Does Harley Have a Grand Electric Plan?


Harley-Davidson Concept
Image from Harley-Davidson

It Could Have a Large Selection of Electric Bikes

If you thought the future of Harley-Davidson and the motorcycle industry, in general, was all about high-powered electric motorcycles, you were wrong. I see speedy electric motorcycles as part of the HD portfolio for sure, but it will only be one part, and likely not the most important part. 

As Cycle World points out, the recent purchase of StaCyc hints that Harley has grander plans for its lineup. One that hits multiple ages and multiple areas of the market. Gone are the days of HD catering to one specific area of the market. The company seems to have learned its lesson.

Harley-Davidson StaCyc
Image from Harley-Davidson

The publication lays out a groundwork for Harley to have bikes at four different levels in the industry. The first level is for little electric bikes for kiddos (StaCyc), the second level is for electric bicycles for adolescents and adults (think your typical e-bike), third level is for lower-powered electric scooters and small electric motorcycles, and the fourth is for machines like the LiveWire (but hopefully much better than the LiveWire).

It’s an idea I stated when the news of Harley buying StaCyc. If Harley can get a kid riding a Harley electric bike when he’s young, he’ll want one when he grows up, too. Cycle World doesn’t discuss what would happen to its gasoline-powered bikes. I would assume those would stick around for quite a long time. People won’t want to give up on gas bikes, and Harley will still make a boatload of money selling them.

With that said, the future is electric. Harley-Davidson could be setting itself up for success. It needs to, too, with the way its bike sales are currently going.

3 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Fred M.
    March 27, 2019
    Reply

    Harley can’t make bicycles and scooters and retain its core audience. There’s no crossover from electric bicycles and scooters to the kind of motorcycles that appeal to Harley riders.

    Harley’s been down this road before with things like the Topper scooter (https://i.redd.it/hhaerz5rr26z.jpg), the 50cc M50 almost-a-moped with a step-through “girl’s frame” (https://i.pinimg.com/originals/cf/96/ec/cf96ec2ab546d7ea8ce3212ff09763cd.jpg) and the Harley X-90 minibike (https://i.pinimg.com/originals/2b/d5/f0/2bd5f0f9618f4834e4737ae0c18dd1e5.jpg).

    Just as riders didn’t cross over from these to full-size Harleys, neither will they cross over from electric bicycles and scooters.

    More recently, Harley tried selling Buell sport bikes in Harley dealerships with the thought that riders would move from a Buell sport bike to a Fat Boy. That didn’t happen, either.

    Harley’s biggest strength and weakness is the same: Their brand identity. If they dilute that with friendly, quiet, electric bikes aimed at kids and teens, they just harm their brand image. If they don’t, then their elderly customer base ages out of the motorcycle market. Either way, they are in for a world of hurt unless they can attract a younger customer base to their traditional motorcycles, and that would probably be overseas buyers.

    • Wade Thiel
      March 28, 2019
      Reply

      Hey Fred,

      You’re assuming that Harley wants to continue to sell to “Harley Riders.” The whole point of adding new electric bikes and mopeds and smaller motorcycles to the lineup is to attract people who aren’t Harley Riders and completely redefine the brand.

      You’re right that this didn’t work in the past. You’re also right that it won’t work again if Harley tries to hang on to its previous brand image. The company has to evolve and part of that evolution will be repositioning its brand identity. Also, the world is a very different place than when those bikes came out. People may be more inclined to make that jump if the price is right (price is where Harley will mess up, I think).

      Personally, I think Harley is making a mistake. They’re not addressing the real problem which is that their bikes are too expensive and they’re mostly all too similar. I don’t think electric bikes have to be the main focus of their new business, but it would appear to me that Harley is working towards building a future where that’s the case – hence the plan cycle world and I point to.

  2. Avatar
    Scott
    March 28, 2019
    Reply

    Imagine if Chevrolet every year unveiled their new ’57 Chevy….

    That’s Harley.

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