Harley-Davidson unleashes the silent E-Hogs

Picture an open-minded, climate-concerned Harley-Davidson fan. She can now travel about 100 miles on an almost-silent hog, the company’s new all-electric LiveWire motorcycle.

By: Bloomberg
| Updated on: 24 Apr 2021, 17:35 PM
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Harley-Davidson has several battery-powered models in the works, most likely with aggressive price-to-range ratios.
Harley-Davidson has several battery-powered models in the works, most likely with aggressive price-to-range ratios.

The LiveWire, however, costs $29,799. Its gas-powered proxy, the Iron 883, can be had for about one-third the price and still gets more than 50 miles to a gallon. It would take our progressive road warrior some 360,000 miles of fuel to cover the spread in sticker price—and to many, she won’t sound nearly as cool while doing it.

To be sure, electric motorcycles still require some tricky financial gearing, both for manufacturers and consumers. Nevertheless, the battery-powered Harley is here, along witha convoy of quiet new bikes from rival brands.Indeed, two-wheeled machines are going electric more quickly than four-wheeled rigs. Last year35% of the market was battery-powered, though most of that share comes from e-bicycles and scooters—the Uber Eats effect, if you will.

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Also Read : Harley-Davidson hits recovery road amid focus on touring bikes

“Keep in mind, this is a halo product," says Harley spokeswoman Jenni Coats. “It was not intended to be a huge sales driver." What’s more critical, according to Coats, is that the electric machine is getting rave reviews and has emerged as aleaderin an increasingly crowded field;that includes by sales, although the company hasn’t divulged how many have been bought.

An Instagram search for #LiveWire doesn’t produce a scroll of happy customers taking delivery. Rather, many of the results are pictures of Mötley Crüe, which had a hit song of the same name in 1981. Morningstar’s Harley-Davidson model estimates the company will sell only a few hundred of the bikes annuallyin the coming decade. Analyst Jaime Katz describes the bike as “a bit expensive for the market."

Also Read : Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Revival to make world debut soon

Still, Harley no doubt has more battery-powered models in the works, most likely with better price-to-range ratios.The company has a new logo for its electric bikes and hired a “chief EV officer"—a former Bain consultant—about a month ago. “The creation of a separate division will allow full autonomy to EV development, freeing the business units to behave with the same agility and speed as a tech startup," Chief Executive Officer Jochen Zeitz told analysts in February. This weekHarley-Davidson reiterated its goal to “lead the electric motorcycle market," a pillar of its five-year strategic plan. The news camein a massive earnings beat that pushedshares up 19% by Friday’s close. Wedbush Securities called it the company’s best quarter in a half-decade, “hands down."

The battery blitz comes at a curious time for Harley-Davidson. With sales sliding for years, the company swappedits CEO for Zeitzin February 2020 and promptly slowed downits push into international markets and scaled back its starter bike program. Its coup last quarter came largely from selling a greater share of big, expensive motorcycles, the kind with the fattest profit margins. With Harleyfocusing on its base, electric isone of the company’sfew remaining efforts to lure first-time riders and beat scrappy startups.

The LiveWire is also a clever fix for a perennial Harley problem: Its bikes are too good. In its 118 years, the company has made a lot of motorcycles, and a shocking number of them are still on the road, or at least ready to roar to life out of the dusty recesses of the garage. Even with spark plugs and oil filters, they are easy to maintain, fix, and modify; as such, Harley has long struggled to persuade its customers to upgrade—call it the iPhone challenge.

Savvy riders, realizing as much,are increasingly skipping the dealership altogether. Typically, one out of four motorcycles sold in the U.S. are used, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council. Last yearthat increased to one out of three. Harley still gets something out of the preowned market, by selling parts and financing purchases, but not as much as it would by moving a slick new bike.

This is where the LiveWire and its silent siblings may really shine. It’s a step change in technology, arguably the newest “new" Harley in more than a century. It’s the strongest answer yet to thisquestion: “Should I buy a second bike?" Or a third or fourth, for that matter.

First Published Date: 24 Apr 2021, 17:35 PM IST
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