Kawasaki bikes dept heads inspired by Malaysia

Kawasaki bikes dept heads inspired by Malaysia

A visit to Malaysia by Keishi Fukumoto, design head, and Keiichi Morohara, product planning head, of Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) has seen both key personnel of KHI’s Motorcycle and Engine Company draw inspiration and insight for future motorcycle designs. Fukumoto who has been chief of the styling section since 2007, is responsible for designs that influenced modern motorcycles, such as the Kawasaki ZX-9R and the Kawasaki H2R.

Meanwhile, Morohara is no stranger to South-East Asia, having been part of KHI’s Asia General Department Planning Division before his current post as well as directly involved with Kawasaki Racing Team‘s (KRT) efforts in the World Superbike Championship (WSBK) and the Asia Road Racing Championship (ARRC). Morohara received KHI’s President’s Commendation Level 1 for KRT’s championship winning seasons three years running, in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

The visit saw Fukumoto and Morohara intending to gain an insight into Malaysian motorcycle culture whilst bringing back inspiration to Japan for designs that will suit local riding conditions. “One thing I see, neh, Malaysia riders, they ride very fast, always full throttle,” says Morohara with a laugh.

Kawasaki bikes dept heads inspired by Malaysia

Presenting KHI’s philosophy on motorcycle styling, Fukumoto elaborated on Kawasaki’s “Sugomi” design ethos, emphasising key points that shaped KHI’s bikes in the past and do so going forward. Four key design points embodying every current day Kawasaki Ninja and ‘Z’ motorcycles are dynamism, muscle, motion and power, something Fukumoto says goes back to the very first Ninja, the legendary 1984 Kawasaki GPz900R of “Top Gun” movie fame.

Touching on the H2R, the world’s fastest production motorcycle, Fukumoto says the design concept was never driven by market needs but a case of style following speed. In order to achieve the H2R’s published 300-plus km/h top speed, the design was sent to KHI Aerospace for wind tunnel testing to reiterate the final design as we know it today, in the form of the Kawasaki H2R, H2, Z H2 and H2SX.

Kawasaki bikes dept heads inspired by Malaysia

With the move to vehicle electrification worldwide, as well as the racing world in the MotoGP Moto-E class and IoMTT, Morohara says Kawasaki’s current electric motorcycle project, the EV Endeavor, will lead to new technology from Kawasaki. The motorcycle maker is intensively studying electric motorcycles, notably in the areas of battery and motor technology with the intent of producing vehicles suited for the coming trend change in vehicle power plants.

Rounding out the lunch meeting, organised by Kawasaki distributor in Malaysia Edaran Modenas (EMOS), Morohara said one design idea he will be taking back to Japan with him, and applying to future motorcycle design, is the prevalence of the geometric Islamic design motif present in local architecture.

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Mohan K Ramanujam

Coming with diverse and extensive experience in heavy engineering, Mohan enjoys making anything with wheels go fast, especially motorcycles. His weapon of choice is the Desmoquattro engine, and he has a penchant for anything with a dash of Italian design. Strangely enough, he insists he's a slow rider.



  • Mr. Sotong on May 19, 2022 at 2:07 pm

    Kawasaki need to make some supercubs to go against Honda and Yamaha and rebuild their fanbase here.

    But probably their JV agreement with Modenas stopped them from being in the kapchai market….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0
    • Doesnt stop them from selling in other markets. Indonesia, Vietnam, Phil, are major motor users so Kawasaki coulda develop for those but they did not. It is more likely Kawasaki are targeting a different market segments than those two brands so it has nothing to do with Modenas.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0
      • donno on May 20, 2022 at 8:50 am

        It has everything to do with Modenas.

        Kawasaki does not own a motorcycle company in Indonesia, Vietnam, Phil.

        Now in malaysia, it owns Modenas.

        In the whole wide world, Kawasaki only owns 2 other brands. Modenas in Malaysia and BIMOTA in Italy. Kawasaki needs to have major plans for both of these brands for them to grow.

        BIMOTA is a premium brand, with quirky styling and fitted with small batch machined parts.

        Modenas is a brand of small bikes famous not just in ASEAN, but has quite a following in Europe (Greece). Its name has even graced MotoGP bikes with the Modenas KR3.

        A business model Kawasaki can emulate is KTM. How it reformed the Husqvarna with basically KTM Dukes with different body covers.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0
        • Brian on May 20, 2022 at 11:35 am

          Modenas can sell lower ranged bikes because they rebadge Chinese & Indian motors. Just coz Kawasaki has no mopeds to sell is not Modenas fault.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2
          • donno on May 20, 2022 at 11:59 am


            Original Modenas Kriss 110 is Kawasaki Kaze 110

            Modenas Jaguh is Kawasaki Eliminator 175

            Modenas GT128 and Dinamik 120 is also based on Kawasaki bikes.

            Modenas lately lost its way and rebadged chinese and indian bikes. Kawasaki need to put modenas back to profit with proper kawasaki based bikes.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1
  • 4G63T DSM on May 19, 2022 at 3:30 pm

    With the Modenas tie up, the whole Kawasaki brand is left in limbo.

    No news whatsoever what the direction is and complete absence of any new bikes. Such a pity a good brand like this is left dead in the water.

    If KTM and Modenas can sell boatloads of the 390 and Dominar, why is Kawasaki not bringing in the 400twins? Certainly it’s not the B2 license limit anymore. And where is the ZX25r and the rumoured zx4r?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1
  • Kapchai on May 19, 2022 at 4:48 pm

    Absolutely correct.

    Only Malaysian Rider full throttled,
    Which is the major factor of high accident rate Malaysia too.

    The Taiwanese, Japanese, Thai, Indon, Cambodians, Vietnamese,
    They will not full throttle for normal daily ride.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1
  • donno on May 19, 2022 at 5:23 pm

    My advice to Fukumoto-san and Morohara-san, forget about inserting geometric Islamic design motif. It does not matter. At all.

    What matters for Malaysian motorcycle buyers is this :

    – Your bestseller model in Malaysia needs to be seen as a status symbol for the B40 income group. This is the most important point of all – status symbol for the B40 income group . The target you need to beat is the Yamaha Y15. It needs to be 150cc cub underbone, cost around rm10k range, fast, premium looks, with limited editions once in a while, ridden by influencers. Design influenced by current Z650/Z900 is good enough.

    – Historically the of the most wanted kawasaki bikes in malaysia was the KRR-150 KIPS and the ZXR-250. Because we malaysians love speed at affordable price. Many looked forward to the KRR-150 replacement, the Ninja 250SL, but Kawasaki designed the bike with serious flaws and bad quality control that nobody now want to even touch that bike, which is a shame. As for the successor to the ZXR-250, we are still waiting for the ZX-25R.

    – in recent years the ER-6 and Versys single handedly conquered the big bike sales in malaysia. Why? Price. Now with the increase in price, the sales has dropped significantly.

    – more on price. With Modenas level of localisation, what range do we expect?
    – low cost moped less than rm4k
    – premium 150cc moped rm10k
    – a very updated Ninja 250SL at rm15k
    – Ninja 250 at rm20k
    – ZX-25R at rm30k
    – Ninja 650/Z650 at rm32k
    – Versys 650 at rm36k but with accessories included like sidebox.

    – a side note, many malaysian riders love “retro” styling. But what we think of “retro” is not the same as the europeans. To them it is the 70s styling, like the Z650RS (which is beautiful BTW). But to many malaysians, it is the 80s styling, something like the design of the ZRX1200 or even the original “darth vader” GPZ900. Say a Z400 fitted with the bodywork inspired by the ZRX1200, or even the Z400 fitted with 80s style BIMOTA inspired full fairing and named as a BIMOTA would surely sell like hot cakes here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 36 Thumb down 0
    • momoto on May 19, 2022 at 9:50 pm

      BIMOTA- branded Z400 bike?

      Yes please!

      Take the normal Z400 engine and chassis.

      Wrap it with BIMOTA KB4, Suzuki GS1200SS or Walt Siegl MV BOL D’OR style fairings.

      Put CNC’ed swingarm, footrest brackets, triple clamps. Ohlins Thailand monoshocks. ZARD license-badged exhaust muffler.

      Make it limited edition built by Modenas, for malaysia and japan market only.

      Ooh that would be wonderful!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0
    • donno on May 20, 2022 at 9:10 am

      Oh yes, we malaysians love speed.

      So we love our mopeds and kapchais that looks like it can go racing in an instant.

      Designs and shapes inspired by real race bikes, MotoGP, also design elements of premium superbikes like radial brakes, separate brake resevoirs, sporty shaped rear view mirrors, carbon look parts here and there, sharp rear end shape, racebike alloy wheel designs (this is another malaysian quirk, we are crazy about bike wheels and change wheels on our bikes like we do on cars)

      We see canards and wings on latest MotoGP bikes, if Kawasaki puts them on its 150cc moped, then your bike is the coolest bike out there.

      If your wheels have major brand name stamped on it (enkei, marchesini etc.) many malaysians will buy your bike simply because of that fact. Wheels with brand names (especially enkei) sells bikes in malaysia better than anything.

      If kawasaki comes out with a 150cc moped limited edition Kawasaki Factory Racing WSBK colours with certificate and limited edition number on each bike, many will simply buy as investment and stored inside their homes.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0
    • donno on May 20, 2022 at 9:45 am

      If Kawasaki really serious to turn around Modenas.

      Make the development of modenas 150cc super moped the highest priority for Kawasaki. Maybe start from scratch, and use a kawasaki engine.

      Infuse the exernal design of the bike with Kawasaki “Sugomi” design ethos. Current Modenas designers taste are junk. Stick on as much wings that you can to emulate the looks of MotoGP bikes. Must have legshield like Yamaha Y15 and Honda RSX, not bare open like Suzuki Raider 150.

      Small headlights in the bodywork (like honda RSX)

      Full digital meters.

      Fuel tank of 6-7 liters. Many use them for long range commute.

      Need to have space to put “bakul” or storage basket in between the legs. This is another quirky but very important point for malaysians. A big reason why Y15 is so popular but not the Y16.

      Separate front brake reservoir for the big superbike feel and look. If possible radial front brake calipers too.

      Purposely highlight the brands of your monoshock and front forks. If KYB, make sure the brand can be clearly seen. Same with brake parts etc.

      Wheels. This is probably the most important part. Malaysian bikers are crazy with wheels. It must look like wheels on a race bike. If Kawasaki can get Enkei to make the wheels, go with enkei and make sure enkei brand can be clearly seen and plastered all over the wheels. Malaysian consumers will go crazy about it. Many will ditch the Yamaha Y15 or honda RSX just because you can offer original enkei wheels on your bike.

      If you do limited editions, put on different wheels along with different graphics. Malaysians will go gaga just because of the wheels.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 0
    • Aikon on May 20, 2022 at 3:29 pm

      I like your train of thought!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1
    • anthropology on May 23, 2022 at 8:51 am

      This person’s understanding of the why’s of the malaysian motorcycle user is interesting especially for the B40 group. Describing it better than most motorcycle journalist out there.

      The Y15 is the current status symbol of the B40 group is spot-on. Especially the millenials and Gen Z of the B40 group. For these youngsters, you have “made it” if you are seen with a Yamaha Y15, with limited edition Arai or Shoei open face helmets, and an IPhone 13 in your pocket.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0
  • Michael on May 19, 2022 at 5:42 pm

    Kawa is late in introducing zx250r 4 cylinder in Malaysia. The team that lost the Kawa distributorship in Malaysia must be laughing with their new encouraging sales of Suzuki Raider FI, etc. If you are late, you only have excuses.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
  • Wong kexing on May 19, 2022 at 11:05 pm

    I wonder why modenas take over kawasaki stakehoder since the previous kawasaki sunrock Malaysia was the sole manufacturer company was doing well all this while but selling the Japanese company to malay company entity its a big mistake but l can guarantee it will be a blunder for the malay company to run for the money in the short period of time

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 7
  • AZAMIRUDDIN AHMAD on May 20, 2022 at 7:50 am

    Please bring in your latest middle weight 650cc motorbike.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1
  • Dollah Dolleng on May 21, 2022 at 5:03 am

    The design and the looks are not much different from current model in the market…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

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