Harley-Davidson is Trading Loud Combustion Engines for Quiet Electricity
You know the old saying “when pigs fly”? How about “when Hogs go electric” instead. However, in a stunning move, the latter is actually happening.
Harley-Davidson is pursuing the electric motorcycle market. The company announced the plan on Tuesday during an earnings call to bring an all-electric motorcycle to marketing in the next 18 months.
Ironically, this plan was announced with the news of additional job cuts and plant closures. The slumping US motorcycle market is forcing the company to close their Kansas City plant and consolidate their York, Pennsylvania facility. In total, 260 jobs will be cut.
The announcement also comes nearly four years after they unveiled “LiveWire”, an all-electric motorcycle prototype.
“You’ve heard us talk about Project LiveWire,” Matt Levatich, the President and CEO of Harley-Davidson, told listeners “It’s an active project we’re preparing to bring to market within 18 months.”
LiveWire was said to have a range of about 50 miles and go from 0 to 60 in 4 seconds. By comparison, a standard Ducati Monster 1200 motorcycle can hit 0 to 60 in under 3 seconds. However, Harley-Davidson is yet to confirm if their new project will have the same range and sprint time as its precursor.
Harley-Davidson Chief Financial Officer John Olin said the company will invest up to $50 million per year over the next several years on electric motorcycle technology. Their goal is to be the world leader in electric motorcycle sales.
Many Harley-Davidson enthusiasts are concerned about the leadership’s new director to target the business class. The company was built on loud engines and outlaw style designs on their choppers and road cruisers. Now, it seems the company is more focused on smaller, quieter motorcycles for the eco-friendly market.
“My feeling is that it will be well-received by the public and new buyers, which Harley direly needs, but not by people who normally ride a Harley,” said Alan Stulberg, founder of Revival Motorcycles.
With the decline of conventional motorcycle sales and a slight increase in electric motorcycle sales, it might be the only option for Harley-Davidson to survive in a changing market. While some feel that the loud, combustion engines and eco-friendly electric motorcycles markets aren’t mutually exclusive, others are not so sure.
“I don’t think there is a way forward for Harley,” says Kevin Tynan, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst for the automotive industry. “Investment in the tech will be funded by a dying business, and they are basically starting from scratch. Either they shrink to demand and be what they’ve always been or they sell out and pursue some weird future-mobility business model that doesn’t promise anything—even if they were capable of pulling it off.”