Harley-Davidson was one of the first major motorcycle manufacturers to add electric motorcycles to its lineup last decade. It should come as no surprise then that the company’s CEO Jochen Zeitz is already saying that the brand’s future will be 100% electric.
It won’t happen overnight but rather is likely to take decades for the bar-and-shield motorcycle company to go fully-electric.
That’s how Zeitz described the transition in a recent interview with Dezeen.
“At some point in time, Harley Davidson will be all-electric,” he explained. “But that’s a long-term transition that needs to happen. It’s not something you do overnight.”
With its design heritage spanning well over a century, Harley-Davidson is of course best known for its loud, large displacement internal combustion engine (ICE)-powered motorcycles. But the company’s past was also defined by constant evolution, Zeitz continued.
“If you look at the past 120 years, the company has always evolved, never stood still,” he explained. “Now, like the founders did at the time by trying to reinvent or invent something unique, that’s obviously something that we as a company brand need to do as well. What we’re doing is celebrating our past but also evolving the brand at the same time. It’s a natural evolution that needed to happen.”
Zeitz isn’t afraid of making big changes, even for a brand with as rich of a legacy as Harley-Davidson.
“I believe in big transformational change for iconic brands, which is what I’ve always done in my life,” he said.
Harley-Davidson then decided to spin out its electric motorcycle operations under a new sub-brand, also called LiveWire. The first model under LiveWire, the LiveWire One, was inherited from H-D’s first electric motorcycle and largely just rebadged under the new sub-brand.
Now LiveWire is in the process of bringing its second model to production, the LiveWire S2 Del Mar, which is designed to be a more mass market electric motorcycle intended to reach younger, more urban riders.
As much as some diehard old school Harley-Davidson fans would like to protest it, the fact that the brand will eventually go all-electric is a foregone conclusion. Eventually it will either be go electric or go out of business. That’s not just the case for H-D, but also for all automakers that currently produce ICE-powered vehicles.
So it’s not like it’s a surprise that H-D has to go electric. What is more surprising is that the company is saying the quiet part out loud.
But Zeitz has been a champion of the brand’s electric aspirations since he took the reins as part of a company shakeup, and so he would be the one to speak directly without hiding behind vagueness and hyperbole.
However, if we accept the idea that electrification is an inevitability, even if it takes decades to arrive, what does that mean for Harley and its sub-brand LiveWire? Does Harley-Davidson cease to exist, with LiveWire taking over all of Harley’s operations? Does Harley-Davidson re-absorb LiveWire into the fold as if the spin-off never happened?
It will be an awkward day of reckoning when it arrives. But make no mistake, it will arrive.