I feel sorry for Harley Davidson. They’re on the way down and out but so insular they won’t admit it. I think it’s a shame because for a while they made good motorcycles.
I had one in Banff, and that put me off ever riding the shield and bar again. It just wasn’t that great. The rallying cry of ‘not as terrible as they use to be’ doesn’t do a whole lot for me, and from their position, HD has do well. There’s a lot of Cadillac in them. They have a lot of brand and not too much content, a lot of history that makes me think I would get one if I was a retired dentist. They have potential. Like the ATS-V, some of their bikes are legitimately good. The problem is something else is better, cheaper, and there’s no reason to buy a Harley over the better, cheaper bike.
The Livewire concept is an electric bike that HD is using to connect with the yout’s. It could be great. I’m about dead center of their target mark and looking at that bike, I just don’t want one.
The first company in electric transportation to realize people live in apartment buildings is going to clean house. It won’t be Harley.
Homeownership in the US is skewing older. HD’s target market, young people with a little money to blow, is trending towards apartments. What’s more, with the rise of mobility solutions and transportation alternatives, practicality isn’t the absolute it used to be. I can Uber when it rains, get a Car2Go to grocery shop, and everybody and their brother is coming up with mobility solutions for when I need a pickup. Motorcycle insurance is cheap. Maintenance is inexpensive, and would be even cheaper for an electric bike. I have opinions about the environment, and would throw money into making my commutes and library runs on an EV. The Livewire sounds like it is right up my alley.
Except, and listen close, I live in an apartment. I do not have a garage. I don’t really know when I’m going to get one. An electric bike is utterly worthless if I can’t plug it in, and I can’t plug it in.
But that’s something any reasonably forward thinking motorcycle company could fix. Zero motorcycles makes batteries I can remove, take inside, charge in my living room, and plug back in. They don’t have the range or production experience yet, but this is something Harley could do. But Harley won’t. They’ll make fat bertha motorcycles that only baby boomers ride, and that market is dying.
Make me a three or four pack electric motorcycle. Make one I can charge inside, and carry a battery out and drop into my bike. Make a cruiser. Slap the motors on the rear wheel, no chain, no drive, and get rid of half of maintenance. Make something completely useful and unlike what’s in the world today. Make something us kids want.
With the interest these days in history, tradition, and authenticity, HD could slam this out of the park. If they want to.
I don’t know if people want a Harley.