You'll want to see and hear this...
Video courtesy of Harley-Davidson.
Wait, is that really an electric motorcycle made by Harley-Davidson?
Yes it is, and that's Harley-Davidson's (NYSE:HOG) newest concept and first electric motorcycle, code-named Project LiveWire. Details are sparse but the bike has obviously been designed in order to attract attention to the brand and to attract new riders. The two key elements the company is highlighting are the bike's race-inspired design and its unique sound. Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Mark-Hans Richer sums up the bike's persona perfectly with this quote from the press release:
The bike offers a visceral riding experience with tire-shredding acceleration and an unmistakable new sound. "The sound is a distinct part of the thrill," said Richer. "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."
The bike will journey across the United States on famous Route 66, making frequent stops for riders to test-ride the bike and offer feedback to the company on it. Depending upon the public's opinion, Harley-Davidson will then decide whether it should manufacture the bike or not.
The reason Harley-Davidson is building an electric motorcycle
As a motorcycle enthusiast, Harley is one of the last large moto manufacturers that I would have guessed would make an electric bike; perhaps Honda, but definitely not Harley. Harley-Davidson is synonymous with ape hangers, cruising, choppers, low-riders, drag racing, flat track, rallies, tattoos, and leather. So, this new electric, environmentally friendly bike raises the question: What's Harley doing?
Harley-Davidson, just like any public company, is expected to grow, and Wall Street expects the company to grow by 14% each year for the next three to five years. The company has a stranglehold on the U.S. market for on-highway motorcycles, as evidenced by its 51% market share of sales in the first quarter of 2014. Even with this dominance, Harley's sales are still 5% below its record of $6.2 billion set in 2006. In order to achieve the growth that Harley wants, the company has to attract buyers from outside its core demographic.
This was attempted in 2001 with the V-Rod, and recently with the new Street 500 and 750. New models aren't the only way the company is trying to boost sales, though. International sales recently reached the highs set in 2008 before the financial crisis, and should surpass them in 2014.
The electric bike appears to be another new gambit for the brand to attract the attention of riders interested in a more aggressive riding experience and cutting-edge technology. So far, it looks like the LiveWire concept is certainly garnering attention -- 332,907 views on YouTube on its first day, and the tally is rising quickly.
Will the LiveWire actually be made?
LiveWire seems to be a concept bike meant to attract new riders to Harley dealerships across the country; there's the possibility of it being produced if there's a market for the bike. Investors and fans can get updates on how the project is progressing during the company's quarterly conference calls; it reports second-quarter earnings in July, and third-quarter earnings in October.