If Electric Bikes are its Future, is the Harley Davidson Brand a Help or a Hindrance?

 

Initially, I started writing this article from a perspective of the decision making that would go into how Harley would brand their new electric vehicle lines. The longer I worked on it, the more I realized that the real question is does it even matter?

From a product standpoint, going from the current Harley bikes and accessories to electric motorcycles and e-bikes is truly a massive departure from its core. Sure, both have two wheels, stalk the roads and require helmets (or should), but beyond that, they’re two completely different beasts.

The current Harley offering is more of a lifestyle built around an amazingly large, expensive machine that fights tooth and nail to stay rooted in the past – and certainly not the pinnacle of efficiency, either. The electric bike world is, for the most part, exactly opposite.

harley riders

So too are the target demographics for each product group. For the current rider, it’s the sigil of open-road freedom and luxury that only a large amount of disposable income can easily afford. It’s also something of a recreational item with only the thinnest of connections to utility.

Conversely, what today’s electric bike market looks like is based in the desire for cost-effective and convenient [city] transportation. It becomes even more true when Harley starts looking outside of its core US market. Further, those that will be in the market for e-bikes and electric motorcycles will be of younger generations that have proven they don’t need a vehicle to help support their idealized selves – or one to connect them to new people and experiences. They have the mobile devices and social media for that.

So for all the effort Harley has put into building this current incarnation of the brand, it would appear to completely stand in the way of how they need to be perceived for the proposed pivot into these new markets. I’d further posit that it’s so far apart that you couldn’t even marginally connect the current brand to a new one like, ‘YYY …by Harley Davidson.’ Might as well try saying, “The Future, by Old-timey.” in that ‘Kitchen of the Future’ voice from the ‘50s.

An electric motorcycle-focused brand from the firm would have to be completely different than what they have today to the point that it would need to be essentially a completely different company. The question becomes: does Harley have the gumption to do it well?

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