Tomorrow’s Harley-Davidson motorcycle? If you ask Harley owners what they want, most reply that they just want what they have now. An answer in the style of “10 % faster, 20% percent cheaper with 15 percent more features.” They can only use the present as a reference to describe the future. These answers come from the current Harley riders demographics.
And if you ask what to do to attract young people, a lot will suggest that Harley use more high tech designs. After all, they are the laser etched computer/smart phones generation. Illustration of such a family of thoughts? This futuristic series of designs by Jonathan Russell are pleasant to look at, can easily make you think they represent tomorrow because they look out of space…
I disagree because a “high tech repackaging” of what is already in existence is not a new idea or concept. If futurism would always describe the future, how come the last 10 years saw a resurgence of the retro motorcycle design with the youngest current Harley riders having a special affinity for them?
The best way to predict the future is to invent it. And to invent it I am convinced that you must forget all what you know, all motorcycle parts in existence, forbid yourself to act like a grown up, but RESPECT the brand heritage. For Harley I believe more in evolution than revolution. In my Blog I have featured a lot of new one-off motorcycles that made many readers smile or whine because these concepts were “immature”, imagined out of the box and often without taking in account real technology constraints. Some of these new ideas are expressed via show bikes that you can see in major competitions like the AMD World Championship Of Bike Building.
If you look attentively at these custom motorcycles, visually apparent or buried deep inside, you can find the small improvements that will be used on the next decade mass produced motorcycles. Even when the technology is still approximate, he doesn’t worry me because I am convinced that technology, one way or the other, can always be adapted to design, but that a design just conceived to dress up and fit technology always ends up in producing a very unattractive motorcycle.
Coming back to how Harley-Davidson models could and should look in 10 years to have mass appeal to those not yet riders, I don’t know for sure. I am just convinced that they will not look futuristic as in these drawings. Harley-Davidson niche is the heritage market segment. How to re-actualize models without denying the past to attract new young riders is the greatest design challenge Harley-Davidson has ever faced. I think it’s time for Harley-Davidson to integrate a new design team of outsiders made of people knowing enough about the V-twin industry but not prisoners of the Harley culture because of too many years spent debating in board meetings. Of course, the executive management, including Willie G. Davidson, would have to be receptive to these new brains, to what they would suggest and design…For sure the most difficult part. Your thoughts?