In an unexpected move by a company that’s normally conservative in terms of product development and tight-lipped in terms of future models and strategies, Harley-Davidson has announced a sweeping “More Roads to Harley-Davidson” growth plan for the next several years.
“The bold actions we are announcing today leverage Harley-Davidson’s vast capabilities and competitive firepower–our excellence in product development and manufacturing, the global appeal of the brand and of course, our great dealer network,” said Matt Levatich, president and chief executive officer, Harley-Davidson, Inc. “Alongside our existing loyal riders, we will lead the next revolution of two-wheeled freedom to inspire future riders who have yet to even think about the thrill of riding.”
The More Roads to Harley-Davidson plan focuses on three areas:
While Harley-Davidson will continue to develop and improve upon its lineup of cruisers and tourers, it will also expand into “a broad spectrum of price points, power sources, displacements, riding styles and global markets.”
- There will be a new modular 500cc to 1250cc middleweight platform that will cover three model segments and include four displacements, starting with the Pan America 1250 adventure tourer, a 1,250cc Custom model and a 975cc Streetfighter, all of which will launch starting in 2020. More models will follow through 2022.
- An affordable, small-displacement (250cc to 500cc) motorcycle will be developed for emerging markets in Asia—particularly in India—through a strategic alliance with an as yet unnamed Asian manufacturer.
- For 2019, Harley-Davidson will launch its LiveWire electric motorcycle, with lighter, smaller, more accessible (that is, less expensive) models to roll out through 2022.
Harley-Davidson plans to “advance its market delivery approach and meet today’s customer needs” by expanding its website to facilitate a more enhanced retail experience at dealerships, by establishing strategic alliances with global leading e-commerce providers and developing new retail formats.
Harley-Davidson plans to implement a “performance framework to significantly enhance the strength of the dealer network and the customer experience” that supports not only its traditional motorcycles and customers but an increasingly diverse product portfolio and customer base.
“Harley-Davidson is iconic because we’ve never been static,” said Levatich. “In moving forward, we are tapping into the spirit that drove our founders back in 1903 and every one of the employees and dealers who rose to the challenges faced along the way. Our plan will redefine existing boundaries of our brand–reaching more customers in a way that reinforces all we stand for as a brand and as a company and we can’t wait to kick it into gear.”
Because this unexpected announcement comes at a time when Harley-Davidson’s sales and stock price are in a slump, the company may be trying to reassure customers and shareholders with a forward-thinking strategy to carry the 115-year-old brand into the future. For now, most of the motorcycles announced are still prototypes, and there will likely be revisions based on how well they are received by core customers and the general public. Since the LiveWire electric motorcycle, which was shown in prototype form back in 2014, is slated for launch for the 2019 model year, it is the one model that will enter production soon and is therefore closest to what we’ll actually see in dealerships.
Although Harley-Davidson’s new plan may seem radical for a company that has been focused on cruisers and heavyweight tourers for decades, it’s actually a return to its past. In the freewheeling Sixties, Harley’s lineup included golf carts, a scooter called the Topper, single-cylinder two-strokes with names like Pacer, Scat and Bobcat, and, through a partnership with Italian manufacturer Aermacchi, 250cc-350cc four-stroke single-cylinder motorcycles called the Sprint, the Scrambler and the SS. In the Seventies, Harley launched the MRS-100, better known as the Baja 100, a lightweight, two-stroke dirt bike, as well as a 65cc, two-stroke, Aermacchi-built minibike called the Shortster.
If Harley-Davidson is ready to commit a no-clutch, twist-and-go electric motorcycle to production, then anything is possible.