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Harley-Davidson LiveWire

The Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle was officially unveiled in January 2019 at CES.  A lot of marketing hype surrounded the unveiling of the motorcycle with claims of it being the start of “a new focus for the brand that would inspire the next generation of riders.”

Then yesterday, Reuters broke the news that Harley-Davidson had stopped production and delivery (temporarily) of the LiveWire electric motorcycles, after discovering an issue related to the vehicle’s charging equipment. It was reported that the company discovered a “non-standard” condition during the final quality checks of LiveWire, which it already started shipping to dealers in late September.  There were glitches found in the product which has prompted additional testing and analysis.

Interestingly, Webster defines glitches “as a sudden, usually temporary malfunction or irregularity of equipment.”  A glitch like this is not something riders want in a $30,000 purchase!

The LiveWire motorcycle uses a Combined Charging System (CCS), which is a single connector pattern that offers enough space for a Type 1 or Type 2 connector, along with space for a two-pin DC connector allowing charging at up to 200 Amps.  As part of the announcement, the motor company informed current owners to NOT charge the motorcycles through standard home outlets and use only ChargePoint (direct-current stations) charging stations at authorized Harley dealerships to reload the battery.

Well isn’t that “a jolt” of inconvenience?!

For most riders, you’d like to start your day fully charged!  Meaning home charging is normally done at night while you eat, play with the kids, watch TV, and sleep!  There are two Harley-Davidson dealers in the Portland, Oregon metro area that have installed ChargePoint stations.  Finding an alternative direct-current charging station to reload the motorcycle battery on the way to work and then waiting for a couple hours is certainly not ideal.

Charge Locations – Portland, Or. Metro

There are couple of things to know about public charging: the 3 different levels of charging, the difference between connectors and the charging networks.  Riders can go directly to a dealer or try and locate charging stations using ChargeHub.

Knowing your motorcycle’s capabilities is very important and consult the dealer if not understood!

Public Chargers Levels:
Level 1 is the standard wall outlet of 120 volts. It is the slowest charge level and requires tens of hours to fully charge a 100% electric vehicle.
Level 2 is the typical EV plug found in homes and garages. Most public charging stations are level 2.
Level 3 chargers, also known as DCFC or DC Fast Chargers are the quickest way to charge a vehicle. Not every electric vehicle can charge at level 3 chargers.

In general, electric motorcycles are in a phase of adoption known as “the chasm,” (See: Geoffrey Moore’s technology adoption curve) a gulf separating early adopters from the majority of consumers.  It’s a treacherous position in the life of new technology/products, and often determines their success or failure.  One could debate that Harley-Davidson is targeting a market that does not really exist: young, “green” and affluent first-time motorcyclists.

This unattractive “glitch” will be over soon enough, but it does little to promote value creation and owning a Harley-Davidson electric motorcycle.

UPDATE:  October 16, 2019 — An unidentified H-D source tells Forbes:  “This is an issue with the 120v [charging] system, which includes an on-board charger, so it could be a vendor issue with that charger, a wiring harness issue, etc. The point I’d make is that the QC [Quality Control] process worked…there’s an issue, it was discovered before the bikes were shipped to dealers and customers, and I assume it will be fixed.”

UPDATE: October 18, 2019 — TechCrunch reported that Harley-Davidson has resumed LiveWire production.  “After completing rigorous analysis this week, we have resumed LiveWire production and deliveries,” Harley-Davidson said in a comment emailed to TechCrunch. “Customers may continue riding their LiveWire motorcycle and are able to charge the motorcycle through all methods. Temporarily stopping LiveWire production allowed us to confirm that the non-standard condition identified on one motorcycle was a singular occurrence.”

Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson and ChargeHub

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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The number of businesses investing in the Internet of Things (IoT) technology continues to grow.  Harley-Davidson is one company that recognizes the benefits and has started to leverage IoT both internally as part of their manufacturing process and externally with the new H-D™ Connect service.

WTF?  Isn’t this a motorcycle blog Mac?  You lost me at that inter-web-thingy!

First off, lets set some context with a bit of IoT background:

The Internet of Things (IoT) is used across industries such as manufacturing, logistics, healthcare, agriculture, automotive and industrial markets.  Think connected cars, smart buildings, smart homes and smart city grids.  You’ve likely interacted already with internet-enabled appliances (refrigerators, washer/dryer, garage door openers), there are smart TV’s, there are wearable health trackers.  Need more specifics?  Think RING doorbells, NEST  thermostats or Philips Hue lightbulbs.  Just a few product examples that highlight IoT-based value creation.

The key point here is VALUE creation.  It involves performing activities that increase the value of a company’s offering and encourage customer willingness to pay.  That is the heart of any business model.  Simply connecting a “thing” to the Internet isn’t enough—you must be able to ensure that the data generated by that thing can be leveraged to enable new business benefits.  Whether that benefit is reducing your business’ costs or enhancing your customers’ experiences with new services, the systems chosen to power an IoT deployment must work reliably, be easy to manage, and help you get to real business.

That’s enough context.  Let’s circle the discussion back to motorcycles.

You may not know, but Zero Motorcycles produced a prototype of its first electric motorcycle in 2006 and began marketing them in 2008. In 2013 the company produced a mobile app enabling communication with the motorcycle using Bluetooth; effectively using the Internet of Things (IoT) to connect owner, motorcycle, and service facility.  The app allowed the rider to configure their motorcycle in a number of different ways. For example, it can be configured for a more energy efficient ride or for a higher performance ride using only the app. One of the rider benefits is that the app can also inform you of your current battery capacity as well as an estimation of how far you can travel on the charge.

In addition, the Zero Motorcycles can communicate directly to the manufacturer, dealer, or repair shop. Most vehicles today can communicate with the mechanic by being plugged into a computer, but it requires a trip to the garage. The Zero Motorcycle app allows the motorcycle to send that diagnostic information directly to the mechanic over the internet no matter where you are.  If a rider experiences mechanical problems with the motorcycle, all they need do is to tap the help button located in the app. The information is transmitted and the rider can get troubleshooting advice on location as well as having the company schedule a service appointment if desired. Rather than taking days to get your motorcycle into a mechanic for diagnosis, it is all done in minutes.

Now lets chat about the new H-D™ Connect service; a cellular telematics control unit (TCU) that functions as an (LTE) enabled modem connecting the 2020 LiveWire™ and select 2020 Touring models to the cloud.  It’s built on the IBM Cloud and launched earlier this week.  The H-D Connect (a $12/month fee-based service – FREE 1st year) service remotely connects you to your motorcycle through the Harley-Davidson App on your smart phone.  The fact that Harley-Davidson marketing boldly claims they “will lead the electrification of motorcycling”, is a stunning statement-of-hype when they basically imitated a 6-year old service from Zero Motorcycles!

H-D Connect uses built-in cellular (LTE) connectivity with the IBM Cloud, IBM artificial intelligence (AI), analytics and IoT to enhance the rider’s experience as well as keep the rider in the know with motorcycle status, notifications and alerts.  The rider is always “plugged in”.  Riders can check the battery charge status or the fuel level, available range, tire pressure (on TPMS-equipped models), ride mode (on equipped models), odometer, Infotainment software updates where applicable, and riding statistics.  There is even a GPS-enabled stolen vehicle tracking feature that lets riders share the motorcycle location with law enforcement.

It’s been reported that Harley-Davidson used IoT sensors as far back as 2013 along with other applications to keep track of production on its manufacturing facility in York, Pa., and can complete a new motorcycle every 86 seconds.  But, clearly Harley-Davidson’s desire to make money in the internet-connected space is not limited to physical motorcycle sales; other revenue streams become possible after the initial product sale, including value-added services, subscriptions, and apps, which over time might even exceed the initial purchase price of the motorcycle.

As more and more of our daily life is internet-connected and “recorded” by computers communicating with other computers, riders (myself included) have a legitimate concern about security.  There’s been very little information made available from Harley-Davidson in regards to how they will ensure the privacy of both rider, their riding data and the motorcycle stats.  How often are data logs taken from the motorcycle, streamed to the cloud and then reviewed, stored and archived?  Is the data encoded in a proprietary format, is it encrypted and who can review the data?  Does it require a double-top secret decoder?  The LTE cellular link is ideal to connect the motorcycle and it’s sensors to the dealer and motor company, but it also seems fairly simple to obtain or review that data for evidence that might be used later against the rider.

Any new technology hooked up to the web has the potential to become a surveillance device, even if it’s original purpose was benign.  Law enforcement “cartapping” or using “things” for surveillance has been possible for years, but maybe we should dwell on the benefits that we as a society can reap from this technology.  The new H-D Connect service and Harley-Davidson’s Internet of Things (IoT) platform may provide a reduction in motorcycle fatalities, provide increased benefits of predictive driving in real-time and a more energy efficient future once we’re all inter-connected to smart city grids.

We’ll know soon enough if Harley-Davidson’s internet-connected motorcycles and services actually increase the value of the company’s offering and encourage customer willingness to pay more.

Additional Information:

How Many Turns in a Screw? Big Data Knows — WSJ Paywall
IoT Makes Motorcycles, Helmets Safer, Smarter — Information Week
Harley-Davidson to Redefine Riding with IBM Cloud — IBM PR
How Smart Connected Products Are Transforming Companies — Harvard Business Review

Photos courtesy of Bosch and Deloitte

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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2018 CVO Lineup

It’s arrogant at best and obscene at worst.

I’m talking about the CVO pricing that Harley-Davidson management approved for the 2018 models.  Now that we’ve had a couple days to digest the euphoric feeling of the new 2018 models, we’re left with a gnawing and burning sensation in our stomach that even a spoonful of sodium bicarbonate won’t put an end too.

I can’t help but wonder if the new head of design, Brad Richards, who replaced Willie G. after more than 40 years is singing that new Taylor Swift single, “Look What You Made Me Do,” after going full-tilt Goth and dripping black on so many of the new designs.

2018 CVO Street Glide

Unless you’ve won the lotto, you’ll be crunching numbers very late into the night to learn how to squeeze a new Harley CVO into the garage without breaking the discretionary entertainment budget!  They are expensive!  In a small way, we have Polaris to thank for exiting the market with Victory motorcycles and reducing Harley-Davidson pricing pressures.

I’m reminded of the Mylan EpiPen scalping gone wrong in the pharmaceutical industry.  Will we see the motor company deploy industry “experts” to justify the value of overtly expensive models and purport to quantify the net social benefits of belonging to the riding “lifestyle?”  If they do, it’s likely to be based on a complicated economic model and include scholarly speeches, articles, blogs and conferences to lend prestige on the whole “we’re doing everything in manufacturing to keep our prices down” lobbying blitz.

2018 CVO Road Glide

The fact is, Harley-Davidson is a luxury brand cleverly disguised as a blue collar, workin’ man’s brand.

Millions of marketing dollars are spent every year on campaigns to drive home the point that it’s name is synonymous with regular, working class folk.

But, have you seen their luxury price increases on the 2018 CVO models?  Harley-Davidson has exceeded the price range of BMW and Ducati, two brands with a public perception of being expensive toys for the upper-class.

Most of us will never get to experience the CVO results of Harley-Davidson’s labors for ourselves, thanks to prices ranging from $40,000 to $43,000.  Specifically the MSRP pricing is:

2018 CVO Road Glide — $41,399 (not available in 2017)
2018 CVO Street Glide — $39,949 (+$2150 above 2017 price)
2018 CVO Limited — $42,949 (+$1950 above 2017 price)

2018 CVO Limited

I’ve written about Harley-Davidson’s sales and marketing woes.  Much of it outside their control, but we can’t absolve the motor company of any responsibility for these arrogant price hikes.  Harley-Davidson owns this one.  The pricing backlash has already begun across the motorcycle forums and the whole thing leaves a bad taste in consumers’ mouth — of all age groups!

For example, the CVO Limited jumped $1950 from 2017 to 2018.  Beyond paint, there are NO significant upgrades on the 2018 model.  Looking at web pages indicates the only “NEW” item was the addition of a Bluetooth wireless connection module to the stereo.  This may have been as simple as a firmware update to the BOOM stereo system.  Let’s assume it was a hardware addition.  A Cardo bike-to-bike intercom with dual handsfree to connect up multiple bluetooth-enabled mobile phones retail for less than $300.  That would mean the price increased $1650.

Let’s look at the 2018 CVO Street Glide — Harley-Davidson removed the radiator and abandoned water cooled heads as the lowers now have speakers along with another power amp to drive the sound “bubble.”  They’ve provided similarly configured models in the past.  The company added Bluetooth wireless connection to the stereo and created a “NEW” Gun Metal grey paint, however, they jacked the price up over $2100 above the 2017 model.

The CVO Road Glide is a bit trickier to do a price comparison as the last time they offered a similarly stripped down version of the CVO Road Glide was back in 2013 (remember the Cat Whisper paint stripe scheme which was priced at $33,999?) and it was based on the old 110cu.in. engine, old radio and outdated fairing, frame etc.  Harley-Davidson skipped a year and then for 2015 they offered up that behemoth CVO Road Glide Ultra at $36,649 which included all the accouterments which was based on ‘Project Rushmore’ enhancements that other touring bikes received.  It’s not a pure apple-to-apple comparison, but this basically equates to a $7,400 price increase over a 5 model year period.  Which is incredible given the low rate of inflation and manufacturing cost reductions.

Are the financial analysts really scratching their heads wondering why riders don’t line up to lay down these $$ on a motorcycle?

In fairness, Harley-Davidson does make some decent, affordable bikes in their Street lineup.  But they still have a bit of that stigma — which is backed up by most of their current lineup — of putting heritage before innovation and that’s turning some of the riding youth away from the brand.  Harley isn’t as strong a competitor in terms of bang-for-the-dollar with the likes of Triumph, Ducati and the Japanese manufactures.

Even the blue collar, workin’ man who can afford a nice bike will certainly take a look at the local Indian dealer and realize that the competition is making all-American cruisers that indeed have an appeal and nearly every model is priced less than a new Harley-Davidson.

It boggles the mind how according to Harley-Davidson management, the new 2018 motorcycles are less expensive for Harley to manufacture, with simpler frames and more commonality of parts yet they’ve rolled out what looks like an orgy of price scalping.

Photo courtesy of Harley-Davidson

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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2018 Softail Lineup – Eight all-new models

When is “new,” “all-new,” “brand new,” “built from the ground up new,” “the newest,” “newer and refreshed,” advertising claims of an existing or previous Harley-Davidson really new?

Is there no objective basis by which to measure when a motorcycle is actually “new?”  What do you think?

It’s been reported that motorcycle enthusiasts are holding on to their old, reliable wheels for longer stretches of time, but Harley-Davidson wants to change that and has rolled-out the “brand new” 2018 #FreedomMachine models. Dealer launch video is HERE.

Send in the millennials and let’s make a deal!

Or in other words,  what the company is hopeful for after the ‘largest ever product development project’ was undertaken.

All-new Softail mono shock rear suspension

They may not look very different, but the 2018 changes to the engine, frame and suspension over shadow any “new” colors, new handle bar position or new seat thread design.  “All-new” is really what we’ve been promised to modernize these traditional bikes and it’s not a rehash of the old.

The quick read is that the Softail and Dyna product lines, as riders have known them previously, are gone.  The Dyna family is discontinued and the Dyna nameplates are now Softails!

Softail Big-Twin cruiser models

That’s the provocative and on the 2018 model revamp, all of the models that used to be in the Dyna’s lineup — the Fat Bob, Low Rider and Street Bob — rolled into the Softail lineup — Softail Slim, Heritage Classic, Deluxe, Fat Boy and Breakout — Harley completely redesigned the Softail chassis.  Not a minor cosmetic change, but a complete overhaul of the entire frame and suspension.  The new under-seat mono shock rear suspension aims to offer improved ride quality, traction, and control while the triangular swingarm maintains the classic lines of a hardtail frame.  The revamp also includes key accommodations for last years release of the Milwaukee-Eight, the first four-valve-per-cylinder heads engine packaged into the classic 45-degree V-twin.

From the styling department, all the new 2018 bikes have a much darker and aggressive paint scheme.  It’s largely a brooding “protester” feel with colors matched and with a “masked” or blacked out engine. There are smaller changes to individual models such a color-coded inner fairings, new wheels (including a 21” one for the Road Glide) and different exhaust finishes.  Oh and don’t forget that riders can now pair Bluetooth headsets with the stereo to remain wirelessly “connected” — on its top-of-the-line touring models.

I’ll address the hype right here: Your motorcycle and your smartphone are starting to have a lot in common, though only one can be used to take a selfie — at least for now.

115th Anniversary Eagle Badge

Lastly, the motor company announced the 115th Anniversary edition motorcycles.  There will be two limited-edition, serialized designs with 115th Anniversary Eagle and special anniversary paints available on nine different models in 2018 to celebrate the birthday.

But, what about that peculiar

In the social media and PR launch extravaganza for the 2018 line up earlier this week, Harley-Davidson quietly discontinued the V-Rod.

Discontinued V-Rod

The 2017 V-Rod Muscle and Night Rod Special are the final iterations of the VRSC (V-Twin Racing Street Custom) line.  You may recall this motorcycle had the Revolution engine that was co-developed with Porsche and based on the VR-1000 Superbike that Harley used in competitive drag racing.  It had a hydro formed tubular frame, a gas tank under the seat with round-topped airbox cover up front posing as a gas tank.

This was often referred to as the Harley for the non-Harley motorcycle rider and was a testimony that engineers and the brand were capable of doing something very different.  It was introduced in 2001 and discontinued 16-years later.

It would seem that Harley-Davidson is no longer “building products that fulfill customers dreams on the drag strip!

Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson

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Ted Gilbert on his Sport Model on top of Larch Mountain

Did you know, that in August 1919, Ted Gilbert became the first motorcyclist to ride a machine to the top of the rocky butte near Portland, Oregon?

His motorcycle of choice was a Harley-Davidson Sport Twin. Sitting at 4,045 feet above sea level, Larch Mountain is 11,000 feet of narrow, brushlined trail. Rugged and heavily timbered, with huge boulders, sharp stones, and logs lining its sides, it had previously withstood all attempts for anyone to reach its summit on a motor vehicle. The three-mile climb took 2 hours and 20 minutes and needed neither chains nor a tractor band to help the Sport Model along. A big sign measuring 4 feet by 6 feet nailed to the side of a huge fir tree marks the time, the name “Harley-Davidson Sport Model,” and the name of its rider, so that when Mazamas and various other organizations of mountain climbers would later reach the top, they would be able to see that a motorcycle could climb the hazardous cliffs of Larch Mountain.

“Hot Road” Perfume and Cologne

Did you know, Harley-Davidson offered a line of perfumes and colognes?

During the “Disneyfication” era which included branding any merchandise product such as T-shirts, leather jackets, caps, helmets, socks, gloves, knifes, signs, wedding cake decorations and key chains.  This was a product to complete the all-encompassing Harley-Davidson lifestyle and smell like your favorite bike at all times. The line of perfumes and colognes were called “Hot Road” and featured woody aromas with hints of tobacco.  It was 1996 and Harley-Davidson thought they’d attempt to capitalize on the company’s unique brand loyalty and decided to produce their own line of perfumes and colognes.

The woodsy scent with faint traces of tobacco did not make the top of the list for even the most loyal Harley-Davidson fans, yet you can still purchase some HERE.

Jeffrey L. Bleustein

Did you know, Jeffrey L. Bleustein is considered the “Father” of the Kevlar Belt?

Mr. Bleustein was Harley-Davidson Chairman from December 1998 to April 25, 2009.  He retired as Chairman of the Board in April 2009.  Previously, he served as Harley-Davidson CEO from June 1997 to April 2005.  He also served at Brunswick Corp in many capacities and was President of Tri-Hawk, Inc., a subsidiary of Harley-Davidson, 1984 to1985.  Mr. Bleustein was a technology consultant with AMF.  In 1969, AMF merged with Harley-Davidson and in 1975, AMF assigned him to help reorganize H-D engineering operations.  Led by AMA Hall of Famer Vaughn Beals and 11 other Harley-Davidson executives (including Willie G. Davidson), Bleustein helped execute an $81.5 million leveraged buyout of the company from AMF Corporation in 1981.

Mr. Bleustein was responsible for engineering innovation which included the rubber engine mounts, redesign of the V-Twin and introduction of the Kevlar drive belts.

More on the CEO’s of Harley-Davidson HERE.

Harley Owners Group

Did you know, Rich Teerlink established HOG?

Mr. Teerlink  — served as Chairman and CEO until 1999 at Harley-Davidson until he retired.  Mr. Teerlink joined Harley-Davidson in August 1981 as CFO where he enjoyed great success over his 18-year tenure.  He started just two months after a group of 13 Harley managers had bought the company from its then parent company, AMF, in a leveraged buyout.  Mr. Teerlink’s greatest accomplishment was establishing the Harley Owners Group (HOG) in 1983.

More on the CEO’s of Harley-Davidson HERE.

Did you know, the birthpace of Harley-Davidson in Australia, is considered to be Morgan & Wacker in Brisbane?

Many people don’t realize that Harley-Davidson started operations in Australia just 14 years after the U.S.  At the Morgan & Wacker dealership is a 1917 V-Twin, the exact bike that was one of the first in Milwaukee, and it sits half-way around the world in Brisbane, Australia.  Bill Davidson recently visited and was photographed by the motorcycle.

Oregon Fueling Experts

Did you know, Oregon Regulation of gasoline dispensing recognizes the special fueling requirements of Harley-Davidson motorcycles and makes the motorcycle rider the expert at fuel dispensing?

According to Oregon’s legislature, ORS 480.330 it’s all about the inconvenience and hazards of self service.  I feel it’s just another step in the government ladder of dependancy.  At any rate, the law states that an owner, operator or employee of a filling station, service station, garage or other dispensary where Class 1 flammable liquids, except aviation fuels, are dispensed at retail may not permit any person other than the owner, operator or employee to use or manipulate any pump, hose, pipe or other device for dispensing the liquids into the fuel tank of a motor vehicle or other retail container.  However, on June 11, 2001, Oregon motorcyclists won the right to pump their own gas. Governor John Kitzhaber signed House Bill 3885 into law, which gives motorcyclists the choice of fueling their own bikes. Oregon and New Jersey are the only two states which prohibit “Self-Serve” gas pumps, and motorcycles are the only class of vehicle allowed to actually dispense fuel into their own tanks in Oregon, which was effective January 1, 2002.

The law recognized the special fueling requirements of various motorcycles which then made the rider the expert at fuel dispensing. This bill also removed a liability for gas station owners who permitted the common sense practice of allowing motorcyclists to fuel their own motorcycle.

Bruce McGill “D-Day”

Did you know,  Bruce McGill, “D-Day” character in Animal House, rides a Harley-Davidson Sportster motorcycle up the Delta House internal staircase?

The 1978 John Landis movie was filmed in Eugene, Oregon and starred John Belushi. Many campuses rejected the filmmaker’s location request, due to the raunchy content of the script, before the University of Oregon approved it. Then-President William Boyd even allowed his office in Johnson Hall to be used as that of Dean Vernon Wormer (John Vernon).

The movie’s Delta House was an early-20th-century Eugene residence that served as the home of the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity from 1959 to 1967. Although it was demolished in 1986 and replaced by a suite of doctors’ offices, a large building outside the new building bears a plaque that commemorates the Delta House location.  Many of the interior scenes were filmed within the adjacent Sigma Nu house, which still stands today on East 11th Avenue; the exterior of the frat house was cast as a sorority house through whose window Belushi peered at half-naked coeds.

The movie’s climactic parade scene, featuring actor Kevin Bacon’s film debut, took place in downtown Cottage Grove, Oregon.

Did you know, Harley-Davidson has multiple manufacturing plants in Asia?

The motor company announced plans to build a manufacturing plant in Thailand where motorcycles will be assembled from parts manufactured and shipped from the U.S. The company said the plant will cater to the Asia-Pacific market, particularly China and Southeast Asia with plans to begin production in Thailand in 2018.  The factory is being erected in the Rayong province, Thailand which is geographically located southeast of Bangkok. This will allow the Harley-Davidson to circumvent Thailand’s tariffs of up to 60 per cent on imported motorbikes.

The Thailand plant is the second factory in Asia as Harley Davidson has a plant in Bawal, India, where the Street 750 model and Street Rod is produced. In addition, Harley-Davidson manufactures motorcycles at a plant in Brazil and has a wheel factory in Australia.

Tri-Hawk, Inc.

Did you know, Harley-Davidson sold a no-doors, no-roof, no-regrets, Polaris Slingshot knockoff back in the 1980’s?

Called the Tri-Hawk it was viewed as a semi-automobile.  Harley-Davidson acquired the company in 1984 and the cost for a Tri-Hawk was nearly $12,000.  Jeffrey L. Bleustein — who had a long tenure at Harley-Davidson, served at Brunswick Corp and was President of Tri-Hawk, Inc., a subsidiary of Harley-Davidson, 1984 to1985. Mr. Bleustein was also a technology consultant with AMF.

For many years Harley-Davidson made three-wheelers in the form of utility and police “trikes,” but they were not like the svelte looking Tri-Hawk’s.  They product appeared only briefly in Harley-Davidson showrooms as it was determined to be a marketing miscalculation and they were quickly pulled from the motor company line-up.  The two-passenger Tri-Hawk had already been in limited production before Harley-Davidson decided to take it on to fill some niche. In 1983, prior to acquiring Tri-Hawk, Harley-Davidson made a deal with an Austrian Rotax company for engine-gearbox racing units destined for 500 cc short track racing, but the Tri-Hawk was powered by a French-built Citroen four-cylinder motor.

Tri-Hawk

The Tri-Hawk design was developed by race car engineer Robert McKee with deep pockets by millionaire sportsman Lou Richards who was underwriting the project . The Trip-Hawk was assembled in a small plant located in the beachside town of Dana Point, CA. The 1299 cubic inch flat four air-cooled engine rode up front while the frame and suspension echoed McKee’s racecar experience. Borrowing even more from French technology, the builders incorporated a hydraulic braking system manufactured by Renault.  Weighing over 1300 lbs., and powered by 80 horsepower through a 5-speed transaxle transmission, theTri-Hawk had what marketing called, “exhilarating performance characteristics.”

The product had appeal, but the motor company decided not to sell them through their dealers, leaving only the factory in Dana Point and three other franchise locations to sell all the Tri-Hawk’s.  With limited availability and about eleven Tri-Hawks leaving the factory per month they became a sales failure.  Not from design flaws, but from management and company neglect.

Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson; Harley-Davidson perfume photo courtesy of Sofie Lindberg; photo of Bruce McGill courtesy of IMBD, photo of Ted Gilbert on his Sport Model on top of Larch Mountain courtesy of Motorcycle Enthusiast;

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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BITW-HelmetAs I write this I’m reminded that I was flying home from Barcelona, Spain about this time last year after a long work week at an industry event and that every year in business is different.

A few years are easy, some are hard, and most are somewhere in between. Each year you face a different set of circumstances: changing economic, political, social and what’s cool in the billet industry.

We know from the Discovery Channel which scripted a mini-series project about the history of Harley-Davidson, that in the early years the company really struggled to survive. From month to month, they worked hard to keep from getting further behind and sinking further into debt.  There were the AMF years and then came the housing bubble.  Those of you who have tried or are establishing a little business of your own know that success is much harder than you envisioned it should be. Many folks think there must be “one big thing” they are missing that if discovered and remedied would turn things around and put them on the path to major prosperity.

Clearly, that isn’t the case, and over the course of a few startup years often you learn that rather than “one big thing,” there are many functions throughout the business that had to get established in good working order for the business to really succeed.

After 114 years, this still holds true for Harley-Davidson. There are no guarantees or shortcuts to success. There is only doing the hard work that needs to be done, doing it to the highest standards, and identifying the next area to establish or improve in order to build the next generation of Harley-Davidson rides and riders to control their destiny.

All of this became acute over the last week when Harley announced their Q4 and full-year 2016 financial results (HERE).

Words like “intense competition, flat market, soft sales, and earnings miss” ruled the day.

These are just words.  I’m of the viewpoint that how well any company performs is a key factor in how well they succeed compared to their competition.  Since we’re a few days before Super Bowl — a sports analogy is in order — how well a team executes ALL aspects of their game has everything to do with whether they win or lose.

Obviously taste in motorcycle brands, styles, or in paint schemes, is subjective. Some in the press have beaten down the overall market with reports that seem to indicate the riding “fad” has ended. Granted there’s been negative publicity with Polaris shutting down the Victory Motorcycle brand and overall motorcycle industry earnings not being great, but there are many very nice motorcycles being made, and WE the riding enthusiasts/public have lots of choices.

Why do I bring this up?

I’ve notice in my travels that many successful companies have a sense that they are masters of their own fate; their success is within their control. They know it’s a myriad of little things done well that add up to their success. And no matter what their size, they realize that a company always has the resources at hand to take their next step. Isn’t that really the “art” of it: to creatively employ existing resources to advance the ride, the employees and the company?

Most of us know the answer to a problem is rarely found outside the company; it usually comes from within.  I’m confident that Harley-Davidson will find the answers and simply function better as an organization.  I predict they will do a more thorough job of performing the functions a successful motorcycle company needs to and roll out compelling new products that will be industry hits.

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screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-11-15-09-amPolaris, the MN-based maker of motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles announced today that it’s winding down the Victory brand effective immediately to concentrate on its better-performing Indian Motorcycles business.

Polaris said it will assist dealerships in liquidating inventory and will supply parts for another 10 years and honor warranties in place.  Victory motorcycles are primarily manufactured in Spirit Lake, Iowa.

The first Victory motorcycles rolled out in 1998, yet never took much market share from Harley-Davidson Inc., in the cruiser-bike category. Indian Motorcycles, which Polaris relaunched after a 2011 acquisition, has performed better, however Harley’s market share remains at 48 percent to Indian’s 3 percent.

Polaris Industries Chairman and CEO Scott Wine stated, “This decision will improve the profitability of Polaris and our global motorcycle business, and will materially improve our competitive stance in the industry. Our focus is on profitable growth, and in an environment of finite resources, this move allows us to optimize and align our resources behind both our premium, high performing Indian Motorcycle brand and our innovative Slingshot brand, enhancing our focus on accelerating the success of those brands. Ultimately this decision will propel the industry-leading product innovation that is core to our strategy while fostering long-term growth and increased shareholder value.”

Photo courtesy of Victory/Polaris.

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