Harley-Davidson may be on a crash course with President Donald Trump over its announcement of a plan to make motorcycles in China.
Trump, who this week launched his re-election campaign, is currently in a turbulent trade war with China.
On the same day as his re-election launch, Harley announced it will partner with Qianjiang Motorcycle to produce 338cc motorcycles for the Asian market from next year.
They released the above rendering of the motorcycle which they say will “embody a distinctive look, sound and feel that will spark powerful connections with riders.”
“The new Harley-Davidson motorcycle and engine will be produced in a Qianjiang facility in China and adhere to the rigorous quality standards and testing processes followed for all Harley-Davidson products,” the statement says.
Qianjiang, based in Zhejiang, China, bought Benelli in 2005 and makes scooters and motorcycles with brands names such as Qijiang, Generic, Keeway, and KSR.
Last year, Trump tweeted a suggested boycott against Harley for “shifting production” outside of the USA.
However, he was obviously not aware that Harley had been making bikes overseas for years.
They have been making special ethanol-friendly bikes in Brazil for the South American market more than two decades.
The Street family of 500cc and 750cc motorcycles is made in India as well as the USA and Indian-made Street models are sold in markets outside of Asia, including Australia and New Zealand.
And even before Trump’s boycott tweet, Harley was building a factory in Thailand to make motorcycles for the Asian market.
(Harley-Davidson Australia spokesman Keith Waddell says the company has confirmed to them that “motorcycles for Australia will not be assembled in Thailand”.)
The 338cc Chinese Harley won’t be the smallest motorcycle they’ve ever made. How about the 1960s 65cc Leggero and 1970s 90cc monkey bike?
The sub-500cc bike plan is included in the company’s ‘More Roads’ initiative, a strategic long-term plan, says Harley head honcho Matt Levatich.
He says the strategy hinges on making sales outside the US half of the company’s total.
“We’re excited about this opportunity to build more Harley riders in China, one of the world’s largest motorcycle markets, by creating new pathways to our brand,” he says.
“We are just over a year away from launching our first model that will help provide access to millions of customers in emerging markets in the region.”
The small-capacity bike will be built in collaboration in a similar venture to BMW’s alliance with the Indian TVS company to build the G 310 models or the Bajaj Auto deal to build a third of KTM’s bikes at their Chakan plant.
More Roads strategy
Matt pointed out that their More Roads strategy was part of their business plan to deal with the “very real pressures we’re facing across the global motorcycle industry, including the impact of the ongoing trade wars”.
“Today we participate in segments that represent approximately 40% of the global 601+cc volume,” Matt says.
“When we deliver our new mid-weight motorcycles under More Roads, we will compete in segments representing nearly 90% of that global volume. Add to that, the opportunities we have in global lower displacement and electric segments.”
Last July, Harley announced a number of new models over the next couple of years.
They include the launch in September of their first electric motorcycle, the LiveWire, plus their first adventure bike, the Pan America, a new midweight streetfighter class and electric bicycles.