“It’s too small, and the engine doesn't look right. It’s not a real Harley.” Do these quotes sound familiar? They are, in fact, remarks aimed at the launch of the Harley-Davidson Sportster, way back in 1957.
It seems, however, that this die-hard mentality is still
alive and kicking, judging by the reaction to Harley’s latest pet project; More
Roads to Harley-Davidson.
H-D has never shied away from pushing the envelope regarding new models, but Harley fans back in the fifties held the belief that anything less than a Big Twin is sacrilege.
Harley’s new strategy will not only see the company move into the small and medium bike sector but also the opening of a manufacturing base in Asia. Coming not long after news of the demise of the much loved Dyna, this may seem like a bridge too far. However, decreasing turnover and a disappearing audience are powerful motivators for any manufacturer.
MORE ROADS TO HARLEY-DAVIDSON – SAY WHAT?
“More Roads to Harley-Davidson” is, according to the company, a three-pronged attack on the market.
First Prong – Keep the focus on Heavyweight H-Ds
First, says Harley, is to extend the company’s leadership in heavyweight motorcycles by continuing to develop more technologically advanced tourers and cruisers. Unless that new technology includes an onboard defibrillator, this is a tough one to pull off.
The company’s traditional Big Twin buying demographic, the Baby Boomer (born between the years of 1946-1964), is fast approaching its sell-by date. Add to this a 40% drop in turnover for Q3 of 2017, and H-D has a fight on its hands.
Second Prong – Middleweight H-D Modular Platform
The second prong will see the introduction of a new
modular 500cc-1250cc middleweight platform which will cover three model types
and four displacements. This strategy will see the company’s first
adventure/touring motorcycle, the Pan-American (we seem to have forgotten the
Buell Ulysses), a 1250cc Custom, and a 975cc Streetfighter.
This move at least seems promising, and H-D appears far
more committed to this market sector than they ever were with the 500cc and
750cc Street. Mock-ups of the Pan American (similar to a modern version of the
original Africa Twin), the Streetfighter (which has a Yamaha MT-01 look), and
the Custom (Indian Scout rival), all look interesting. They need to be too, as
they’re entering one of the most highly fought over cubic capacity segments in
Third Prong – 250 to 500cc H-Ds
The final prong concerns the small displacement sector
(250cc to 500cc) and hints at an attack on the vast and expanding Asian market.
Undoubtedly fueled by the meteoric rise in sales of the Indian-made Royal Enfield Harley is apparently going to climb into bed with an existing manufacturer in Asia. As unpalatable as this may be to die-hard Harley fans, it’s realistically the only way H-D can take on the Asian market.
An Electric Future for Harley-Davidson
I did initially say the motor company plans a three-pronged attack, but there is actually a fourth which concerns their electric bike, the Livewire. However, seeing as the majority of manufacturers have a pet twist-and-go project on the back burner, let’s just allow that one to simmer a while.
Harley appears to have nailed their colours to the mast with the “More Roads to Harley-Davidson” strategy. Should we be surprised about plans for the Asian market though? Not really, considering H-D already has manufacturing plants in Brazil, India, and Thailand.
However, if H-D thought the ‘Road’ in question is going
to be a smooth one, good luck. Here’s what President Trump says about
their plans for moving production abroad. “Harley-Davidson should stay
100% in America with the people that got you your success. I've done so much
for you, and then this. Other companies are coming back where they belong! We
won't forget, and neither will your customers or your now very HAPPY competitors.’’
Crank up the suspension guys and gals; I think More Roads
to Harley-Davidson may prove to be a little bumpy!