September 19, 2021

Iconic brand on the decline, Harley-Davidson is making a big electric shift

Harley-Davidson can breathe. By announcing, in mid-May, their desire to ” solve the problem “ punitive taxes that they have imposed on each other for three years, the European Union and the United States have removed the specter of a tax of 56% which was to strike, as of Tuesday 1is June, this brand faced a slow but persistent decline.

By relocating part of its production to Thailand, the Milwaukee (Wisconsin) firm had managed to circumvent the vindictiveness of Brussels, which imposed sanctions on American imports of jeans, bourbon, orange juice and motorcycles, in reprisals for the customs duties decreed since 2018 by the former President of the United States Donald Trump, in particular on European imports of steel and aluminum.

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“This is the first step in the right direction, in a trade dispute that is not our fault. Harley-Davidson employees, dealers and motorcycles have no place in this trade war ”, welcomes the manufacturer, forgetting in passing that, in the 1980s, it owed in part its survival to the customs protections imposed by Ronald Reagan to counter Japanese brands.

The relief is all the greater as Harley’s worldwide sales have been on the decline for more than a decade. On the French market, they went from 9,144 in 2018 to 6,614 in 2020, according to the firm AAA Data. The builder, which has cut 700 jobs in the past year in the United States, is still looking for a second wind. For its new president, the German Jochen Zeitz, former boss of the equipment manufacturer Puma, this requires accelerated electrification, while Japanese and European manufacturers, such as BMW, are advancing more cautiously in this area.

Shake up your own image

On May 11, Harley-Davidson announced its intention to create a brand specifically dedicated to electric motorcycles. This new division will take the name – LiveWire – of the model launched in 2019, but which did not have the expected success. Elitist (its price starts at 33,900 dollars, or about 28,000 euros), with a range slightly over 200 km and emitting a sort of turbine noise, the LiveWire has been accused of blurring the image of Harley, inseparable from long road rides accompanied by the inimitable cavernous sound of a V-twin.

However, the manufacturer intends to persevere in the path of electrification, still in its infancy for two-wheelers. “By launching LiveWire as a full-fledged, 100% electric brand, Harley-Davidson is giving itself the opportunity to master and define the electric motorcycle market. With the mission of becoming the most attractive brand of electric motorcycles in the world ”, pleads a spokesperson. A first model, which should be more affordable, will be presented in early July.

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