For Harley-Davidson, There’s Opportunity (and Risk) in an Electric-Bike Maker’s Woes

Harley-Davidson (NYSE:HOG) denounced a production-ready chronicle of a new LiveWire electric motorcycle during a Milan motorcycle uncover final week. It’s a sleek, racing-style bike that looks zero like your normal Harley cruiser or furloughed motorcycle, and it shows a bike builder is all-in on a electric market.

As superb as a LiveWire looks (and that’s entrance from someone who has been vicious of Harley’s incursion into a electric segment), counsel is still warranted. Alta Motors, a electric dirt-bike manufacturer Harley invested in progressing this year, has reportedly tighten down prolongation and competence be looking for a buyer.

Though Alta’s sales rose 50% in uninterrupted buliding in 2018, building electric motorcycles is expensive, and a association was carrying problem removing financing. If a association that has achieved such considerable expansion with a well-regarded line of electric motorcycles is carrying to tighten adult shop, there’s reason to doubt how easy Harley-Davidson’s highway to success in a shred will be.

The all-electric Harley-Davidson LiveWire. Image source: Harley-Davidson.

A Harley like no other

Harley hasn’t suggested a specifications for a LiveWire — it says some-more sum will be stirring in Jan — yet it indeed looks like a motorcycle people will wish to buy and ride. It’s most some-more considerable than a antecedent denounced 4 years ago. And yet a lot depends on a bike’s battery capacity, a roving range, recharge time, and (perhaps some-more importantly) a price, this could be an critical indication for a manufacturer, that newly has been incompetent to rev adult sales of a large iron horses.

The LiveWire’s appealing coming notwithstanding, a bike builder will have to overcome some fundamental hurdles to make a go of it in this arena.

First, there is substantially no existent marketplace for a motorcycle like this. In a More Roads to Harley-Davidson vital highway map expelled in July, Harley pronounced that fewer than 1,000 high opening e-bikes were sole opposite a U.S. and Europe in 2017. While there competence not be many manufacturers, a genuine honeyed mark in a extended difficulty has been in a lightweight, civic style, where tens of millions of e-bikes have been sold.

Second, Harley lacks imagination in electric motorcycles, and while it invested in Alta, a dual split ways only a few months later. Instead of regulating Alta’s infrastructure, as a smaller association had been anticipating it would, Harley motionless to open adult a possess e-bike investigate and expansion trickery in Silicon Valley. Maybe it saw something it didn’t like in Alta and motionless to float solo. But a birthright has been in gasoline, grease, and oil — it competence not have a same turn of credit among expected e-bike buyers.

Third, among a existent electric motorcycle companies, Zero Motorcycles is a leader. It’s been building e-bikes for 13 years, and has damaged by some critical record barriers, such as fluctuating a operation of a Zero S indication to over 200 miles of city pushing and some-more than 100 miles on a highway. When a LiveWire antecedent was unveiled, it had a 55-mile range, and that was in economy mode. The prolongation chronicle will expected transcend that, yet it will substantially take a few years.

A approach forward

In Harley’s favor, a apparent passing of Alta Motors is reduction of a messenger of a maestro motorcycle maker’s predestine than it competence seem during initial glance. For one, Alta only made mud bikes. Although it always hoped to request a record to all sorts of light-duty and recreational vehicles, it done a gamble on a heading niche market, one where many riders get their initial ambience of motorcycling. Its financial struggles, however, singular a ability to get over those confines. Maybe Harley will buy Alta’s egghead skill and snap adult a engineers, given Alta is formed only outward San Francisco, where Harley is building a RD facility. 

Harley-Davidson has a slight highway to success here. While it’s a largest manufacturer of big, rugged combustion-engine motorcycles — a marketplace for that competence good be in a permanent decrease — it has a possibility to accelerate into a whole new difficulty with a LiveWire. And a recognition of Alta’s mud bikes could prove that there’s an assembly for Harley’s high-performance travel bike.

Likewise, a success of Zero Motorcycles indicates potential. But a financial woes Alta experienced, notwithstanding a thespian expansion and a accolades a bikes earned, advise Harley’s electric expostulate could still be cut short.

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