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Harley Davidson announces plans for electric motorcycle

Elijah De Castro,
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Harley Davidson sales have been in decline for four straight years and the motorcycle company is struggling to get more customers, according to financial news website Market Watch.

Millennials aren’t riding motorcycles as much as previous generations and are blamed for the steady fall of Harley Davidson. They have grown up in recession and as a result, are typically spending less on hobbies like riding motorcycles. Currently, Millenials are the largest generation living and motorcycles aren’t a high priority among them according to Business Insider.

“Harley is in trouble as the older generation is the one that historically buys these bikes.  The allure and mystic of the HD brand is what some folks are after,” Jim Donahoe of the Hayward Motorcycle Club told the Pioneer. “The exhaust note and the ‘biker’ attire appeals to a lot of riders. You can be a doctor or some other professional but when you don your biker togs, you are a ‘biker’.”

In response to the decline, the motorcycle company is looking for a way to attract new riders. Harley Davidson Motorcycle Company has announced their plans on producing an all-electric motorcycle within the next 18 months.

“We will be aggressively investing in our effort to lead in the application of electric vehicle (EV) technology in premium motorcycles to inspire ridership among what we expect will be a new audience,” Harley Davidson said in a Jan. 30 press release provided to The Pioneer by Mike Pflughoeft, corporate media manager of Harley Davidson.

Harley Davidson has not confirmed whether or not the new EV being produced will be based on the prototype concept motorcycle the Livewire which Harley Davidson debuted in 2014. It can be seen ridden by Scarlett Johansson in the movie “The Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

Livewire’s main issue was its limited traveling range. Although performance was not a problem with the capability to do zero to 60 miles per hour in less than four seconds, it only had a range of about 50 miles on a full charge according to Popular Mechanics Magazine. With a low mileage capability, long distance rides were impossible and the new technology should be addressing that issue with the new EV.

While Harley is trying to appeal to new riders, existing consumers were shocked when the company decided to discontinue the Dyna line, a specific style of Harleys, in 2017 without making an official announcement. The Dyna was a rubber mounted frame with a big twin motor and exposed twin rear suspension that connected the swing arm to the frame. The Dyna line spanned from 1991 to 2017. Dyna submodels included: The Street Bob, Low Rider, Wide Glide, Fat Bob and Switchback.

Tweets and comment sections on Harley-Davidson’s social media posts since the reveal shows outraged purists who are shocked by the decision to discontinue the Dyna according to The Drive, an online motorcycle news outlet.

The Dyna line was replaced by new versions of the Softail line. The monoshock frame was a big upset for current riders because many Harley Davidson fans favor the look of exposed twin suspension over the performance of a hidden monoshock.  The springs in the Softails are hidden within the motorcycle’s frame and are unseen while the seat is on.

The monoshock design and new Milwaukee 8 engine in the new Softails is actually supposed to be more performance oriented. The new platforms were intended to combine the hard-riding performance of the discontinued Dyna series with the custom looks of the Softail line, according to Hot Bike magazine.

“When you see a high-performance build of a big Harley, it’s usually based on the Dyna” says Eric Brandt of The Drive.

As the motorcycle company is looking for new riders, current riders were not amused with the replacement of the Dyna for the newer Softails.

“I’m mad they stopped producing Dynas, but not only because I wanted to buy another one someday”  Jesus Andrade, the owner of a 2016 Dyna Lowrider, told The Pioneer. “Eventually, it’s gonna be harder to get parts from the dealer because the bikes are discontinued.”

Why has Harley Davidson chosen to produce an electric motorcycle instead of reproducing popular discontinued models such as the FXR or Dyna to inspire ridership?

“EV is just part of the story,” Mike Roach, Harley Davidson Public Relations Lead, told The Pioneer. “Harley-Davidson launched 17 new high-impact models in 2017. High-impact product plays an important role in inspiring ridership, and response to our new Street Rod and Softail lineup has been excellent.”

Although Harley Davidson is focusing on “high-impact” or performance-oriented models, most riding a Harley Davidson aren’t riding for its performance aspects. There are plenty cruiser style motorcycles that have updated technology and better performance. Most bikers are riding a Harley Davidson for the look, sound and feel.

“Harley Davidson has a certain audience,” Tony Herrera, a Concord resident and Harley Davidson owner told The Pioneer. “When you roll through on a Harley, you expect it to be loud, you expect it to be obnoxious. Harley fans aren’t looking for an electric Harley. They’re looking for a Harley that’s loud and proud, that’s just everything that has to do with the Harley Davidson label.”

The EV is a big change from the traditional internal combustion engines of Harley Davidson.  An electric motorcycle would be hard to sell to hardcore Harley bikers but could open the company up to a new market according to ElecTrek, a news site tracking the transition from fossil fuel transportation to electric and the surrounding clean ecosystems.

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