Here's the thing, though...someone needs to. Because even Harley riders like motorsports (even if it's only NASCAR), and if there are no sponsors, there is no racing. And even if not one single H-D owner gives one whit about MotoGP, they still benefit from the series.
Would the Sporty be rubber-mounted without Buell figuring it out first? Would Buell have even needed to figure it out (or refine it) without ProThunder or Formula XTreme? For that matter, would Buell even exist as we know it (or at all, for that matter) without racing, and the lessons it teaches? What about the new dog-ring tranny on the Sporty, that they borrowed from Buell, that Buell learned from racing (well, and from BMW)? And the new six-speed in the Dyna: could they have done it without the fruits of racing? Sure. WOuld they have?
Someone needs to make sportbikes, because even though I've owned two Harleys, and think they're great for what they are, and wouldn't mind having another, I just can't bring myself to ride something that is, performance-wise, engineered to the lowest common denominator, no matter how good they look.
At a minimum, racing drives development at those companies that compete against Harley. And while I like Harley (even used to own the stock, before i got poor) I do not think that "development cycle" is in their vocabulary. I do not think that they (or any company) would spend too much money on bettering the product without competition. Success in competition has historically been had from the ownership of superior product. Advance in product has come largely from racing.
--Historical digression...from distance racing Indian developed the closed-loop "recirculating" oil system. Harley did not choose to adapt to catch up. Instead, they started an ad campaign to the effect that "Why would anyone want to recirculate the oil? Then dirty oil gets into the engine. Harley's total-loss oiling system is better, for the reason that fresh oil is always suppied to the engine.-- Has their attitude changed substantively? If not, why not? If so, how much of that change is due to evolution of corporate culture, and how much is due merely to the application of outside force, namely competition? Lastly, contrast the entrenched attitude, or "corporate culture", at Harley versus that at Honda, by way of semi-random example, with specific reference to development and advance in product function. (Big Red because the corporate culture there, as built and directed by Soichiro, centered about racing and excellence in product development. Form, usually sadly lacking, if any, followed distantly behind function.)
And by the way, I am also convinced that the reason they made no money building sportbikes (VR1000) was due to lack of will, not lack of ability. Can they build a performance engine, when they apply themselves? Yes. Witness the V-Rod. Can they build a truly sport-quality chassis, with the application of focused intent? Yes. Witness the XB chassis.
So while I do not want to have to try to make money building sportbikes, I sure am glad someone does.
Troube with all your theorizing, is the 'development cycle' is now backwards. Indian raced motorcycles that were already in production. So did Harley. Modern sportbike makers make race bikes so they can get into production. Back in the day, everyone raced modified forms of standard motorcycles, and the factory would pick up on the improvement, and the standard motorcycle is improved, just like Buell does today. Remember Superbike back in the 70's and early 80's?? They already sell what they raced. Get it? Building a race bike FIRST and then trying to produce it LATER is a money loser. It loses money for the Japanese, and for anyone else stupid enough to go that route. I'm glad you are happy everyone races. I just pointed out why Harley doesn't build sportbikes in the back-asswards development method all the Chapter 11 candidates do. They don't feel like flushing billions down the toilet so they can be bailed out of bankruptcy every year just to say they have a racing team.
Husky races because they're good at it. They build top quality dirt/mx bikes and they have trophies to prove their worth. Cagiva hasn't built a bike for racing outside the 250cc class for longer than I can remember, so development of race machines is not their bread and butter. MV, on the otherhand, build bikes that can race in the superstock level and maybe even the superbike level but the cost of racing is too high to develop such a machine. Harley (as brought up earlier) quit supebike racing because the cost was too high. They pay Terry Vance to make sure HD bikes go reallllly fast in a straight line (and they do). Eric Buell likes going in a straight line, too, but is still enamored with road courses. Triumph (who has money and R&D) wanted to go racing but saw the out of control cost and said hey we think we'll stick with triples and twins and call it a day. So, in the end a great motorcycle comany will cease to exist because R&D doesn't work in Proton's bottom line. Maybe those Texans that owned part of Ducati could buy MV and work the motorcycle magic once again.....
Even if you race a bike that is so advanced/oddball/useless-in--the-world as to be unsellable, it can still (and very frequently does) throw off tech that trickles down, thus improving the gene pool of the showroom models. The development cycle backwards? That doesn't seem logically possible. The parts and computer codes must be developed before they're put on the bike, even the one-off racing bike.
As to your well-put comment about chap-11 candidates...I think you'd concede they're a different case. The big factories race to a) produce trickle-down tech, b) to torture-test that tech for production readiness, and c) gain publicity. I contend that if the Big 4 were as bad at it (money-wise) as you seem to say (or as you say Harley evidently was) they'd be out of business. I therefore must conclude (not theorize) that there must be some quantifiable benefit to the Big 4 from racing that outweighs the cost. I further conclude that Harley's racing was unprofitable because it was the one arena in which their marketing department couldn't translaate the benefits to the customer base. Enter Buell, both the man and the company, to lend credibility to the ethos of product development for its own sake.
Now, as to the Chapter-11 candidates that you mention. There are two possible cases. First, that these men are unserious, that racing is such a passion for them, any smidgen of profitability is disregarded in favor of racing, in the big legues, at all costs, especially the costs of other people's money. These would deserve bankruptcy, and more, disgrace.
The second case is that these men are taking the ultimate gamble. If they, like ninety-nine per cent of their peers, lose, oh well, into the dust-bin of history they go. But if they win, even one race, suddenly they're Andrew Carnegie. For these men, usually ex-recers themselves, the idea of retiring to a life of mediocrity, maybe writing for a magazine or signing tee-shirts at the shows, is unthinkable. They are competitors. It's arguably the ultimate combination of American capitalism and American Perseverence and Ingenuity. I may not be such a man. But, as I said, I sure am glad they exist.
And you never answered my questions about comparative corporate culture. In sum, where would Harley be, development wise, without foreign competition? (Or, for that matter, would they *be* at all without protective tarriffs from The Gipper?) I contend that Harley's culture is "Why develop what can be advertised?" And I'd love to hear a cohesive, logical argument to otherwise explain H-D's progress and course.
Without competition, Harley would have had to upgrade, or be out of business. They were failing in the 60's because of outdated design and poor quality control, which is why they sold out to AMF to begin with. They were losing ground to the British, and their bikes weren't much better, if any better at all. Harley would also be doing exactly what they always did; cater to their customers, and not to the masses that will never buy their product. focus on your target audience is what it's all about for anyone. Harley makes a world class product with world-wide appeal. There is no denying that fact. The Japanese, on the other hand, don't even ride what they sell. Motorcycle riders in Japan are at an all-time low, so what type of 'corporate culture' do they have? At least Harleys are made BY riders, FOR riders. They aren't made in some corporate office by Japanese guys that have no interest in the sport other than technical specifications and winning races. You seem to confuse technology with worth, and nothing could be farther than the truth, at least for me. All those technological marvels all end up in the junkyard before their time is due, because it's machinery that has no soul and no purpose other than to go fast, and when it goes slower than the next model, it's worthless. We don't live on a racetrack, so the real world of stopsigns, traffic, and speed limits lets us know every day how impractical these bikes can become. I like fast bikes too. I have owned a CBX, ZX9, V-Max, TL1000S, just to name a few, and currently own a Hayabusa. I still own my 1976 Superglide, and will never sell it. It's a piece of junk to most, but that bike has more of what motorcycing is about than all the GSXR's in the world. Lots of people think bikes should be made for the real world and simple and satisfying. I guess that's as cohesive and logical an argument as I can give. Willie G. is out at every rally getting ideas and living with the people that buy the product. Where is the president of Honda these days? Eric Buell has BRAG rides that he goes on every year. Where is the Prez of Yamaha? That tells you everything you need to know about the 'corporate culture'. One makes bikes made for the people that buy them and the other makes bikes they hope you buy.
Regardless of the form of racing, one thing will always hold true: Technology from racing trickles down to every on and off road vehicle made. Harley has the money to race but does not need to race to sell bikes. This will only last so long. With EPA rules changing it will only be a matter of time before the push rod/ air cooled motor is gone. Harley must come up with a V-twin watercooled motor to survive. The V-rod motor (as cool as it is) is not the motor Harley will use for the furture. They need a new approach (which I am sure they are already working on) to insure success. Problem is that when they develop this motor the only real test bed is selling the product to the consumer. The TC88 motor had flaws the first go around. If HD had a race development team then the failures of parts could have been detected much sooner. HD, however, is not in the racing business and no matter how hard they work they will always be a step behind their competition. Anyway you cut it, racing helps the entire industry. The faster they develop and test parts the faster they get to the consumer. HD will always have a sales base but is it realistic to say 10 years from now that the sales will maintain 300k+ units a year. Highly unlikely since the market is flooded with used HD products as we speak.
Maybe the reason why MV isn't making a decent go of it is because of the price of their bikes. An F4 1000S has an MSRP of $21,495 according to their website. It's gorgeous, but the GSX-R1000 out performs it. I know I'm cheap, but I have a feeling a lot of others share my opinion about relative value. You price something over $20,000 and you've greatly limited the number of potential customers for something that most people see as a toy.
As soon as I heard a Rune was going to go for $25,000, I knew it would be a failure. And that was before I knew how ridiculous it looked.
"They aren't made in some corporate office by Japanese guys that have no interest in the sport other than technical specifications and winning races." Now theres a sweeping generalization.
As a passionate motorcyclist, who also happens to be a proud Japanese-American, Im compelled to illuminate the miss-informed. The Japanese (as well as the Italians, Germans, Brits, and Aussies) are just as passionate about their craft as the good folks in Milwaukee who do indeed make fine bikes. Tadao Baba, David Robb, Fabio Taglioni, Arlen Ness, and yes Willie G. are all passionate about motorcycles. Is each and every employee of the Big Four passionate about motorcycles? Probably not. But Ill wager the same can be said about The Motor Company.
Please do me and the other forum readers a favor. I respectfully request that you think twice before you write potentially offensive generalizations about a culture or people of which you clearly know little (if anything) about. As motorcyclists, we are unfairly stereotyped every day. Lets not be guilty of the same ignorance on this forum.
UPDATE: Malaysia's Proton Sells Augusta Stake For EUR1
KUALA LUMPUR (Dow Jones)--Proton Holdings Bhd. said Tuesday an Italian financial holding company has bought its entire stake in motorcycle maker MV Augusta SPA for a nominal EUR1.
The move will allow Malaysia's loss-making state-owned automaker to reduce its liabilities and refocus on its core activity of making cars after a yearlong investment in the Italian specialty motorcycle maker.
Proton sold its 57.8% stake in Augusta to Gevi SPA, which will assume Augusta's EUR106.9-million debt and EUR32.5-million working capital requirements, the Malaysian company said in a statement.
The sale was "consistent with Proton's direction of divesting non-core assets," the automaker said.
Proton rescued Augusta in 2004 by injecting EUR70 million into the maker of Cagiva, Agusta and Husqvarna brands of high-end motorcycles - a move that surprised many analysts.
The divestment will allow Proton to focus on making cars and returning to profit after losing MYR154.3 million ($40.8 million), partially because of MYR90 million in provisions for Augusta, in the quarter ended Sept. 30.
"This is a good move as it allows Proton to clean up its books," said an analyst at a Kuala Lumpur-based European bank who declined to be named.
Proton said the sale "is not expected to have any effect on earnings," echoing Chairman Azlan Hashim's remarks in November that no further provisions are likely.
Ahead of the market opening Tuesday, Proton suspended trade in its shares, which last traded at MYR6.15 and have sunk nearly 32% this year.
I'll say what I please and when I please. If you are offended that is your problem. I said Willie G rides every day and is accessable at every major rally in America. So is Eric Buell. That is a FACT. I said the Japanese corporate types don't mingle with the masses. That is a FACT. Show me ONE Japanese exec that does ride and show up at rallies and actually walks among those that ride, and I'll take back what I said. Give me any link, article, or anything you can find. Since you supposedly know so much, that should be easy. Until then, don't call me ignorant, you jerkoff. Prove me wrong or shut up.