 in the town of Chennai, India.  Even after production stopped in England they continued in Chennai.  Here is a 5 min video of them building a motorcycle.  There seems to be a fondness of following the old British tradition and use of a mallet to assist in the precision parts fitting!

Anyone who has visited India knows that the large cities of New Deli, Bangalore, Hyderabad, or Mumbai have traffic that defies amazing.  It’s extremely densely packed roads with stop-n-go vehicles and engines idling most all of the time.  Then there are the rickshaws (phat-phatis), bicycles, jay-walkers, street-car peddlers, cows, donkey carts and at any given time each traffic lane supporting triple the number of vehicles that it should so, what you end up with is pure chaos.  Even with astronomically high traffic-death rates, scooters and motorcycles are the more practical method of getting around on these packed roads.

Matt Levatich, President and COO of Harley-Davison reportedly will be on hand at the launch and annual Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) to welcome back H-D to India for the first time since World War II.  At that time thousands of motorcycles were shipped to the eastern Assam state of India with the intention of transporting men and deliver mail.

India is a prime target given the sheer market size and I want to wish them success as they work to diversify their revenue base.

Photo courtesy of H-D India and Flickr.

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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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