Ducati Multistrada 1200 In Demand

"The hottest"

Despite the prospect of an impending global economic meltdown, it seems people can still dig out the old checkbook for some of the most expensive two-wheeled toys, according to Ducati.

The Italian motorcycle maker says in a recent press release that its new Multistrada 1200, starting at $14,995, has proved so popular, they don’t expect to be able to deliver on time. There will be a 60-day wait for new orders. The buzz about the new Multistrada is largely over its four riding modes. With a button-click, riders are able to choose whether they want to ride in sport, urban, touring or enduro mode. Ducati promotes this revolutionary capability as making the Multistrada the most versatile bike ever, and as a way to reduce the number of cycles a rider might have in the garage for different uses. The company says the bike boasts several other technological advancements, such as electronic suspension adjustment and “ride-by-wire” throttle control.

But how many people really are ready to open their wallets right now, even for what Ducati calls “the hottest” new motorcycle on the market? Well, the company pre-sold 500 before its officially unveiling and expect to double that mark in the coming weeks, so it’s not like they’re about to become the VW Beatles of 21st Century motorcycles.

Electric Dominates Gas At AMA Motorcycle First

The Zero MX

Suspend your thoughts about the roar-and-vibration riding experience for a minute and consider a near silent hum instead, because electric bikes just kicked the caboodle out of gas powered motorcycles at the May 7 Minimoto Energy Crisiscross (ECX) in Las Vegas, Nevada.

It was the inaugural American Motocross Association sanctioned electricity vs. gas race, and electricity nabbed the first six spots, seven out of the top ten. Drew Gosselaar, riding a Quantya Track, took first place and riders on Zero MX bikes landed the next six at this AMA first.

The event matched these electric dirt bikes with comparable 150cc gas-powered cycles and while gas vehicles maintain many advantages over electric, the Energy Crisiscross results show that electric manufacturers are making strides.

The Quantya track boasts a top speed of about 43 mph, with a 30-90 minute run time and two-hour charge time. The Zero MX provides up to 23 horsepower, has a range of up to 40 miles and fully charges in about two hours.

If a person had a job less than 20 miles away, one could do worse than commuting on an electric street model motorcycle, some of which have top speeds up to and exceeding 65 mph and ranges closer to 50 miles.

Of course, they probably don’t produce much roar and vibrato.

Look Out! It’s Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

True vulnerability

Motorcycle awareness is critical this time of year, when the warming weather draws riders out onto roads they haven’t been seen on in months. That’s why May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness month.

Motorcycle organizations all over the U.S. are joining with local, state and federal agencies to remind motorists they need to be vigilant for the smallest automobiles on the road, which are harder to see and more vulnerable than a four-wheeled ride. The effort includes ads with lines like: “Bikers: Tough on the outside. Soft and squishy on the inside.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers several tips to keep motorcyclists safe.

  • Give motorcycles the full lane —never try to share
  • Check mirrors and blind spots at intersections and before changing lanes
  • Signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging
  • Don’t rely on mo­torcycle turn signals. Most don’t self-cancel and riders can forget
  • Give a motorcycle three or four sec­onds of following distance so it has room to maneuver in an emer­gency
  • Don’t tailgate. They can stop quicker than you
  • Don’t drive distracted

Unlike ever-improving car safety stats, motorcycle deaths have been on the upswing for several years now. Riding enthusiasts and government safety agencies are hoping riders and drivers will help reverse that trend.

Honda unveils aggressive incentives sale

Giving you some of the best deals around

Honda is normally not a big spender when it comes to incentive programs.  That changed when it started its “The Really Big Thing Sales Event,” which will run until May 3rd.  The deals are quite good: no money down and no security deposit required on all Honda car and truck leases.  Certain vehicles will also have either 0.9 or 1.9 percent APR financing options.

Honda’s goal is to provide consumers “a favorable money factor” while making a profitable cost reduction payout.  Spokesman Jon Fizsimmons stated that the automaker already has high residual values, so they are not financing the residual values of their cars.

The company is spending an estimated $204 million on the incentive program.  This is lower than their Japanese competitor, Toyota, who is spending about $395 million in April.  Both companies’ programs cost significantly less than American companies Ford and GM.

While it seems like Honda is recklessly spending when compared to their record, the cost is actually less than it seems.  The lowering cost of money and a used car market that is better than previous years make the actual money spent up from significantly lower for the company.  The program could have ill effects though, as reducing the price of a new Honda below the level of a used Honda could drive their current value down.

2010 Jaguar XJ a whole new animal

One of the meanest looking sedans around

The previous iterations of the Jaguar XJ, out of production for a year now, were built for comfort over performance.  With the 2010 model, it’s clear the British company is out to make a statement with its luxury sedan.  Using only the floorpan of previous models, the XJ is almost entirely new from the inside and out, and the result is noteworthy.

Jaguar previously constructed the XJ using spot welding.  For the 2010 model, engineers decided to use adhesives and rivets to piece the car together.  In total, 2,800 self-piercing rivets and 300 feet of bonded seams join the stamped aluminum pieces together.  This combination makes the body stiffer than the previous XJ.  The front subframe is also bolted directly to the chassis, allowing for a more precise suspension and sportier ride.  The car also takes its steering from Jaguar’s luxury sports car, the XKR, giving the XJ spirited drivability.

The XJ also receives three new versions of Jaguar’s 5.0-liter V8.  The base engine has an output of 385 horsepower and has a 0-60 mph of 5.4 seconds.  The regular supercharged version ups the ante to 470 hp and a 0.5 second drop in the 0-60 mph time, to 4.9 seconds.  The Supersport XJ gets a supercharged engine that boasts a 510 hp output and a 0-60 mpg time of 4.7 seconds.

While Jaguar lists the XJ’s competition as cars like the Mercedes-Benz S-class and the BMW 7-series, it might be safe to say that all the sporty additions to the car place it in the class of the Maserati Quattroporte and Porsche Panamerica.

China buys Volvo

Now China-owned

China recently bought the Volvo brand from Ford Motor Co.  The country’s Vice-President, Xi Jinping, spent a weekend in Sweden, where he penned a deal with Ford to purchase Volvo for $1.8B.  The Chinese automaker Geely Automobile now controls the long-standing Swedish brand.

Last year, China surpassed the United States as the world’s largest car market.  They have a desire to move into the U.S. and European markets, but lacked both the technology and the brand notoriety to adequately penetrate these already competitive markets.  With the acquisition of Volvo, China can now gain considerable footing, since the Swedish brand is well established.

China also plans to integrate the Western brand into their home market as well.  A spokesman for Geely said that while the company plans on maintaining Volvo’s current sales in Western markets, they plan on expanding the brand into a Chinese automotive presence.  Part of the plan includes opening a Chinese Volvo factory, which would support the factories the company has in Sweden and Belgium.

The acquisition bodes well for China, whose recent attempt to buy Hummer from GM fell through.  While $1.8B is far less than the $4.9B Ford paid for Volvo 11 years ago, spokesmen for Ford have stated that they are satisfied with the purchase and feel the price is fair.  Both parties hope to complete the transaction by the third quarter this year.

First Ferrari 458 Italia auctioned

One word to describe the auction winner: LUCKY

The first person to own the new Ferrari 458 Italia received his car at a charity gala on March 25th, 2010.  Held in a luxurious mansion in Beverly Hills, CA, the event was held for the Haiti relief efforts of the Catholic Medical Mission Board and the William J. Clinton Foundation.  The event held more than 500 bidders and was well attended by both industry people and celebrities: Marco Mattiacci, CEO of Ferrari North America; Piero Ferrari; Amedeo Ferrari, CEO of Ferrari; Patrick Dempsey; and John Mayer, who also performed for those in attendance, were among the people present.

Several notable Ferrari items were auctioned at the gala.  Among the items was the suit that Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso won the season opener in Bahrain sold for $35,000.  Also auctioned was a chance to be a part of Team Ferrari at F1 Montreal was sold for $21,000, a price that is so undervalued it should be criminal.

The 458 Italia was the last item to be auctioned.  The car has an MSRP of $220,000, but bidding started above that at a quarter million dollars.  To expect the price of a car with a 2 and a half year waiting period to be sold for anywhere close to the sticker price is simply ridiculous.  Bidding quickly doubled to $500,000, but then stalled as bidders reached their maximum price.  Egged on by TV host Joel McHale, the final price on the car crept up to $530,000 and was finally sold.  While three 458 Italias were on display at the event, the winner will have to wait until June, when the first cars are shipped to receive his new Ferrari.

Mercedes-Benz AMG unveils SLS GT3

Mercedes latest racecar, the SLS GT3

In commemoration of Mercedes-Benz’s victory in the 1952 Carrera Panamerica, AMG revealed its latest race car in Oaxaca, Mexico on March 22nd, 2010.  Based on the SLS, the new SLS GT3 is the newest edition to Mercedes’ line of homologated vehicles for GT3 class racing.

Many details about this new Mercedes model are still a mystery.  No one from the company has given a specific release date.  The press release for the SLS GT3 states a fall date, though AMG’s Thomas Rappel said that it will be released before 2011 racing season begins.  The final design of the vehicle remains in question as well.  The model at Oaxaca had a full roll cage, new split front skirt, rear diffusers, and a large rear wing.  There was also a hood extractor and widened fenders.

While the SLS GT3 will be based on the stock SLS drivetrain, Mercedes is withholding the final specifications until later this year.  Some insiders believe that the SLS will get a V8 engine pushing about 600 horsepower.  The SLS GT3 will be significantly lighter than the SLS, due to a stripped interior and carbon fiber body, but that does not mean the SLS won’t be quick by any means.

Federal rules mean higher technology standards in cars

Even subcompacts will benefit from new technology under federal ruling

With the federal government ruling that 2015 fleets of cars must meet a 35.5 mpg average, automakers will have to embrace new technology at a much higher level, making innovative or luxury options standard in most new vehicles.  While some experts say that current gasoline-powered engines could be improved to achieve up to 20% better fuel economy, these modifications would not be enough to raise many cars’ mpg ratings.

Cars achieving fuel economy close to the new average could see things like turbochargers, variable valve timing, and dual-clutch transmissions become standard technologies.  These items would boost the fuel efficiency of a conventional engine enough to help bolster the averages of certain fleets.

The new ruling may also fuel a dramatic increase in electric engine adoption in several lines of vehicles.  This could range from many cars receiving stop-start electric engines, possibly turning hybrid vehicles into the dominate vehicle type, to fully electric cars.  The biggest issue with electric technology is cost.  While they greatly improve efficiency, they are also more costly than the small gains made to conventional engines.

A last area where new technology could be implemented because of the new federal ruling is car design itself.  Instead of focusing strictly on style or aerodynamics, car designers must now also take into consideration the possible limitations of certain technologies.  Weight will also become a more notable design element, though weight-cutting materials like carbon fiber come with increased production costs.

New federal rules could increase 2015 car costs

Prepare to see prices increase in 2015

The latest federal rules issued for the 2015 automobile fleets are likely to drive the cost of cars up by at least $1,000, experts say.  The newest ruling ups the average from 27.5 mpg for cars and 23.1 mpg for light trucks to a fleet average of 35.5 mpg.  The ruling also requires automakers to implement new technology packages in every vehicle segment.  This challenges automakers to see who is best at curbing costs while integrating higher costing technology.

The federal rules force automakers out of utilizing generic technology for all of their vehicles.  Instead, each car category, or “footprint,” will receive their own unique technology set that will allow them to gain higher mileage while staying as close to their current price level as possible.

For the more inexpensive footprints, like subcompacts, the new rulings mean technologies like electric power steering, dual clutch transmissions, and variable valve timing will mostly likely become standard.  For big pickup trucks, this means more diesel engine vehicles, which can keep up with the increased mpg standard while delivering the same payload and hauling capabilities.

Experts from both the automobile industry and environmental groups agree that the new rulings will increase the cost of vehicles.  For lower priced cars, the increase will most likely be between $1,000-2,000.  For trucks requiring diesel engines, this could mean an $8,000-9,000 increase.