Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Harley To Build New Street Bikes In America

Good news Milwaukee faithful, Harley’s new line of 500 and 750 “Street” motorcycles will indeed be built right here in the U.S. of A, Kansas City Mo. as a matter of fact. And you just can’t get anymore ‘Merican than that my friend.
Harley's new Street looks every bit the badass
It looks like production is slated to begin late this year or early 2014 depending on how quickly the Motor Company can get the line up and running. First years production of HD’s new Shadow, er, Street (come on, you were thinking it too!) should be in the neighborhood of 7,000 to 10,000 units world-wide. Harley’s production facility in India will produce the new wet H-D minis for domestic consumption, avoiding the former colonies onerous tariffs on imported motorcycles.

While we’re going to reserve judgment on the newest branches on the H-D family tree until we have an opportunity to throw a leg over the pint-sized pretenders, we at the Asylum are genuinely stoked that the Motor Company honchos decided to build the bikes here.

Too many companies trade on their “origin equity” as though they were so many carbon credits. If you’re playing the “authentic”, “made in America” card as the foundation of the brand, it’s not enough that the headquarters finds itself on U.S. soil, or that the models in your ads hail from fly-over states. What you build, your product, the reason you do business, better have a real deal pedigree too. Harley knows that they need to connect with a youthful demo, while at the same time staying true to the core values of the brand. An Indian built imported H-D would have stretched the Motor Company’s credibility thinner than a pair of Kim Kardashian’s workout pants.  Maybe even too cool for school hipsters have an “authenticity threshold”, Chuck Taylor’s from China OK, Harley’s from India, not so much. At least it appears Harley thinks so.

Could they have sold a foreign built bike? No doubt about it, Harley’s marketing prowess is second to none. But the long-term opportunity cost associated with the perception that H-D had finally “sold out”, might have been a little too much to risk, at least for now. Let’s hope it stays that way for a very long time.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Harley Hits The Street With All New Models

Just when you thought that the Motor Company was going to be content splashing around in the shallow end of the water cooled pool (remember Project Rushmore?), BAM!!, they go and introduce not one, but two, all new fully liquid cooled motorcycles that Harley is calling “Street”. And as if that wasn’t enough of a shock to the faithful, these two new beauties are relative “mini-bikes”, sporting displacements of only 500cc and 750cc respectively. Oh the humanity!! At least Sportster guys will catch a break.
Looking pretty tough, and on a budget too

Sharp eyed Chromies will remember that some time ago we wrote about the fact that Harley-Davidson was going to have to develop a smaller displacement machine in order to continue their Rider’s Edge new rider training program.  Harley had no choice but to replace its fleet of aging and oft maligned Buell Blasts (500cc) for their instructional duties given the fact that it kicked Buell to the curb a couple of years ago. The remaining Blasts were only going to last so long. Enter the “Street”.

And make no mistake, minting new Harley converts is the primary mission of Motor Company’s Street. Both models are designed to appeal to younger riders, as is witnessed by their decidedly “un-Harley like” MSRP’s; $6,700 for the 500, and only $7,500 for the 750. Can you say, “take that” metric cruisers? Both machines will feature Harley’s wildly popular Dark Custom styling treatment, along with low maintenance belt drive and something you probably never thought you’d hear in the same sentence with the words “Harley-Davidson”, and that’s low weight, only 480 pounds.
Beefy backend gives the Street some cred
But wait, there’s more. Both the 500 and 750 Street will feature all new frames which will cradle the aptly named Revolution X liquid chilled, fuel injected motor. This is big stuff people…….if you don’t think so, just look at the size of the freakin’ barn door of a radiator.  Calling the unveiling “a great day in our history,” Matthew S. Levatich, Harley’s president and COO, said the Street series “fills a need for people who want to identify with the brand but want a motorcycle that is less intimidating, and more inviting. This bike is easier to ride and easier to learn how to ride.”

What’s not to love right? Maybe, but here’s the deal, it looks like, although we’ve not seen it confirmed, that these latest badass mini’s from the Motor Company will be IMPORTED from, gasp!, India!! We’ve already reported on HD’s plant in India, used news. What is new is that what once was merely a production strategy to dodge the onerous tariffs imposed by the worlds largest democracy, may now be an export play to bring entry level Harley’s to the US. Will the faithful revolt? I mean, water cooled AND foreign made……blasphemy!
Just me and my Shadow, come on you were thinking it
Our guess is, should the Indian Harley’s (dwell on that for moment!) US debut become reality (remember these little beggars could be cobbled together here) HD will sell as many of them as the former British colony can pump out. The folks these bikes are being built for; young, new to motorcycling, urban and hip simply won’t care. Think about it, their iconic Levi’s are made in Mexico. Those classic Chuck Taylors? China my friend. Authentic Harley Davidson leathers? Ditto. It’s all about image baby.

Sadly, even though the country of a brands origin is foundational to its very core, once established, the marketers and bean counters have learned to leverage every ounce of “authenticity” regardless of where that product is built. Could a Ducati have come from anywhere but Italy? Obviously not. But once established as an “Italian” brand in the minds of the consumer, where the next generation of Duc is assembled becomes an unimportant detail, or at least so it seems.

No doubt about it, 2013 has been a big year for the boys in Milwaukee with the Rushmore project being just the tip of the iceberg……..who knew that below the waterline would lurk Harley’s reimagining of the Honda Shadow!? Seriously, we have to credit HD with playing the cards they were dealt; an aging customer base, the need to lure younger folks to Harley with inexpensive and fun motorcycles, all the while staying true to brand. Looks like they may have knocked it out of the park, time and unit sales will tell.