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“Top-Dogs” Existing Harley-Davidson

Companies often don’t announce their troubles in advance — it’s a strategy that prevents mass exodus. But, when “top dogs” start leaving a company in packs, it’s probably time for you to consider the same.

The latest Harley-Davidson departure is senior vice president and chief operating officer Michelle Kumbier. In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Harley-Davidson did not disclose a reason for her departure, which is set for April 3rd.

For Harley-Davidson workers, the question of whether—and how long—to stick with a beleaguered employer is one that hits plenty of people at one time or other. Deciding whether to stay or go is always a tough call, and compounding the decision this year is that COVID-19 is an equal opportunity offender for job displacement.

A number of high-ranking executives have left Harley-Davidson in the span of six months:

  • October 2019 — Neil Grimmer was removed from his post as president of global brand development following an investigation that the company said showed violations of the company’s code of conduct.
  • October 2019 — Heather Malenshek, who was chief marketing officer and senior vice president, marketing and brand, left the company.
  • November 2019 — Paul Jones left his role as vice president, chief legal officer, chief compliance officer and secretary of Harley-Davidson.
  • February 2020 — president and CEO Matt Levatich announces his departure, but the hedge fund, Impala, stated he was fired by the board.
  • March 2020 — senior vice president and chief operating officer Michelle Kumbier leaves the company.

The motor company announced that Bryan Niketh has been promoted to senior vice president of product and operations and will assume Kumbier’s former responsibilities. Kumbier’s global sales responsibilities as chief operating officer will be assumed by acting president and CEO Jochen Zeitz.  In addition, assistant general counsel Paul Krause, who has been serving as interim chief legal officer, has been hired for the role permanently.

Harley’s drip, drip, drip of declining sales is well-trodden media territory.  If negative media coverage is unrelenting, the business stands little chance of bouncing back very soon.

I’m not going to pretend that this is easy stuff, especially given all the uncertainty. The lockdown situations in the U.S. and abroad in markets like Italy, Spain and France, will clearly impact Harley’s production and sales.  And after lifting a two-month or more lockdown are there going to be any buyers if there is a sharp recession or are people going to curtail their discretionary spending given “respectful exits” and the economic consequences?

Harley-Davidson needs to nail the fundamentals and it’s now more important than ever to continue to develop and produce amazing new products.

Photos credit: Patrick J. Endres

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President Ronald Reagan With CEO Vaughn Beals

In 2020, April Fools is passé and pranks are out.  The pandemic crisis has changed humor!

The popular metaphor for speech is “Shouting fire in a crowded theater,” which may cause panic.  The seriousness of COVID-19 has the capacity to frighten in a visceral way the public and dedicating a blog post to misleading people just seems like a very bad idea.

Do you remember a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, when tariffs were being used to control unfair trade practices (labor, environment and other issues).

Former H-D CEO Matthew Levatich With Recode’s Kara Swisher Discussing Tariff’s

Recall the hysteria of — Tariffs bad, Harley good?

Harley-Davidson execs and investors panicked when the European bloc raised its 6% tariff to 31% on motorcycles. That made each motor company motorcycle about $2,200 more expensive to export, and forced the company into opening another manufacturing plant in Thailand.

Thirty-seven years ago today, President Ronald Reagan took bold steps to protect Harley-Davidson from foreign competitors.  It was April 1, 1983, when Reagan ordered massive tariffs on large Japanese motorcycles to help the last surviving maker of American-made motorcycles.

President Ronald Reagan at H-D York, Pennsylvania on May 6, 1987

I’ve previously written about how during the 1970’s, Japanese motorcycle manufacturers flooded the U.S. motorcycle market decreasing Harley-Davidson’s market share. It had only been a few years since Harley-Davidson executed the epic buy back from AMF.  Their sales hadn’t reached the levels they envisioned, in part, because the AMF era was famous for shoddy quality, bikes requiring a lot of maintenance and the Milwaukee motor company was getting knocked down publicly and in need of some sunshine.

With poor quality and high-maintenance requirements, Harley was skiding toward bankruptcy.  In 1982, Harley-Davidson sought protection from the International Trade Commission (ITC) and requested a tariff on all overseas heavyweight motorcycles. This was the first and only time such a request was made to the ITC. They also lobbied the Reagan administration to raise tariffs on Japanese manufacturers because of “Dumping,” which in this context refers to exporting a product at a lower price than is charged in the home market, or selling at a price that is lower than the cost to produce it.

President Ronald Reagan and CEO Vaughn Beals at H-D York, Pennsylvania on May 6, 1987 — Recieving Appreciation Award

It was a different time and President Reagan used tariffs, versus tweets, to change the course of the American motorcycle industry.

On April 1, 1983, April Fools Day, President Reagan signed into law an act that imposed draconian import tariffs for a five-year period on Japanese motorcycles with displacement of greater than 700 cc’s.  This would give the American motorcycle maker some breathing room from intense competition to retool, get its act together and turn profitable. While the act was supposed to last for five years, then CEO Vaughn Beals asked that it be lifted a year early in 1987.

It was as good then and just as good today… Remarking about the celebrated Harley-Davidson turnaround in 1987, President Reagan quipped (recorded in this Podcast), “Never bet against Americans.

If you are in need of some reading humor, check out these previous April Fools posts:
Harley-Davidson Boom Box Infotainment Virus
I Quit
Harley-Davidson Launches Blackline L-Edition
Keith Wandell Retirement Revs Up Harley
Wagoner Tapped As Harley CEO

Bonus:  President Reagan’s Remarks (Video) to Harley-Davidson Company Employees in York, Pennsylvania on May 6, 1987.

Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson, Recode and Ronald Regan Foundation

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Harley-Davidson’s Entrepreneur and New Mastermind

Jochen Zeitz — Harley-Davidson interim President and CEO

The ultimate maverick has been hired to preserve and renew the freedom to ride.

I’m talking about Jochen Zeitz — the entrepreneur and new mastermind in charge of Harley-Davidson until he is offered the position permanently or a recruitment committee finds a replacement CEO.

So, what do we know and who is this man?

Jochen Zeitz at Segera Retreat Lodge

As a slacker who would debate a good life is better than a good job, paint me truly inspired for that list of accomplishments!

Talk about an extreme producer with a missionary zeal!  And, I haven’t mentioned the best part… a profile of his “day job” achievements.

Mr. Zeitz represents qualities too good to be true and the idea of him shilling for some corporation to hawk motorcycles deflates the “HERO” excitement.  It’s clear, Mr. Zeitz won’t be satisfied until he has done everything to promote his vision of a new, better world.

LiveWire — Jochen Zeitz — Milwaukee, WI

With his multi-millions in fortune, Jochen Zeitz is likely the richest person in history to run Harley-Davidson as interim president and CEO.

So, again, who is the 57-year old sandy-haired, 6’1’’ athletic build of a man?

Mr. Zeitz was born in Mannheim, Germany, in 1963, to a gynecologist father and dentist mother.  He grew up in a time when the Green Party and the anti-nuclear movement were enjoying strong support in Germany.  Along with the time he spent at the family’s lodge in the Odenwald forest, the outdoor exposure planted seeds of interest in environmentalism.  He was educated at Karl-Friedrich Gymnasium, Mannheim, south-west Germany, and then international marketing and finance at the European Business School of Oestrich-Winkel near Wiesbaden.

Jochen Zeitz and wife Kate Garwood

Mr. Zeitz began his professional career with Colgate-Palmolive in Hamburg in 1986. He then moved to Herzogenaurach in the Franconian countryside to work for sporting goods manufacturer Puma (Bio) in 1988. From there, he rose rapidly though the ranks to become head of marketing in 1991 and vice president — international and head of the global marketing and sales department.  In 1993, at the age of 30, he became chairman of the board of Puma, making him the youngest CEO of German firms with commercially traded stock. He dramatically reduced staff numbers, took production to Asia, made English the corporate language, started sponsoring African football teams and was credited with turning around the near-bankrupt business into one of the world’s top three sports brands.

The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) — Cape Town

In 2003, he insightfully signed 16-year-old future Olympic champion sprinter Usain Bolt to Puma.  In 2007, he was appointed to the Board of Harley-Davidson.

Puma was acquired by luxury goods conglomerate Kering in 2007, and a few years later Mr. Zeitz served as Kering’s Chief Sustainability Officer.  In 2011, he set up a sustainability committee for Harley-Davidson, which he also chaired.

Also in 2011, he wanted to step back and focus on his environmental work and resigned as CEO of Puma.  He became a director of parent company Kering and chairman of the group’s sustainability committee.  He co-founded ‘The B Team’ with Sir Richard Branson in 2013.  That same year he launched the Kenyan Segera Retreat with a focus on his foundation’s 4C philosophy for sustainable tourism.

In 2020, he was hungry for something much more and became Harley-Davidson’s interim president and CEO.

Jochen Zeitz — 1929 Gypsy Moth Airplane Photo credit: Eric M Rojas

On a personal level — he divorced his first wife Birgit Jöris in 2012 following an 18-year marriage.  He is currently married to LA-based producer Kate Garwood‚ 41‚ producer of the 2016 movie “Race”‚ about U.S. track star Jesse Owens.  They have two children; 4-year old Jesse born September 2017 and a three year old. He keeps homes in Switzerland, Santa Fe, Los Angeles, a 50,000-acre ranch in Kenya and has property in west London.

When researching material for this blog post, I was blown-away on the amount of information published about Mr. Zeitz.

In a 2013 interview with the International Bar Association, he stated no plans to marry again, although at the time he was in a long term relationship with Kate Garwood. He was adamant about no intention of having children. ‘No, definitely not,’ he stated emphatically. ‘Never say never, but it’s very unlikely. It’s not something that fits with my daily life and I’ve never believed that having children without a father around is a good idea. It’s not really something I would get excited about.’  Just a short four years later both occur.

Jochen Zeitz at Segera, his 50,000-acre ranch. Photo credit: David Crookes

In recent press interviews, he’s stated the joy of his decision to have children late in life, because now he can see them grow up versus having such a busy schedule in running a company and traveling for 10 months in a year.  An interesting side bar: Speculation swirled that Jesse, their first child, was named after the 1930s athlete and fueled by the fact that Jessie Owens was provided with shoes for the 1936 Olympics by the Dassler brothers‚ who went on to found Adidas and Puma. 

But, I’ve digressed and want to return to connecting the Harley-Davidson dots… Mr. Zeitz’s experience at Kering was a critical influence and the driving force behind Matt Levatich’s (the recently fired Harley-Davidson CEO) pivot to sustainability that led him to think much more about environmental profit and loss at Harley-Davidson.  Mr. Zeitz had devised an environmental profit-and-loss account method at Kering which, put a figure on what a company’s air pollution, land use, water use and carbon consumption cost the planet.

Jochen Zeitz’s Favorite Thing — A Scottish Bailey — Photo credit: Charlotte Haden

While Mr. Zeitz — wealthy, world-view philosophy, competitive, over-achiever and relatively young — has the luxury of carving out grandiose, acronym-fueled sustainable ‘visions’, that struggling businesses like Harley-Davidson, desperate to increase motorcycle sales, might find distracting or even an irritant.

We’ll have to read the biography when ex-CEO Levatich publishes the book, but as an outside observer, one distraction example is: it took eight years, millions of dollars and the work of over a thousand engineers to fully realize a product that few want — the Harley-Davidson LiveWire — the Milwaukee company’s first premium electric motorcycle to go on sale in September 2019.  As a long-serving Harley-Davidson board member, Mr. Zeitz convinced executive management to focus not just on the moral justification for electric engines, but on the needs of Harley-Davidson customers to have healthy natural landscapes in which to ride. The logic behind this claim, was that “what every rider loves about the ride – it’s the environment they’re riding in, isn’t it?”  Soon afterward, the marketing and brand alignment teams marched in unison to support sustainability as a major part of the brand.

Segera Retreat — Laikipia, Kenya

The result?  A new mission, twisting the brand’s historic celebration of freedom into a desire “to preserve and renew the freedom to ride” and TWELVE quarters of sales decline.  Along with a $2,152,500 million severance payment to Matt Levatich.

Mr. Zeitz believes and is on record, stating there is more to corporate life than the relentless pursuit of profit. Wait, what?!  Isn’t profit what got Matt Levatich fired?

I’ve watched “An Inconvenient Truth” and the sequel. The oceans are heating and the poles melting, but color me skeptical of environmental groups with sustainable-for profit-business interests.  We’re all too aware of what the world needs: another multi-millionaire telling others how to behave better once they have made their own fortune while flying private and choppering into a rich man’s playground.

Jochen Zeitz GQ Article — in German

The motor-head scholars, bankers, real estate agents, lawyers and fashion designers who gather not to drink cheap brew, but to sip $15 “born to be wild” martinis and straddle $40,000 motorcycles might pontificate on the value of sustainability, but I just don’t see grizzled leather-clad loyalists describing Harley-Davidson as the world’s most sustainable manufacture over a beer at the Sturgis rally.

But, sometimes there’s a man. I won’t say a hero – ’cause what’s a hero? – but sometimes there’s a man – and I’m talking about Jochen Zeitz here – sometimes there’s a man who, well, he’s the man for the time and place.

A man who will improve the brand that is unique, exciting and one that gives value to it’s riding customers.

But wait, there’s more… An incentive if he kicks a field goal… according to the company 8-K regulatory filing, the interim Harley-Davidson, CEO Jochen Zeitz, is eligible and will receive a $3 million bonus (in the form of restricted stock units (RSU’s)) that would vest one year after the grant date and become payable if his employment continues to the date of the installation of a new CEO.  That $3 million would come on top of the annual base salary of $2.5 million he is receiving now after taking over for Matt Levatich. I don’t think this will be too difficult since Mr. Zeitz has served on Harley-Davidson’s board since 2007.

Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson, Jochen Zeitz, Twitter, Eric M Rojas, David Crookes, and Charlotte Haden

Information Source & References: IBA, Independent,Wired,Business Daily Africa, Milwaukee Business Journal, Adventure Rider, Infosys, Telegraph, Financial Times, Angama Blog

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Matthew S. Levatich — Ex Harley-Davidson President and CEO

Harley-Davidson, Inc. announced yesterday that Matthew Levatich has stepped down as President and CEO and as a member of the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors appointed current Board member Jochen Zeitz as interim President and CEO following the abrupt resignation of Levatich.  A search committee is being formed, and the Company will utilize an external search firm to undertake the process to find a new CEO. The press release also stated that Levatich would assist with the transition through the end of March.

Levatich had a 26-year career at Harley-Davidson with the last five years as President and CEO. The abrupt departure marks 5-years of sliding sales and the value of the Milwaukee motor company has been cut in half.  It was not a cheerful week at Harley-Davidson!

The board and the CEO share responsibility for corporate performance, so it stands to reason that when a CEO fails, the board has failed as well.  I would speculate the company board is reacting to pressure from shareholders and seeks to appease investors in the short term by handing them the CEO’s head on a platter.  The investment community will want a replacement CEO who’s both promising and reassuring—and they’ll want him fast.

Jochen Zeitz — Harley-Davidson interim President and CEO

If we were to step into a time-machine and journey back to the future… from the V-Rod to the Buell Blast. Who can forget the MV Agusta dumpster fire and in the parlance of our time, there is now a green machine— LiveWire—a motorcycle short on juice, and one that few people want or can afford to buy.  Harley’s attempts to branch out has with out a doubt shown mixed results, at best.  In fact, some observers wonder if the company is “asleep at the switch.”

It would seem that “seeing the problem is easier than fixing it!”  Levatich’s mantra that Harley-Davidson doesn’t build motorcycles, it builds riders, always seemed a bit odd.  That’s like saying, “It’s not about horsepower, but more ideas per horsepower.”  Or “we don’t build motorcycles, we’re a lifestyle merchant company.” It’s that line of reasoning which is nice for marketing collateral, but when you actually dissect its meaning, it’s a  “wait, huh?” moment.

Harley-Davidson Five-Year Sales Slump

Levatich was promoted when Harley announced in February 2015 that he would succeed Keith E. Wandell as President and CEO of Harley-Davidson, Inc. upon Wandell’s retirement on May 1st.

You might even recall that back in August 2008, Matt Levatich, who at that time was vice president and general manager of parts and accessories and custom vehicle operations (CVO), was named managing director of its newly acquired premium Italian motorcycle company MV Agusta Group.  I blogged about this $108 million acquisition being a train wreck (Go Italian) back in 2008.  That deal was heavily promoted as a major part of Harley’s bid to increase its presence in Europe, where it had seen sales grow in the double digits the previous three years, offsetting weaker performance in the US.  The $108 million included $69 million paid to erase MV’s debts and included the Cagiva brand.

Just 14 months later, the Milwaukee “jetsetters” revealed during the Q3’09 financial results, the motor company would divest from the Italian national symbol of motorcycling and the real gut punch was—they would discontinue the Buell® product line.  I don’t recall seeing a lot of MV Agusta T-shirts, coffee and dog collars so, I guess it wasn’t a good fit.  Unfortunately, Levatich will go down in the motorcycle history books as the man that shut down Buell.  Granted the previous CEO, Keith E. Wandell, started unwinding the process caught up in the axel, but Levatich concluded the 16-years of collaboration.  It never added up as a smart business decision and every time I go back and research the articles and press releases it sounds more like someone had a vendetta they wanted to settle.

It’s my view that the blame for Harley-Davidson’s poor results lies squarely with the board of directors!

Poor performing companies don’t get that way because of any single decision or for that matter any single leader. Patterns of historical decisions, strategic neglect, and misallocation of resources all contribute to the deterioration in performance; some contributing factors may even lie outside the company’s control—looking at you tariffs!

Typically a CEO is dismissed not because the board has thoughtfully and deliberately concluded that it’s time for a change at the top, but because investors, concerned about poor performance, demand a change.

Let’s hope Mr. Zeitz and the board of directors have a blueprint for success.

UPDATED: March 1, 2020 — added sales chart and text on length of Levatich career.

UPDATED: March 4, 2020 — According to the company’s 8-K regulatory filing on Monday, March 2nd, Levatich will receive a severance in line with the company executive severance plan.  The company’s 2019 proxy statement states; top company officers will receive a cash severance of 24 months of base salary and 18 months continuation of certain employee benefits, such as life insurance, medical, dental, vision, as well as outplacement and financial planning benefits, if employment is terminated for reasons other than for cause.  The Milwaukee motor company had 12 previous quarters of sales decline, and Levatich’s severance payment will be $2,152,500.  Assuming a 2018 base salary of $1,076,250.

Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson.  Sales chart courtesy of Bloomberg news.

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2020 CVO™ Road Glide®

Mid-way through the motor company 2020 model year — Harley re-introduces a CVO™ Road Glide®.

Similar to the 2019 model, the re-launched 2020 CVO (Custom Vehicle Operations) motorcycle is packed with aesthetic and performance features.  Of course, there’s the 117-cubic-inch Milwaukee-Eight Big Twin (includes color accented Rocker Box Lowers), a heavy breather air cleaner with a factory rating of 128 lb.-ft. of torque which is five percent more than 114-inch engine.

The CVO Road Glide’s sub-27-inch seat height will provide a wide variety of riders a solid feel in the saddle.  There is a high-output BOOM!™ GTS infotainment system, as well as a 21-inch front and 18-inch rear wheels, finished in Gloss Black and Contrast Smoked Satin.  New for several 2020 touring models and now included on the CVO Road Glide is the subscription-based cellular connectivity, where you can connect to your bike through a smart phone using the Harley-Davidson® App and check the bike’s vitals including fuel level, get tamper alerts and stolen-vehicle tracking, and more.  The motorcycle is complemented with the “phat” heated Kahuna™ collection hand grips and controls.

CVO™ Road Glide® Heavy Breather

What might be behind this un-typical launch?

It’s called twelve consecutive quarters of U.S. sales decline. As previously reported, Harley-Davidson motorcycle sales slipped again in 2019 despite new models and expanded overseas operations.

In addition, it’s part of their “More Roads to Harley-Davidsonaccelerated resuscitation plan for growth and part of the 2017-2027 Objectives — Launch 100 new high-impact Harley-Davidson® motorcycles — which allows management to check a box for investors on a “new product.”

The good news is that if you want a 2020 CVO (only available in Sand Dune) parked in your garage, it’s going to cost you LESS!  Yes, less. The MSRP is $40,999.00, a reduction of $1,340.00 than last year.  The MSRP on the 2019 CVO Road Glide was $42,339.00 and for comparison the 2018 CVO Road Glide was $42,949.00

CVO’s are the badge-and-shield brand’s shining beacon on the hill!

It’s a borrowed analogy from John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts who, upon setting sail for New England in 1630, wrote that, “We shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.”

The eyes of motorcycle enthusiasts are upon Harley-Davidson…

Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson

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The motor company gets beat down by critics for lack of technology advancements and then they’re pummeled on social media by customers every time they sway off from tradition.

In this category, the rock and hard place are A) the need for change and B) the danger of following the buzz.  And, in an increasingly social media driven world it is easy, and tempting, to mistake the buzz and savvy social pundits for a real business opportunity.

Simultaneously, the Wall Street view of Harley-Davidson’s move into electric motorcycles being an enduring trend will likely come up dry.  Then the industry analysts believe the U.S. motorcycle market is in terminal decline and are not influenced by a “fun appliance” and the More Roads to Harley-Davidson plan.

But, for many riding enthusiasts, the motor company has introduced so many changes over the last few years its difficult to know where to start.  I’m not talking paint colors, rather engineering developments, i.e. water-cooled engines, Reflex Linked Brakes with ABS,  Reflex Defensive Rider System (RDRS), subscription-based cellular connectivity, advanced electronics with Bluetooth connectivity, voice recognition (microphone/headphone fitted to the rider’s helmet), text to speech technology, sophisticated GPS navigation system, wind tunnel designs to reduce head buffeting, LED lights, revised manufacturing processes, 131 cubic inch Screamin’ Eagle® Crate Motor and the first great-looking electric motorcycle (LiveWire) along with a large number of smaller updates.

The list goes on and on….

Other than the fact that the motorcycles are not inexpensive and in several instances most everyone would consider as very expensive, there’s not much else really to grumble about.

Yet, Harley-Davidson stated yesterday in the Q4 2019 and year-end financial report that its motorcycle sales slipped again!  Despite multiple new models, electrification, expanded overseas operations and Brand strategies to resuscitate demand.

The 4th quarter 2019 net income was $13.5 million on consolidated revenue of $1.07 billion versus net income of $0.5 million on consolidated revenue of $1.15 billion in the fourth quarter of 2018.  That brought full-year 2019 revenue to $5.36 billion, compared with $5.72 billion in 2018.  For 2019, earnings were $2.68 a share, compared with $3.19 in 2018. Adjusted earnings for 2019 were $3.36 a share, down from $3.78.  Harley-Davidson sold 7% fewer units in Q4’19 than a year earlier. The U.S. dealers which account for half of worldwide Harley sales, saw their retail sales fall 3%.

CEO Matt Levatich tried to curb the narrative numbers skid (12th consecutive quarter of U.S. retail sales decline!) in the company’s announcement, saying, “Our performance in Q4 and the full year was in line with our expectations and indicative of increased business stability.”

I am reminded that in matters of business, it’s often the case that the most vehement of corporate assertions are at 180 degrees to inconvenient facts.

The freedom of the open road is all very well, but remaining in the marketplace and growing is key. The motor company should avoid “stooping to compete” with the rest of motorcycling (i.e. chasing buzz).  Harley is iconic because, instead of treating motorcycles as a commodity, it recognizes them as a basis for a lifestyle and a shared set of attitudes

Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson

UPDATE: January 30, 2020 — added: 12th consecutive quarter of U.S. sales decline.

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Pan America™

At the EICMA (Esposizione Internazionale Ciclo Motociclo e Accessori), motorsports show in Milan, Italy, earlier this week — Harley-Davidson debuted two new bikes.  Important to note is the difference in the terms “launch” vs. “debuted.”

The Milwaukee MoCo has aimed one of motorcycles at a market segment in which Harley-Davidson has never really participated.

It’s my view that Harley-Davison is slowly trying to build higher walls to keep “enemies” (competitors) from invasion. Marketing types call this “relevance” and “barriers to entry.”  Multiple financial reports from the company clearly indicate a struggle to fire up a new generation of riders.  The growing presence of electric vehicles is undeniable, but the premium-priced electric (LiveWire) motorcycle — is a non·start·er in terms of revenue!

And at the same time, there’s been an invading army (BMW, KTM, Triumph, Yamaha, Honda or Ducati counterparts) of adventure touring bikes (ADV).  Importantly, this segment is where customers seem particularly excited to buy new models year-after-year.  Even Italy’s floundering boutique bike builder, Moto Guzzi, has had to double the workforce in its Mandello del Lario plant to keep up with demand for the new V85 TT adventure bike ($12,990).  It’s simple.  A fresh new design, a fresh new motor, and a capable around town, comfortable on freeways and durable enough for off-road riding gets customers excited to put down money!

We could have a long-debate on why Harley-Davidson spent millions of R&D dollars much too early as part of their electrification strategy and if the mainstream motorcycle market is ready to encourage motorcyclists to switch to electric vehicles.

But, lets return to the point at hand.

The first new motorcycle is an adventure touring bike (ADV) called the Pan America™.  Astute readers are likely to have déjà vu as it looks very similar to the Pan America concept motorcycle teased out back in 2018.

The Pan America has a new liquid-cooled 60-degree V-twin engine labeled the Revolution Max that displaces 1,250-cc and is reported to make 145 horsepower and more than 90 pound-feet of torque. Impressive stats, especially for the MoCo, which typically has built larger displacement engines with less power and more torque.  The new ADV motorcycle differs from traditional Harley models.  The first item, is exchanging the belt-style final drive for a chain drive that allows simpler gearing changes and improves on the ability to repair if something goes sideways on the trail.  The ADV also leverages a rear trellis-style subframe for strength and reduced weight, which allows motorcyclists to mount different types of adventure-isk luggage to it.

Other advancements include new radial monoblock four-piston caliper brake system developed in collaboration with Brembo and an inverted fork setup, which is common on ADV bikes.  From a styling perspective, you’ll either love the bird-beak nose and squinty cyclops-like headlight or not.

Harley-Davidson® Bronx™

The second new motorcycle is a middleweight class and called the Harley-Davidson® Bronx™. It’s reported to have a smaller 975-cc version of the Pan America’s Revolution Max engine and produces 115-horsepower and 70 lb.-ft. of torque.  Style wise, the Bronx looks somewhat cookie-cutter in this crowded “streetfighter” market segment.  From press photos the motorcycle appears to be belt-driven.  Both motorcycles will roll on new co-branded Michelin tires.

Harley-Davidson says that it’s aiming to have both the Pan America and the Bronx in showrooms by the end of 2020.

Huh?!  A year away?

I like the adventure touring bike (ADV) lineup, but if I was in the market to purchase, it’s unlikely that I’d stall buying for a year to purchase an unproven ADV motorcycle.  I also think it will be a mistake if the MoCo expects its Harley-Davidson name to garner an ultra-premium price in this new segment as it has in the EV market with the LiveWire.

The Pan American should launched and be in showrooms in March 2020, not “late” 2020.

Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson

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