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Farewell Kentucky Kid

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2006 MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden aka the Kentucky Kid has passed away at the age of 35 after suffering a cycling accident last week in Rimini, Italy. The support for him from the motorsport community was huge. Even Aussie supercars had #gonicky hashtag stickers on their cars. Hayden was universally liked on and off the track.

Hayden’s death comes a month after Michele Scarponi, a veteran Italian professional cyclist, was killed after being hit by a van while out on a training ride.

Tommy Hayden issued the following message following the death of his brother,

On behalf of the whole Hayden family and Nicky’s fiancée Jackie I would like to thank everyone for their messages of support – it has been a great comfort to us all knowing that Nicky has touched so many people’s lives in such a positive way.

“Although this is obviously a sad time, we would like everyone to remember Nicky at his happiest – riding a motorcycle. He dreamed as a kid of being a pro rider and not only achieved that but also managed to reach the pinnacle of his chosen sport in becoming World Champion. We are all so proud of that.

“Apart from these ‘public’ memories, we will also have many great and happy memories of Nicky at home in Kentucky, in the heart of the family. We will all miss him terribly.”

Jack Miller walks away unscathed- how you might ask?

Aussie Moto GP rider Jack Miller had a huge off in Free Practice 4 at the French GP. Coming off the start/finish straight he lost control at 300km/h and was flung off after hitting a wall. Prognosis – shaken not stirred. A good advert for Dainese airbag leathers and AGV helmets.

14m Japanese pensioners behind the wheel. 1.6m over 80yo

Car licenses

The Japanese National Police Agency (JNPA) has recorded 6 million extra pension aged drivers in Japan over the age of 65 in the last decade. The total is now 14.2mn. The number of 80yo+license holders has reached 1.6 million. Over the last decade the total number of licenses has not changed much but the age composition is definitely skewed to the elderly. I was waiting at the front door of the Roads & Traffic Authority the day I was able to apply for a license. It seems that Japanese kids are not as excited to get freedom on four wheels. There are 6.8mn fewer driver’s licence holders aged under 40 over the last decade.

The worry for the police is the growing incidence of traffic accidents involving elderly drivers.

The changing face of the global motorbike market

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Earlier in the week we touched on the 1,800,000 fall in the number of Japanese who possess a large capacity motorcycle license. The status of the Japanese motorcycle companies makes for some interesting comparisons. Honda remains the largest global manufacturer with over 17.7 million units produced annually. Yamaha has seen a c.1mn unit decline over the last 5 years but a jump in the average profitability of its bikes. Suzuki has cut production by almost 50% as it continues to rack up losses and Kawasaki has stuck to a large bike bias which has stabilised profitability. Here is a look at the state of revenue growth over the last 5 years among major listed motorcycle manufacturers.

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Profitability is a different picture among the global makers. Suzuki has been struggling to make a profit, Kawasaki has drifted down but remained in the black. Honda has been outpaced by Yamaha and among the foreign makers BMW Motorrad and KTM have beaten Harley-Davidson’s performance.

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The foreign makers are all much smaller scale than the Japanese and tend to focus in the larger engine size segments. Harley-Davidson has suffered the most among the 5 big players in terms of unit growth. KTM, followed by BMW Motorrad have made the biggest relative gains.

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Looking at average EBIT/unit produced yields starkly different results. Harley nets around $3,000 per motorcycle in EBIT with BMW around half of that amount at €1,285 ($1,430) with KTM half of that. Kawasaki makes the most per motorcycle among the Japanese on a unit basis. Honda has remained relatively stable at $103 (although we should note that this is closer to $170 as the consolidated production number is about 10m units and the global number including equity method companies is the 17.7m) and Yamaha at $64.  These are ridiculously low numbers and of course identifying mix within that would yield far more healthy results for certain models and losses on others.

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One thing it points out is that focused strategies appear to be paying off for the Europeans and to some extent Kawasaki which has moved away from a me too approach. Efficiency and brand seems to be paying off for BMW’s continued rise and a broad range of product unlike Harley which seems to be stuck in a divine franchise scenario. Profitable but struggling to break out of cruisers. It has had a stab at sports bikes through Buell (business was spun off and EBR has since closed) and the Porsche designed V-Rod (now out of production). Now that Ducati is potentially being sold by Audi, does Harley look to use a proper sports brand with no clash in its line up to fuel (no pun intended) its growth?

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When the gods return the favour of looking after them

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After seeing the aftermath and folly of the Fukushima reactor meltdown, the Entsuin Temple gardens in the coastal town of Matsushima in Miyagi Pref. offers a tranquil place to unwind. It was the Zuiganji temple next door that decided a year before the tsunami to fortify the structure in case of a big quake. What foresight. Not only that the tsunami actually stopped at its doorstep and no further.

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東北へ

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From Sunday I will be doing a major ‘picture book’ follow up to my Tohoku piece of 5 years ago. It will be a before and after snapshot of how far the devastated areas have developed. This will be my steed, kindly arranged by BMW Motorrad Japan. Of course I will review the bike. It is the new R1200GS Rallye Sport. It is only one evening I’ve had it – verdict so far – way above already high expectations – さすが!

The French voted for their interests, not yours!

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One of the persistent memes, posts and social media commentaries I’ve read in the last few days on Macron’s win feature ‘thank you France’,  ‘you’ve spared another Trump’ or similar prose. The fact that some feel compelled to write in such ways speaks volumes to their self-assessed sense of shared intellectual superiority despite not being citizens. The French democratically elected Macron. Not the foreigner. The end. It is not our moral duty to tell the French or any other country’s citizens how to vote. You can be assured those that voted for him had their own interests in mind, not yours when they cast their ballot. Do you think the Brits thought for a second they might upset the Americans if they didn’t follow Obama’s wise words of ‘Remain‘ leading into Brexit? Not a chance in hell. In fact his comments saw ‘Leave’ polling surge. Do you think the 10.6mn French that voted for Le Pen were thinking of those in Athens, Madrid or Brussels as the ticked her name? Even those French that voted for Macron would roll their eyes in frustration if you butchered their language in your polite attempt to communicate in pidgin-French. So thanking them would be viewed as a VTFF moment.

We shouldn’t forget that 25% of French voters didn’t bother showing up, probably because neither choice fitted their bill.  So Macron’s 66% could actually be less than 50% of total voters. Maybe Le Pen’s 34% was much higher if those non-voters were held at gunpoint? Perhaps lower? We won’t know but only the French get to decide. Our pontifications mean little to the French. If I decide to vote for One Nation or cast a donkey vote in the next Aussie federal election I would not care a jot what anyone else thought. I wouldn’t care for threats of defriending which was a common occurrence during the lead up to the US election. My vote is for me, not you. Your vote is yours not mine. I have no obligation to give you my vote. You have no obligation to vote for my choice.

Listen to the recent protests about rescinding the voting rights of the elderly because they supposedly sold out their grandkids. Name one time your grandparents deliberately acted against your well being? Ice cream and chocolates are excluded. Although that is evidence of blind love so intentionally in your favour. We can take it to the bank that the elderly were acting and will always act, using their multiple decades of experience, in the best interests of their family’s economic and financial future. They haven’t suffered a bout of Alzheimer’s and sought to elect someone that will punish them.

To suggest the French result is a defeat for populism and the far-right couldn’t be more wishful thinking if it tried.  As written several days back I argued it was a massive win for Le Pen, in fact so much so that if Macron is just Hollande-lite that 2022 could be a Le Pen victory. Doubling her father’s achievement is no mean feat. 10.6mn rejecting the EU should be a massive red flag. However in 2022 the French will line up at the ballot box and vote with the party or candidate that will best represent them. They’ll care not for your posturing and posts telling them how to vote.

For a man that plays the EU anthem over La Marseillaise should tell us something about the next 5 years. The 34% will likely be ignored. Potentially a slug of the 25% that didn’t vote may be neglected as well. I won’t be surprised when you write ‘WTF France?’, ‘how could you be so stupid France?‘ If Macron doesn’t look after enough of his citizens they’ll eventually gang up and fire him. Perhaps there is the folly in your tidings of praise – sitting in your comfortable study tapping away salutations missing the plight of the have nots continuing unabated. Thanks for nothing!