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Harley Plugs Into the Zeitgeist


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20. June 2014

It is incredibly bold. Possibly risky, putting its brand at some risk.

Harley-Davidson  has revealed Project LiveWire, an electric motorcycle.

This is not a bike that it has in production right now. Rather, it is going to be taking it to select Harley dealers across the country, so that the Harley Faithful will have an opportunity to chime in as to whether they think this is a good idea.

Harley-Davidson Motor Company Side View

According to Matt Levatich, Harley president and CEO, "America at its best has always been about reinvention. And, like America, Harley-Davidson has reinvented itself many times in our history, with customers leading us every step of the way. Project LiveWire is another exciting, customer-led moment in our history."

One of the differences between an electric motorcycle and one with an internal combustion engine, of course, is the sound that is—or isn’t—emitted. So Harley has cleverly developed an audio aspect of Project LiveWire.

Said Mark-Hans Richer, senior vp and chief marketing officer, of this aspect of the bike, “Think fighter jet on an aircraft carrier. Project LiveWire’s unique sound was designed to differentiate it from internal combustion and other electric motorcycles on the market.”

Gives a whole new notion to “tuning a motorcycle.”

Explaining the bike, Levatich said, "Project LiveWire is just one element in our efforts to preserve and renew the freedom to ride for generations to come. As a company that has seen success for 111 years, we think in generational terms about our great riding environments for the next 111 years."

One interesting aspect about all this is Harley’s obvious awareness that an electric motorcycle might be off-putting to some of its stalwart customers. So in its FAQs about Project LiveWire it says: “Make no mistake, we love the Harley-Davidson V-Twin engine and believe there continues to be a strong future for our traditional projects”

Harley is taking a risk. And it should be acknowledged for doing so.

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