Harley Plans to Break out Electric Motorcycle as Separate Brand

Harley Plans to Break out Electric Motorcycle as Separate Brand

The Harley-Davidson Livewire

How do you venture into the world of alternative energy while maintaining your bad-boy image? You spin out a separate brand.

From the genesis of Harley Davidson’s bold electric bid, the Livewire, the iconic American brand was treading unfamiliar waters.

Over the last decade, Harley sales have consistently treaded downward, and the global pandemic did it no favors. That (plus a nod in the direction of alternative energy) inspired Harley to rethink its strategy.

So when the company unveiled the Livewire prototype in 2014, a Foxsports commentator called it “the most radical departure in the 111-year history of the brand,” but it was more than that, and Harley’s 2018 roadmap, “More Roads to Harley-Davidson,” crystalized their renewed focus.

With their bold, new strategy (and especially the Livewire), the company vowed to “inspire future riders who have yet to even think about the thrill of riding.” In other words, traditional Harley riders wouldn’t rescue the brand.

Even though motorcycles consistently rank in the 40-50 MPG range, the perception is that Harley cares more about its chic image than saving the planet. I’m not sure if “saving the planet”, alone, is a workable business strategy, but gas-powered Harleys apparently aren’t putting food on the table.

Then again, the numbers might suggest otherwise. While Harley’s roadmap was aiming for the younger demographic, most of the Livewire pre-orders came from older or preexisting customers. The price has something to do with it -- $30K is generally unappealing to the younger crowd – and Harley is banking on the idea that emphasizing the Livewire branding will kickstart sales.

“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,” said Jochen Zeitz, chairman, president, and CEO of Harley-Davidson.

But the subtext is clear – sales suck, so Harley wants to disassociate its electric brand from its main one, even if their logic is faulty.

Harley plans to show off its “first Livewire branded motorcycle” in time for the International Motorcycle Show on July 8th.