On Tue, Jan 30, 2018 at 4:50 PM, Seth Rothenberg via EV <ev@lists.evdl.org>

> I saw this in the news today....people seem to be of two minds about it....
> https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-30/
> harley-davidson-is-making-an-electric-motorcycle-after-livewire

​Catching up on my list reading here,​ but this is an issue I can actually
contribute to.

It's well-known in the motorcycle biz that sales are dropping.  The average
age of a motorcyclist is pretty high, and that demographic is rapidly aging
out of the sport.  Millennials don't seem to care about driving cars, let
alone riding motorcycles.  This phenomenon hits Harley harder, because they
have built their entire business model on slavish devotion to brand without
much thought about technical advancement.  New Harleys are generally just
different paint, bodywork, wheels, etc.  What little technical changes they
make are driven mostly by the need to meet noise and emissions standards,
or to (just barely) keep up with the minimum advances in utility the rest
of the industry demands.  Today's Harleys are really just retro bikes (a
niche that tries to capture past glory in a somewhat-modernized current
bike), but Harley would never admit that.  They make a huge amount of their
profits from clothing, accessories and nick-knacks.

A recent new hot rod model of the 750 Street (more below) is less capable
and a lot less versatile than the Honda 750 that upended the entire
industry 40 years ago.  So basically, Harleys are for riders who value
style more than substance, or who can convince themselves there is
substance where there is in fact very little.  The bikes themselves aren't
terrible, and even fit some limited purposes quite well for some riders
with limited needs, but generally Harley is WAY behind in making
motorcycles that really work.  It's not about the bikes.  It's all brand
and culture.

Harley has tried to break out of this mold.  They created the Buell
subsidiary that made very tasty sport, naked and even ADV bikes with Harley
engines.  There was a small but very devoted following of those bikes,
whose biggest complaint was that they had to go to a Harley dealer and wade
through the 'lifestyle' and pro-Harley, anti-Buell vibe there to get what
they wanted.  Sales were low, executives thought it undercut the Harley
ethos, so they dropped the whole line.

Harley made the V-Rod, a relatively advanced (water cooled!) performance
bike with a drag racing flavor, which also sold in very small numbers and
was dropped.  The V-Rod was really not such a big deviation from their
other products, but the faithful didn't think it was a 'real' Harley.  So
it died.

They built the Streets, 500 and 750 cc 'entry level' bikes to bring in new
riders.  This is an international effort with factories in other
countries.  They're getting some limited sales, but American riders are
mostly staying away.  They want American made, which makes the American
versions more expensive, even with parts from places like India.  And there
is a very well-established wing of the cruiser market called metric
cruisers that sprung up decades ago to cash in on the Harley image.  The
Streets are really metric cruisers.  All the other players are much more
technically advanced and polished than Harley, so Harley is in the
embarrassing position of not measuring up to a market they indirectly

Enter the Livewire.  As you might imagine from the above, the Livewire will
have an uphill battle in a Harley showroom.  It smacks of a desperate
attempt to bring in millennials.  The only competition in the EM space is
Zero, so if the Livewire is release with a 50 mile range it will be DOA.
The base Zero S (which few buy) has a range of 60 miles (combined), and
options bring that to 108 and 138 miles.  The SR goes up to 150.  Zero has
been doing this for many years, and has earned their market-leading
position.  I think they would welcome some competition.  I doubt they're

What I'd really like to see is Polaris (Harley's biggest competitor with
the Indian brand) bringing back the Empluse.  Maybe the Livewire release
will be incentive enough to do that, and give the EM market some buzz
again.  Sadly, the best result probably won't happen.  The Bloomberg
article makes the briefest mention of the Mission R, but Mission
Motorcycles went bankrupt years ago.  That was due to market forces and the
goals of the moneyed interests involved, not at all to do with the
motorcycles themselves.  Someone needs to buy up the assets of Mission and
bring back the R in a gentlemans' express version, not the racer-crouch
sportbike it was initially released as.  That would give the EM industry a
Tesla Model S on two wheels.  It's gorgeous, extremely capable and has a
price that hasn't deterred ICE-based low volume manufacturers (like Motus)
from remaining viable, profitable and growing.


​So basically I'm thinking that any success the Livewire brings will likely
not be Harley's, but we should still be (cautiously) happy ​it's being


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