Thursday, 20 May 2021

Harley Doubles Down on LiveWire with Transition from Single Model to Stand Alone Brand "Family"

 Harley Doubles Down on LiveWire with Transition from Single Model to Stand Alone Brand "Family"

In a news release to investors posted on May 10, Harley-Davidson announced "the launch of LiveWire as an all-electric brand."
Initially, this might seem like a no big deal, 'nothing to see here' story, merely a Mk II attempt to refresh stalled impetus into the 2019 launched LiveWire electric motorcycle. However, the key word here is "brand" - Harley is elevating LiveWire (if that's the right term) from a single, specific model to being an entire family of EV solutions - motorcycles and otherwise.


In doing so, it is clear that it is seeking to capitalize on the one thing that was a runaway success when the LiveWire launch was finally confirmed two years ago - namely the hype and the brand profile that it generated. The multi-media success that Harley had with the LiveWire project was unprecedented, either for Harley or any other established motorcycle manufacturer's foray into electrification.
Of course, the profile had already been marinading for at least seven years by the time the first 'metal' was being shipped to dealerships - Harley's first LiveWire unveil was in 2014 when it demo-toured the model around the United States, Europe and further afield. By that stage, there had been at least 24 months of intense engineering and design work.

'LiveWire' is more than a motorcycle

Fast-forward to the HardWire, and the conventional playbook would see most manufacturers by now looking to jettison something that must still be a long way from providing any kind of positive return on investments. Especially in the context of a manufacturer that is taking a second drink from the well of strategic realignment in just four years, but not so the iteration of Harley-Davidson we are seeing emerge in the 12 months since CEO Jochen Zeitz grabbed the handlebars.

Instead, Harley is 'doubling down' on its investment into the 'brand' so far by positioning it (Serial-1 E-bikes aside) to champion all that will come out of Milwaukee in electric motorcycle terms in the months and years ahead.
"LiveWire is more than a motorcycle," says the release. "LiveWire plans to redefine electric, delivering the best experience for the urban rider, with personality and soul. LiveWire creates a unique connection between rider and vehicle. Today, the next chapter in the LiveWire journey begins."

Harley has never formally released sales numbers for the LiveWire - they are not detailed in the fiscal reporting either. However, it is an open secret that the numbers have been way below expectations and below anything that would represent a suitable return on investment. But the profile generated by the hype is money in the bank for a brand that remains largely undamaged by the lack of sales, and largely distanced from any Bar n' Shield baggage among the demographic who are likely to be the earliest electric motorcycle adopters.

Bold statements for a technology whose primary Achilles heel (in all manufacturers' hands) is widely accepted to be the very fact that electric drivelines do not and likely cannot ever compare to the visceral and dynamic nature of the internal combustion engine experience.
However, Harley is not alone in needing to 'talk a good game' where electric motive power is concerned. The future-facing changes that are already upon the industry affect all motorcycle manufacturers and cannot be ignored - in terms of electrification or of automation.
Jochen Zeitz is quoted as saying: "One of the six pillars of the HardWire strategy is to lead in electric - by launching LiveWire as an all-electric brand, we are seizing the opportunity to lead and define the market in EV.
"With the mission to be the most desirable electric motorcycle brand in the world, LiveWire will pioneer the future of motorcycling, for the pursuit of urban adventure and beyond. LiveWire also plans to innovate and develop technology that will be applicable to Harley-Davidson electric motorcycles in the future." Now that is the important bit! See this month's comment on page 4.
The first LiveWire branded motorcycle is scheduled to launch on July 8, 2021 and to premiere at the International Motorcycle Show on July 9, 2021 [IMS Outdoors at Irvine, California].
LiveWire is described as drawing on its DNA as an "agile disruptor from the lineage of Harley-Davidson, capitalizing on a decade of learnings in the EV sector and the heritage of the most desirable motorcycle brand in the world.
"With an initial focus on the urban market, LiveWire will pioneer the electric motorcycle space, and beyond.  Innovating by design and attracting industry-leading talent, LiveWire will be headquartered virtually, with initial hubs in Silicon Valley, CA, (LiveWire Labs) and Milwaukee, WI.
"From launch, LiveWire [the brand] will work with participating dealers from the Harley-Davidson network as an independent brand. An innovative go-to-market model will blend digital and physical retail formats, tailoring the experience to the local market and allowing customers to discover LiveWire on their own terms."
However, as LiveWire seeks to "seize the opportunity to lead in EV and innovate across the customer journey," there will still be some "dedicated EV showrooms" at select locations, starting with California - allowing customers to "experience the LiveWire brand in an immersive and innovative way.
"With a dedicated focus on EV, LiveWire plans to develop the technology of the future and to invest in the capabilities needed to lead the transformation of motorcycling. LiveWire expects to benefit from Harley-Davidson's engineering expertise, manufacturing footprint, supply chain infrastructure and global logistics capabilities.  
"Harley-Davidson and LiveWire intend to cooperate and share their technological advancements to ensure an industry-leading application in their respective core segments."

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