Global Shift at Harley-Davidson

Shifting Gears with Buzz Kanter


SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, Publisher

For decades, Harley has been highly secretive 
about future products

I feel fortunate to have enjoyed working with so many good people at Harley-Davidson since 1991. Even as a total outsider on its management and strategy decisions, I feel I’ve been watching and analyzing its moves from a pretty good perspective.
Each CEO has had a different approach, as it should be. The current one, Matt Levatich, and his senior team threw us a curveball the end of August with several new product announcements far from how H-D traditionally rolls out news. Not only did H-D unveil radically new machines (like the all-electric LiveWire) but, for the first time in my memory, Harley shared its plans stretching forward a couple of years. This includes new category-busting models like the dual sport Pan America and Streetfighter models for 2020.

Let me step back for a moment and put this in perspective. For decades, Harley has been highly secretive about future products. Typically, Harley has new models in the planning stages and development for three-five years before we even hear about them. But now Harley made a 180-degree turn, showing us future products—some as far away as three years. Plus, Harley has announced plans to partner with an overseas company to build small-displacement motorcycles for other countries. Details to follow, but you get my drift. Please note that Harley tried this in the past with Italian Aermacchi in the 1960s but has not offered anything smaller than the 500cc Buell Blast in decades. So, to recap, Harley-Davidson seems to be tearing up its playbook. It will be offering the first of what we are told will become a family of all-electric, twist-and-go Harleys in 2019. Harley is unveiling some new motorcycle models for 2020. They are moving into the adventure sport field (anyone remember the short-lived Buell Ulysses?) and streetfighter category. And there are plans for some form of partnership offshore to build smaller displacement (possibly 250-500cc) Harley motorcycles for other countries.

If this is what Harley is making public, can you imagine what it still has in the works but haven’t yet announced? The next few years at Harley could be very interesting. Time will tell, and you can count on the American Iron team sharing all the details as soon as we can.

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Ride safe, ride smart, have fun.


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