Is Harley-Davidson flip-flopping on electric?

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Words: NZ Autocar
12 May 2021

Former boss of H-D, Matt Levatich, must feel in part vindicated after news broke recently that the American bike maker is going to expand its LiveWire model into a standalone electric motorcycle brand. Guess the timing wasn't quite right back then but Harley-Davidson is looking to a future when ICE power is banned and, given all the big Asian motorcycle brands are making electric noises, the American felt its decade of EV development put it in a strong position to lead in the area.

This after new CEO and president, Jochen Zeitz, shut down plans for electric bikes, the Livewire being the exception during the rewire of the company. At the time, H-D was bleeding cash so something needed to be done and, 18 months later, things are looking rosier. And the company can look to the future.

The decision to turn LiveWire from a model into a new motorcycle brand probably relates to the significant investment the company made in the electric sphere before Levatich walked. There were myriad designs, many of which were actually built during a decade of electric testing.

LiveWire is embarking initially on a model for city use, the release stating the new company aims to “redefine electric, delivering the best experience for the urban rider, with personality and soul.” The first model from the new brand will launch in less than ten weeks’ time, at the beginning of July coinciding with the International Motorcycle Show. We’d expect it to be based on the bones of the current LiveWire machine, only significantly less expensive.

Jochen Zeitz explains: “One of the six pillars of The Hardwire Strategy is to lead in electric. By launching LiveWire as an all-electric brand, we are seizing the opportunity to lead and define the market in EV. With the mission to be the most desirable electric motorcycle brand in the world, LiveWire will pioneer the future of motorcycling, for the pursuit of urban adventure and beyond. LiveWire also plans to innovate and develop technology that will be applicable to Harley-Davidson electric motorcycles in the future.”

The company will have a development site in (where else but?) Silicon Valley. Likewise, retail will involve both physical and digital outlets. Select showrooms will be set up, beginning in California, America’s most EV-savvy state.

LiveWire wants to “pioneer the electric motorcycle space, and beyond”.

It may be that the company builds more than just electric bikes, reading into the cryptic “beyond” statement. However, that may simply mean branching out into powered scooters and e-bikes, both huge globally.

Harley previously teased us with some cool looking urban mobility solutions, some of which have even been built and ridden. One, for example, was a cross between an e-mountain bike and a dirt bike. Another was a tiny electric dirt bike developed especially to get youngsters interested in off-road riding and, of course, the Harley brand.

As always with Harley-Davidson, interesting times.

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