2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R… Recall

ZX-10R Technical Recall

"Newer. Faster. Lighter. Better. You hear these descriptors all the time in this business. Problem is, reality rarely lives up to the hype. But Kawasaki’s new-from-the-ground-up 2011 Ninja ZX-10R sportbike has no such credibility gap." Kawasaki.com states.

On December 11, Kawasaki Motors Corp. USA announced that "Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. is placing a technical hold on the 2011 Ninja ZX-10R sportbike. The company is proactively addressing a remedy which reflects Kawasaki’s commitment to excellence and its relationships with its highly valued customers and dealer network."

The following actions are being initiated through the Kawasaki motorcycle dealer network:

Unsold units will be returned to KMC warehouses. The units will be redistributed once Kawasaki is 100 percent confident they reflect company standards for this highly technical, race-bred machine.

Those who have taken delivery of a unit will be instructed to return the unit to the dealership for a full refund and will be among the first to have the option of receiving a new unit once the technical hold has been lifted.

On December 14, Kawasaki Europe released this statement handed to me by Kawasaki Motors UK: "Following its recent successful Press Launch in Qatar, the European sales introduction of the 2011 model Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R has been rescheduled for the company to resolve a technical issue."

"In order to meet Kawasaki’s long established reputation for precision engineered products, the sales introduction of the new machine has been temporarily postponed. Kawasaki will announce a revised sales start date in due course."

The next day I sent an email to Kawasaki Europe, and then Kawasaki UK, asking for clarification on all potential issues with the 2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R. I then proceeded to call both Kawasaki Europe’s Marketing Manager Jan Willem van der Straten, the Norwegian Kawasaki importer and Kawasaki UK in an attempt to get some answers to avoid speculation.

Despite calling van der Straten on both mobile phone and office phone, I could only reach a receptionist and van der Straten has not yet responded to my email on the matter. The other press officers I attempted to contact were all in meetings and no one else in the company was willing to talk. This is obviously a sensitive matter.

Then on Dec. 16th Martin Lambert Communication and PR Manager from Kawasaki UK sent me the official statement along with this comment to my questions: "At the current time we have no further statement, when information becomes available I will make sure it is passed on to you."

My questions included: Why did you issue a Technical Hold even before most markets have bikes? What exactly are the issue/issues with the 2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R? Are the bikes from your Qatar launch the same as the batch that now are on a technical hold? They remain unanswered.

I reported on the problems Aprilia had last year with the RSV4 R model where engines blew up at the Mugello launch. Engineers were not afraid to talk and immediately told me what they thought to be the problem and later this was specified.

The problem lay with a sub-supplier of engine parts and Aprilia fixed the problem and re-launched the bike losing something in the range of 50K Euro. This may very well be a similar experience for Kawasaki and parts may be replaced as a fix.

A Technical Hold seems to be a very drastic measure if this problem is only related to one single bike. Kawasaki are fully aware that the ZX-10R will be suspect to full scrutiny once it is out in the open so future customers should rest assured that Kawasaki will fix all the issues and come back stronger than ever.

My concerns with this unfortunate event are that it is difficult to obtain information from Kawasaki and the transparency of the company I therefore question. There is no doubt in my mind that the full extent of issues will be made public at some point, so why not get them out of the way straight away?

It may well be that Kawasaki is not fully aware of the problem and will not be until engine parts are x-rayed and further tests performed. But, they must know roughly what happened to at least one ZX-10R and that shouldn’t be such a big secret.

It excites everyone that manufacturers launch motorcycles with enormous horsepower figures. A motorcycle such as the 2011 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R stands as the most technical advanced vehicles we could dream of. Recent problems such as this Technical Hold prove that it is not easy to compete in this segment.

What we really don’t want is for manufacturers to be too optimistic with their claims and estimates. Horsepower and technical advances are marketing tool number one in the superbike segment and on this occasion it looks as if the hype has pushed the ZX-10R slightly over the edge.

Kawasaki makes great motorcycles and I have never had a bad word to say after testing. Let’s hope they can recover from this as quickly as possible and start delivering the long-awaited 2011 Ninja ZX-10R.