Let’s talk again about the Harley-Davidson Mentality Shift I was describing in my post on August 30th when referring to the Rushmore Project. Last weekend, Matt Levatich – President and Chief Operating Officer of Harley-Davidson Motor Company – would have said to a few journalists (was not among them) that a 500 cc model is in advanced stage of development, that he rode one, that it looks very good, that it is very light weight, nimble, with a low seat, great throttle response and braking. Such a project has been rumored several times during the last 2 years as the way to put in the Harley saddle new customers in Asia and India where 500 cc is a big size engine. Immediately, such a mid size bike makes me think of the Buell Blast sacrificed in 2009 with the rest of the Buell lineup.
Although Levatich hinted that this 500 cc model could be produced in India – an excellent cheaper manufacturing base (than the US) for fast exportation to other countries in the region – let’s not forget about Harley other plant in Brazil, another excellent distribution platform for all markets in South America. On one hand Harley mentality is shifting to more modernism, safety and comfort to keep the baby boomers riding a Harley as long as possible (Rushmore Project), and on the other hand to whatever the customer wants and can afford in big and fast developing countries. “The American qualities of a Harley are very important to people” said Levatich, “but where a shock absorber comes from is less significant than keeping (in our bikes) the spirit and soul of America…”
There are huge motorcycle markets around the world where you don’t need a license to ride a 500cc and under motorcycle. In more traditional motorcycle markets, USA, Europe, Japan, an affordable 500 cc with the iconic Harley brand image would also accelerate Harley-Davidson penetration into new demographics, youngsters, women and minorities. Harley-Davidson understands the importance of “Made In america.” At the same time, for evident economic reasons, global competition requires that brands adapt their products to and produce near their new markets. Harley-Davidson knows very well that success can’t be accomplished without expanding its percentage of bikes sold abroad. For sure, the company will do whatever is necessary to continue to prosper internationally, and consequently will have to walk a very fine marketing line to not hurt its core clientele, until “Made The American Way” is a proposition as attractive for customers in the US and abroad as the “Made in America”. And I bet with all of you, all studies proving that the quality of a product is more important than its origin, that this time is going to come, faster than you think.
To add to the debate, Matt Levatich also said: “I am sometimes asked whether there will be an electric Harley. People would say, hell no. But why not? Our engineers are quite intrigued with the idea of what an electric Harley would look like, sound like and feel like. And would it be visceral, would it be emotional, would it be luscious. There’s a way to do that, I believe. And it would be very exciting…”