In the midst of a dire set of end-of-year statistics Harley-Davidson says that an electric Harley will debut within the next 18 months.
The move isn’t a surprise; virtually every major manufacturer has electric bike plans in the works. But the firm timescale shows that Harley is serious about being in the vanguard of electric bike development.
It needs to be, since the traditional formula of chrome-laden V-twins simply isn’t working as well as it used to. The firm’s final figures for 2017 show that worldwide sales dropped by 6.7% compared to 2016. Sales dipped 8.5% in its core US market, where the vast majority of Harleys sell. And it’s worsening; the last quarter showed a 9.6% drop in year-on-year sales, and an even worse 11.1% decline in the USA.
While Harley still accounts for 50.8% of US motorcycle sales over 601cc, it needs to stem the sales slowdown. The electric bike is part of its plan to do that.
Harley first showed an interest in electric bikes with its Project LiveWire back in 2014. With 74hp and 52lb-ft of torque, the electric Harley prototype’s performance was in line with the company’s petrol-powered machines. In 2016 it revealed a five-year timescale to get the bike into production, suggesting a 2021 launch date. Now it’s bringing the date forward to 2019.
Its latest report says this about the electric Harley:
Harley-Davidson remains fully committed to investing in product development to inspire new riders through redefining its product in traditional spaces and expanding into new spaces. The company is on target to launch its first electric motorcycle within 18 months. Today, the company announces it will invest more aggressively to lead in the application of electric motorcycle technology to inspire ridership among a new audience.
President and CEO Matt Levatich said: “The EV motorcycle market is in its infancy today, but we believe premium Harley-Davidson electric motorcycles will help drive excitement and participation in the sport globally. As we expand our EV capabilities and commitment, we get even more excited about the role electric motorcycles will play in growing our business.”
Harley’s latest report also reveals it plans to close its Kansas City, MO plant. It will consolidate the work done there into the factory in York, PA.