Thursday, 7 April 2016

MV Agusta

MV Agusta runs out of money

Reports that MV Agusta is again facing imminent bankruptcy may be exaggerated, but all is not well among the army of Armani suited "boutiqistas" at the Varese, Italy, manufacturer's headquarters.

MV Agusta now accepts that its 20-strong model line-up will have to be rationalised. Some models, including new ones such as the Dragster, which was launched at EICMA 2015, may well have to be dropped. The company will have to fall back on its "upper premium" products like their F4 superbikes and fast tourers like the Turismo Veloce 800 as a foundation for future financial stability

A press release of 22nd March announced that the company had filed a "Composition" with its creditors - a variation on the theme of what is known in the United States as a Chapter 11 creditor protection filing.
The intention being to allow the company some time in which to restructure its finances - in MV Agustas' case that means dealing with the 40m euro of debt it has on its books.
The filing gives MV Agusta to the end of the year to renegotiate its finances, and in the meantime has been granted a 'payment holiday' while it seeks new sources of finance.
Last year the company says it achieved 100m euro in sales, which was +30 percent up on 2014; indeed the company has seen turnover grow from 30m euro in just five years and says it currently has a back-order problem that represents +42 percent unit growth over 2015, with March alone seeing sales up by +36 percent.
However, part of that back-order problem has been caused by the slowing down of production a while ago - contrary to some reports, production has not been stopped.
It is reported that last year saw the company produce some 8,000 plus units, and there does now appear to be a greater realism about the ambitious plans that called for that number to get into the 15,000 to 20,000 bracket.

MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni is now having to accept that plans to see the present 8,000 unit production level increased still further to the 15,000 plus range are unrealistic and unaffordable

While there are plenty of industry observers who are saying that MV Agusta has over-populated its product offer too quickly, especially in the naked bike segment, and that it should rationalise its focus and play to its strengths, especially in its traditional sports niche and with the popular and successful three-cylinder engines, MV's problems have not been that it is unable to sell its motorcycles.
It is simply under-capitalised and overburdened with debt for the range it is trying to produce and the demand it is trying to create and meet. The debt burden it is carrying is preventing it from being able to service existing debt (while keeping production rolling) or from being able to raise additional capital.

One thing that is certain is that the relationship between MV Agusta and its 25 percent owner, the German auto maker AMG (Mercedes), has broken down entirely.
Reports suggest that AMG and the majority owner, the Castiglioni family, headed by 35-year old CEO Giovanni Castiglioni, are entirely opposed in their view about what should be happening to the company.
Some media outlets have suggested that AMG are unwilling to invest further without having at least a controlling stake. However, while it is clear that the Castiglionis certainly don't want to relinquish control, it would also appear that AMG have simply decided that they no longer wish to be in the motorcycle business as they just cannot see adequate ROI ever coming from what must appear to them to be a money-pit.
At the time that AMG paid a reported 30m euro for their 25 percent stake, many observers were saying that it was insufficient - despite the fact that two years earlier Harley-Davidson had returned ownership to the family for just one euro, with debts cleared, major investments made to fund R&D and production improvements, and having gifted the new owners a $20m dowry that was supposed to be enough to meet 12 months worth of operating costs.
The trouble is that at 15 percent of turnover, the R&D spend needed to fuel a now 20-model range has continued to suck the company dry at a time when growing sales were increasing their dependency on and exposure to supply-train creditors.
The company took a 15m loan from a consortium of Italian banks some 18 months ago, to top up its cash flow, but that too has proven inadequate and, worse, it came with strings that prevent AMG's shareholding being reduced below 20 percent without the loan being first repaid in full - reducing the options for using further equity to repay that debt or raise fresh operating capital.
The new realism that appears to now being accepted at Varese is that the company is going to have to grow down, go smaller, in order to be able to survive.
It may well be that the product offer will have to be rationalised, falling back onto their "upper premium" models as a foundation for a more modest re-financing package with longer-term debt repayment terms agreed with their creditors and a massive costs reduction drive that is bound to see their 260 strong head-count reduced drastically.


KTM sales up, plans stock market listing consolidation and agrees Indonesia distribution deal with Bajaj Auto

KTM has announced that its first quarter 2016 sales were up by +26.9 percent over the first three months of 2015, at 41,858 units; with revenue up by +26.7 percent to Euro 249.5m for the first quarter and EBIT (Earnings Before Income Tax) up by +46.4 percent at Euro 21.7m - an EBIT margin of 8.7 percent.

Meanwhile KTM’s parent company has announced that it wants to buy back the remaining 0.6 percent of the shares in KTM AG that are still traded on the Vienna based "Dritten Markt" - the third tier of the Austrian stock exchange, so that the parent company can concentrate on the listing of Cross Industries AG on Vienna's Prime Market in the future "in order to create a more streamlined capital market structure".
Stefan Pierer's Cross Industries owns 51.4 percent of the shares in KTM AG and has issued a public purchase offer of Euro 122,50 per share for the remaining 0.6 percent "Legacy Ownership" of KTM AG shares that are not currently owned either by Cross or Indian partner Bajaj (which currently holds some 48 percent of the shares in the group).
The plan also affects shares in WP Suspension, 0.29 percent of which are traded on the "Dritten Markt" stock exchange (the company was only listed there in April 2015) with 99.71 percent of WP owned by Cross Industries. Those WP and KTM "Legacy Owners" will have the option of remaining share holders when Cross completes the de-listing of KTM AG, should they choose not to sell.
The Cross Industries group also owns Husqvarna; the KISKA design consultancy that is responsible for much of KTM’s and Husqvarna's design work; Pankl Products, which specialises in developing and manufacturing engine and drivetrain components for racing cars, high performance vehicles and the aerospace industry; Wethje Carbon Composites, which specialises in automotive and aerospace products such as aircraft interior components and fittings; and Durmont, a specialist automotive and commercial/public buildings carpet and tufted floor coverings manufacturer.
In other Bajaj/KTM news the companies have agreed that its Indian partner will "extend its distribution network to include Indonesia". The arrangement involves KTM branded DUKE and RC motorcycles up to a displacement of 400 cc, which are developed and assembled by the successful Austrian-Indian joint venture.  The motorcycles will be distributed through a chain of KTM dealerships, to be managed by Bajaj.
"The decision to emphasize our sales activities in the South-East Asian distribution network is the logical next step in our long-term oriented strategy. It supports our presence in the price sensitive Indonesian market by using synergies from our strong alliance with Bajaj", explained Hubert Trunkenpolz, CSO, KTM AG.
Rakesh Sharma, President International Business of Baja Auto, added that "Bajaj has successfully established the KTM brand in India with an exclusive channel of 250 KTM stores. For Bajaj Auto this agreement to distribute sub 400 cc KTM bikes in Indonesia is a major step forward. We will endeavour to strongly establish this premium European brand in Indonesia".
The existing business partnership with the current Indonesian importer P.T. Jaya Selaras Sejahtera will remain, but now fully focussed on the model range above 400cc.

Japanese made motorcycle exports

Japanese made motorcycle exports to Europe +22.4 percent for February 2016

The latest data released by JAMA, the automotive trade association that includes representation of Japanese motorcycle manufacturers among its membership, shows exports of 250cc+ Japanese made motorcycles to Europe in February up by +22.40 at 22,049 units - the best February performance since 2012.

For the year to date European imports from Japan are +15.75 percent so far at 40,320 units. The full year 2015 was -3.65 percent, 151,715 units.
Total PTW Japanese manufactured exports to Europe were +22.84 percent in February at 23,036 units and are +13.83 percent for the year-to-date at 41,882 units.
Motorcycle shipments to the USA were -12.39 percent in February at 12,406 units (-14.77 percent, 18,111 units year-to-date); worldwide Japanese made motorcycle exports were
-0.32 percent in February, at 41,911 units (-2.17 percent year-to-date at 72,203 units).
The increasing number of units being made by the Japanese manufacturers elsewhere in Asia, the US and South/Central America goes some way to explaining the data, though the majority of higher value larger displacement machines, especially those being exported to Europe, are still made in Japan.
Their overseas factories are primarily engaged in making and selling scooters and smaller capacity units in 'emerging' markets (where import tariffs are high) and in making ATV/UTV units - especially in the United States where demand for such machines is strongest.

Barnett Tool & Engineering

'Dirt Digger' off-road clutch kits

Founded in 1948, Californian manufacturer Barnett Tool & Engineering is one of the world's leading clutch parts specialists. Available for most popular makes and models of off-road bikes and ATVs, their 'Dirt Digger' high-performance clutch kits feature clutch plates made with their exclusive carbon fibre or Kevlar friction material, tempered steel drive plates, and a set of heavy duty springs that are said to be 10-15% stiffer than OEM.
 The “CF” and Kevlar materials are said to "provide a stronger, more positive engagement with the ‘segmented’ friction material design, increasing oil flow to the clutch for a smoother, more consistent performance and increased clutch life".

The heavy duty springs are shot-peened and heat-treated for extreme durability - all Barnett clutch kits are pre-measured for proper stack height prior to packaging to ensure reliable fit and performance.


BC Battery Controller

Versatile BC SMART 10000

Italian manufacturer Forlettronica has added to its BC Battery Controller programme with the BC SMART 10000 - said to be "the perfect battery charger for riders and workshop professionals".

Described as versatile, intuitive and powerful (with a 10-Amp peak current), it is equipped with two specific programmes for motorcycle and automotive use and a programme for AGM Start-Stop batteries, which is said to make it ideal for all 12V lead-acid batteries with 200 Ah maximum capacity.

A fully automatic 8-step integrated charging algorithm and clear LCD display make the SMART 10000 "one of the easiest to use battery chargers ever designed", according to the company, having "been conceived to be always connected to the battery, with no need to disconnect it during longer periods when it is not used".
Offered with a three-year warranty, its intelligent functionality includes two features new to the 'BC' range. It is equipped with a power supply function that allows battery replacement without data memory loss and a sensor for automatic temperature compensation - allowing the BC 10000 to always supply the battery with the best level of current for the ambient temperature.



Exchange indicator relay gives versatile function control

German accessory specialist Kellermann has unveiled its all new CR4 key indicator relay - "a real magic box for the motorcycle" - that is suitable for all 12V motorcycles.

Described as the ultimate all-in-one solution for motorcycles with an indicator switch when LED indicators are being installed, the load-independent indicator relay elevates the functionality of older motorcycles to an up-to-date level and even optimises the electronics of current bikes. It replaces the original 2-3 pole flasher relay.

The CR4 offers many new control options - indicating, warning, braking, start, alarm and much more. But the clever part of the design is that the rider only needs to use what they really want - the rider remains in control and can custom-tune the operation to his/her preferences.
The CR4 has an alarm unit, indicator unit with convenience functions, hazard warning unit, adaptive break light and starter assistant. The core competence of the CR4 is the "comfort flasher" for new LED lights, with what Kellermann's research suggests is the perfect pulse of 75 flashes per minute.
The adaptive brake light makes the ride more safe - emergency or very strong braking will create a flashing break light for improved manoeuvre visibility.
The alarm unit signals thieves its protected status with a control light and reacts on movements or shocks, with warning signals from horn and indictors.
The starter assistant lets the engine start after the hand brake is pulled three times, and the hazard flasher can run without the ignition key, until shut-off manually or by the battery protection.
Kellermann say the CR4 clearly is a smart all-in-one solution for the electronics of the motorcycle and that it installs easily - connecting directly to the motorcycle's wiring as an exchange indicator relay (only additional horn and constant live connections are required).

Made in Germany, it is ECE tested, load independent, suitable for turn indicator switches, intuitive in operation, prevents the accompanying flashing of non-activated indicators, has turn indicator reset memory and comes as a slim-line 80mm long x 21mm wide x 12mm unit with a high quality metal casing for installation almost anywhere on the motorcycle.



Five compound off-road brake pad range

Italian brake specialist Newfren has updated its brake pads programme with new compounds and applications, offering its distributors and their dealers access to a comprehensive range with coverage for most popular makes and models of on and off-road motorcycles and scooters.
Their updated Off-Road line now features a single premium HH rated X01 sintered race formula for professional Enduro and MX use that incorporates titanium technology for high stability and powerful grip in wet or muddy conditions.
For amateur dirt bike riders, MX and Enduro applications, there is a choice of sintered or organic compounds that are described as "stable in all different conditions" with a guaranteed long durability and constant and consistent, reliable braking "even in extreme conditions".
Newfren also offer sintered and organic compounds for 4-wheel ATV/Quad use.
Their Road line for street and race bikes now features a single HH+ rated premium R01 sintered race formula developed for Superbike, Superstock, Supersport and Supermoto models, and two lines of sintered and organic pads for street bikes, the TT Pro range, which is said to be ideal for track and road use, and is recommended for the new generation of high performance street bikes, and the Touring range, specially formulated for long distance riding. The company also offers three lines of scooter pads - including sintered and organic pads specially formulated for the demands of urban riding and the greater stopping performance demanded by the new generation of maxi-scooters.
Founded in the 1950s by Alessandro Barbero, the company is still in family ownership with Valter Barbero at the helm, and has just completed a 24 month multi-million Euro investment programme in new manufacturing technology at its 6,000 sqm facilty/10,000 sqm site at Cirie near Turin.
Products made there include brake shoes, backing plates, clutch plates and parts, brake discs and assemblies, in addition to brake pads.


Rapid Bike

Living with Euro-4

With Euro-4 homologated bikes already hitting showroom floors, potentially there could be bike tuning problems ahead for the industry. Rapid Bike add-on tuning models allow you to "open-the-loop" and take control of the impact the 02 sensor signal has on the injection map, making conventionally pre-calibrated mapping obsolete.

Italian performance and tuning technology specialist Dimsport's Rapid Bike branded range of motorcycle tuning modules are ahead of the game when it comes to the implications of the new generation of Euro-4 homologated motorcycles.

At the heart of its technology is the ability to work with, rather than fight against, the data captured by the stock Lambda sensor (O2 sensor) and use the signal to dynamically modulate the fuel injection map to keep the air fuel mix at the optimum setting.
All three of the Rapid Bike modules - EASY, EVO and RACING - are based on this technology, and all three automatically and instantaneously return an air/fuel ratio that is either too lean (too much air for the fuel) or too rich (too little air for the fuel) back to the optimum setting.
Rapid Bike modules turn the Lambda sensor signal into the tuner’s friend - and turns every rider into a tuner. The dynamic modulation of a signal designed to work with a pre-installed map, with its pre-set, all conditions and all circumstances fixed calibrations, opens up the 'Closed Loop' and renders the concept of a set injection map obsolete.
Adopting electronic technology for engine management has always required a number of sensors to control the amount of fuel being injected and to maintain a balanced carburetion. 

The AUTO-ADAPTIVE feature built into Rapid Bike's EVO and RACING modules will fine-tune the map of injection values while the bike is being ridden. Seen here for a twin cylinder engine (2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200), in which the module is reading and modulating the signals from both the stock Lambda sensors in order to generate a correction map specific for each cylinder. In this way the module is self-learning and responds to the constant change of external factors such as temperature, pressure, riding style, etc., and also to the installation of additional aftermarket components affecting directly the injection values

The amount and quality of intake air coming through the engine and being mixed with fuel is affected by different factors such as temperature, pressure and humidity rate - this is the reason why bike performance changes considerably in operation even after it has been in the hands of the best tuners, to say nothing of the remapping required by changes to the stock set-up such as aftermarket exhausts, air filters etc.
The stock Lambda sensor measures the quantity of oxygen in the exhaust gases, while the OEM Engine Control Unit (ECU) determines the air fuel ratio (air quantity in proportion to one unit of gasoline) in the context of the value pre-set in its memory, and then modifies the injection timing to achieve its pre-settings based on the signal it receives from the Lambda (and other) sensors.

The technology at the heart of Rapid Bike's modules achieves a very simple result, yet is highly innovative since it actually takes advantage of the stock Lambda sensor signal to improve engine efficiency while optimising fuel consumption.
The goal is not to eliminate the stock Lambda sensor, but rather to perform a dynamic modulation of its signal in such a way that the results of doing so are fully compatible with the new injection values set by the add-on module.
This solution helps the whole system (OEM ECU + Rapid Bike Module) to be more reliable, and to prevent the benefits of improved fueling from being perceived by the ECU as a mistake requiring correction.
Rapid Bike's add-on modules change the amount of injected fuel (and they can directly control up to 8 injectors) while modulating the stock Lambda sensor signal in such a way that the OEM ECU will not detect any difference in the air fuel ratio.
Its new "auto-adaptive" feature allows Rapid Bike modules to compare the air/fuel ratio target value (set within the module's map) with the signal reported by the stock Lambda sensor. The result of this continuous comparison determines whether the fuel being injected needs to be increased or decreased - making sure the engine always delivers the best performance.
This is even more useful when performing modifications to the bike (such as the installation of a free-flow air filter or a racing exhaust system) that require the injection map to be modified. Rapid Bike modules are able to develop and implement these changes automatically, while the rider is using the bike.
Rapid Bike says its module will complete the injection auto-remapping process within a 200 km ride, even when starting with a 'zero' value map.
The company says that its "technology re-maps the most critical section of the power delivery curve - the low and medium rpm range where the Lambda sensor is in full control of the fueling parameters".
The so-called 'closed loop area' that typically remains 'off-limits' for conventional add-on module technology becomes tunable, putting the tuner and the rider in full control without any sort of limitations.


Test case study - Ducati Multistrada

The Ducati Multistrada was one of the first Euro-4 compliant street bikes to reach showroom floors. This dyno chart shows the behaviour of the air/fuel ratio (at 25% Throttle Position Sensor) with the 2015 Multistrada 1200 in stock configuration (no aftermarket exhaust or air filter, etc.). 

It shows the Multistrada starting with a very lean mixture (almost 16 points, that means 16 parts of air for 1 part of gasoline); with the Rapid Bike EVO module this value comes down to 14 points and maintained at a value between 14 and 13.5, meaning the fuel mixture is richer, the throttle response is more reactive, the engine no longer suffers from the sudden power drops caused by interruptions in the supply of gasoline, and the torque is more consistent.
When the stock ECU reacts by trying to 'correct' this (and re-set the AFR value to around 12 points - meaning that the mixture is becoming too rich), the EVO module and its technology of Lambda signal modulation continues to work effectively and keeps a steady AFR target value around optimum at 13.5 points. This means the corrections to the injection values performed by the EVO module (and RACING version) directly connected to the injectors create a stable AFR value as close as possible to the ideal target of 13/13.5 points (depending also on other factors such as gasoline octane percentage content etc).
The end result in this example is that at 25% TPS there is a gain of almost 5 hp and the torque is also improved (from 6,5 kg.m at 8845 rpm to 6,9 kg.m at 8520 rpm).
The real-world riding impact of the numbers is that the bike’s handling and engine response are greatly improved at lower and mid rpm - the most important and most used part of the power band.