As the celebration of its 120th anniversary kicks off, Harley-Davidson knows it needs to evolve in order to survive.
The storied American motorcycle maker may have spun off the battery-powered Livewire as its own separate brand, but that doesn’t mean the brand isn’t fully committed to electrification. In fact, its CEO, Jochen Zeitz, says that company will eventually only make electric bikes.
“At some point in time, Harley Davidson will be all-electric,” the executive recently told Dezeen. “But that’s a long-term transition that needs to happen. It’s not something you do overnight.”
Zeitz’s pronouncement seems guaranteed to make a not-insignificant portion of the manufacturer’s customer base cringe. For many enthusiasts, the thing that really sets a Harley apart from other motorcycles—American-made or otherwise—is a thunderously loud internal combustion engine. But the company knows that no matter how important those large-displacement mills might be change is on the horizon.
Harley purists can take solace in the fact that the internal combustion engine seems safe for the immediate future. The brand may have been one of the first major motorcycle companies to release an all-electric model, but it plans to ease its way into electrification. The kind of evolution that Zeitz envisions for the company and its motorcycles will take time.
“It takes decades, right?” he said to the website. “But you have to also think in decades rather than just thinking about what year and the short-termism that everyone is exposed to as a public company. We have to think about the transition, and preparing for that transition is why LiveWire was born.”
Luckily, the standalone LiveWire brand should give Harley-Davidson some insight into what riders want from an electric motorcycle. The company’s lineup currently consists of a single model, the One, which is just a rebadged version of the bike Harley launched in 2019. A second model, the more urban-centric Del Mar, is currently undergoing testing and is expected to go into production in the near future.