The Mo­tor Com­pany breaks out of its chrome shell

Cycle World - - Up Front - By MARK HOYER

TThe “golden cage” is how we have some­times de­scribed Har­ley­david­son’s po­si­tion in the mar­ket. Tra­di­tional cus­tomers kept buy­ing the com­pany’s tra­di­tional bikes. Since the big boom that started in the 1980s, Har­ley-david­son has be­come main­stream mo­tor­cy­cling.

But de­mo­graph­ics have changed, and Har­ley-david­son’s sales have de­clined along with the new-bike mar­ket. Tour­ing bikes and Sof­tails have seen a lot of up­grades, but even with new en­gines, new tech­nol­ogy, and many new mod­els, growth has not come. It also felt a lit­tle like the com­pany was stuck do­ing the same old things—locked in the golden cage but find­ing it less golden.

In a dra­matic shift on a prod­uct and com­mu­ni­ca­tions level, Har­ley­david­son an­nounced a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of its five-year prod­uct plan, de­tail­ing new bikes that would be de­liv­ered from 2019 to 2022.

The Pan Amer­i­can ad­ven­ture bike got the most at­ten­tion on cy­cle­world.com, but the un­named street­fighter and cruiser based on a new DOHC V-twin en­gine with dis­place­ments from 500 to 1,250cc were also ex­cit­ing. Light­weight sin­gles are planned for In­dia, where un­der-500cc bikes rule. We knew the 2019 Livewire elec­tric was com­ing, but a com­pact street-tracker sketch was shown, as well as an e-bike and an elec­tric-as­sist pedal bike.

Har­ley-david­son is bet­ting on the world mar­ket for two-wheel trans­porta­tion and plans to play at most lev­els, call­ing the ini­tia­tive “More roads to Har­ley-david­son.”

“We have typ­i­cally been very con­ser­va­tive,” se­nior vice pres­i­dent and chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Michelle Kumbier says. “This is very dif­fer­ent for us to just blow the doors off and tell you ev­ery­thing we’re go­ing to be do­ing over the next five years. It’s just not what we’ve done, but we’re so ex­cited about the di­rec­tion we’re go­ing and all the dif­fer­ent things we’re do­ing that we wanted to get this into the mar­ket­place.”

It’s also a means of re­as­sur­ing the world and share­hold­ers that this $4.5 bil­lion com­pany is tak­ing ac­tion to counter de­clin­ing sales in its tra­di­tional seg­ments, and that it rec­og­nizes the chang­ing world of trans­porta­tion and im­por­tance of meet­ing cus­tomers wher­ever they are on the planet in on their terms, e-bikes to tour­ing mod­els. And in some ways, it wasn’t just Har­ley­david­son that needed this kind of shift; the whole mar­ket did. Mo­tor­cy­cling will im­prove as it changes.

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