June 24 in New York, Harley-Davidson started its 30 cities tour to solicit your reactions to its environmentally friendly LiveWire electric concept motorcycle. Depending on the feedback, Harley said that its R&D will improve it with mass production on the horizon or simply trash it. Whatever you think of automotive electric technology, Harley-Davidson, like all other vehicle manufacturers, knows very well that electric cars and motorcycles are in your future, and consequently in theirs. The question is not if, but when the company will be able to offer a product you accept and demand enough to create a profitable mass market to address. For now most studies show that the e-motorcycles market in North America should grow by about 30% a year during the next decade. A market disruption to be prepared to if you are a major motorcycle manufacturer… Nobody can deny that customers are increasingly open to the idea of electric cars and motorcycles. So, I am convinced that even if the LiveWire Project would be temporarily stalled or renamed, just the time necessary for improvements and integration of new technologies, it will never be abandoned. Harley is interested in the long-term potential of e-motorcycles, regardless of immediate demand. It’s at reinvention that America has always been the best country in the world. And I think it’s still true. No company can survive, last and remain successful without reinventing itself. With the LiveWire Project, Harley-Davidson is not the first manufacturer exploring the e-bike route. Contrary to others, Harley-Davidson doesn’t ask you if you want their e-bike by trying to sell you one. The company tries to find out which one you would buy in terms of design, performance, range and practicality (plug-in charging stations that can be Harley dealers? Your home or office when a charging standard will eventually be agreed on?) In less than one week, though your reactions in this website and other social medias, Harley-Davidson already knows that most of you find the LiveWire Project quite appealing in terms of aesthetics. A very good point because it means that visually an e-motorcycle is not incompatible with Harley’s history and design lineage. Well before unveiling the LiveWire pictures, they already knew that the core Harley riders, especially the baby-boomers, are not (yet) too much concerned about environmental awareness, but are much more attached to performance and autonomy. Harley doesn’t ask you to approve the current 53 miles range per charge. They know you don’t. They just want your reactions to evaluate your expectations and will meet them, whatever it takes in terms of time and investment. Same about acceleration, (currently 0 to 60 mph in 4 seconds.) What about the no-exhaust, almost silent electric engine? Object of many easy jokes, it’s not at all impossible that Harley will be able to replace the current jet airplane hum by a more uniquely Harley e-sound that has to be created. Something belonging only to Harley, making their electric motorcycles recognizable among all e-motorcycles. But which one will please the largest number of Harley fans? For sure a little bit louder than other electric bikes, but never the chug-a-chug of a combustion engine Harley. Harley’s challenge is to add the “rebel legitimacy” to its charge-up line up. Waiting for all these improvements, the Harley LiveWire Project is already a huge success in terms of marketing. Just think about the free worldwide publicity the company already got through all channels of communication, a very loud brand noise that will continue to buzz during the next 12 months and beyond. An interest so big that even the most skeptic core bikers would love to test ride one of the 22 electric Harleys currently on tour around the country. Last week, during its project announcement, Harley-Davidson said “There are milestones that change history. Those pivotal moments where the future is defined.” I think that the LiveWire Project is one of them for the Milwaukee manufacturer. I am also convinced that the company will very soon, with other manufacturers, participate and play a key role in helping develop electric motorcycle standards. The LiveWire project is the “Halo Bike” that will help Harley-Davidson shape and define its future.
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