Harley-Davidson Monday decided to blow our tiny minds by announcing plans to build an adventure-touring motorcycle, among several other Not What You’d Expect From Harley reveals.
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That’s right: a Harley-Davidson ADV. Hope you’re sitting down as you read this, because Harley says it’s also planning a 250cc bike.This is cats and dogs living together stuff, y’all
All this madness comes as Harley’s response to the somewhat disappointing second quarter financial report it released last week. In conjunction with that report, the company had promised it would soon share plans on how to accelerate progress on its goals of creating 2 million new riders in the United States, growing its international business to make up 50 percent of annual volume, and launch 100 new “high impact” motorcycles by 2027.
No doubt the cynical imagined accelerated progress would consist of little more than new T-shirt designs and additional hot dog nights at dealerships. Sympathetic observers like myself expected news on further gentle improvements. I can’t believe even the most fervent of Harley faithful would have imagined this, however.
Because Harley likes to give slogans to everything, it has called this new push “More Roads to Harley-Davidson.” The growth plan focuses on new products, “broader access, and “stronger dealers.” Let’s focus on those new products first.
Not Your Grandad’s Harley
We already knew Harley-Davidson had been planning to launch the long-awaited LiveWire in August 2019. That was a promise made by Harley-Davidson CEO Matt Levatich off the back of a previous disappointing quarterly result. Harley on Monday reaffirmed its commitment to the electric moto, but added that more electric motorcycles are in the pipeline – set to be revealed by 2022. The additional electric models will be “lighter, smaller and even more accessible” than the LiveWire, according to a media release.
The news that is really grabbing people’s attention, however, is the fact Harley will be introducing a new “modular 500cc to 1250cc middleweight platform of motorcycles that spans three distinct product spaces and four displacements.”
It’s from there we get the aforementioned adventure-touring motorcycle: the Pan America 1250, powered by a liquid-cooled 1250cc V-twin. My guess is that this is the new Sportster engine that was being hinted at in Levatich’s interview with Cycle World earlier this year. Confirming that suspicion is the promised Custom 1250 model, which looks like the result of a dirty weekend between a Forty-Eight and a Fat Bob.
Expect a number of bikes to be built around the 1250 platform. Equally intriguing is the promised 975cc Streetfighter – a genuine naked bike that makes me think someone dusted off plans that had been lying around since the days when Harley owned MV Agusta. It may be that this 975cc V-twin engine will replace the existing 883 powerplant, allowing greater distance between segments.
“Additional models to broaden coverage in these product spaces will follow through 2022,” says Harley.
But the company won’t stop there. Expect the company’s factories in India and Thailand to be picking up some work as the manufacturer develops a “a more accessible, small-displacement (250cc to 500cc) motorcycle for Asia emerging markets.” That suggests Western markets won’t see the bike… at least until the accountants get overexcited by internet hype and insist that the MoCo try to see the bike sold elsewhere (which is what happened with the Street 500; it was originally intended for the India market only).
Lastly, the company says it will also continue to “develop improved, more technologically-advanced touring and cruiser motorcycles that will keep existing Harley-Davidson riders engaged and riding longer.” Breaking through the corporate-ese, I’d say that means we can expect traction control to come to the company’s “traditional” bikes in the not too distant future – a feature the European market has asked for.
Beyond introducing some pretty exciting new models, the company says it plans to return to its glory days by also overhauling the customer experience. Here’s the media release on that aspect:
“Harley-Davidson will advance its market delivery approach and meet today’s customer needs by:
– Creating high-engagement customer experiences across all retail channels – including improving and expanding the company’s global digital capabilities by evolving the Harley-Davidson.com experience to integrate with and enhance the dealership retail experience for existing and new customers.
– Establishing strategic alliances with global leading e-commerce providers to extend access to Harley-Davidson to a pool of millions of potential new customers.
– New retail formats — including smaller, urban storefronts globally to expose the brand to urban populations and drive sales of the expanded Harley-Davidson product portfolio and expand international apparel distribution.”
The way I read that is: “We’re gonna make it so much easier for you to buy T-shirts and Harley-branded shot glasses.”
Harley says it will also be working to improve its dealership experience – something that’s long been a complaint for younger riders or those who aren’t indoctrinated into the Church of Jesus Harley Latter-day Davidson.
“The company will implement a performance framework to significantly enhance the strength of the dealer network and the customer experience, enabling the best-performing and most entrepreneurial dealers to drive innovation and success for themselves and Harley-Davidson,” states a media release.
KEEP READING: Let’s Tell Harley-Davidson What to Do
I suspect a quiet undercurrent of this strategy is that HOG chapters can expect to see their influence wane.
“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.”