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FXDL Dyna Low Rider Recall Letter

FXDL Dyna Low Rider Recall Letter

It’s surely just a coincident that two months ago GM icon Jim Federico was hired on as the Harley-Davidson VP of Engineering and now the motor company has issued an ignition switch recall on more than 3,300 FXDL Dyna Low Rider bikes.

You might recall that ignition switch problems have plagued General Motors and have now turned up in the motorcycle business.

It turns out that engine vibration can turn the switches from ‘on’ to the ‘accessory’ position.  If the switch goes to “accessory,” the engine can shut off while being driven and potentially cause a crash, however, there have been no crashes or injuries reported from this problem.

This recall involves 3,361 motorcycles shipped in the U.S, which represents certain model year 2014.5 FXDL models built 1/6/2014 through 6/9/2014.

Some of these motorcycles may have been assembled with a top engine mount bracket assembly (P/N 16400026) that has a resonant frequency equivalent to 5800 RPM engine speed. When the engine is operated at that speed, it causes excessive vibration in the ignition switch, which mount to that bracket. The excessive vibration can cause the switch to move from the “IGN” (ignition on) position to the “ACC”(accessory only) position, shutting the engine off. The production Electronic Control Module (ECM) calibration will not allow engine speed to exceed 5600 RPM, but Harley-Davidson offers street-legal performance calibrations which will allow the engine to operate above 5600 RPM. If a performance calibration has been installed which permits the engine to exceed 5600 rpm, it could allow a condition that may potentially cause the engine to stall unexpectedly. A stall while riding in traffic could lead to a crash.

The chronology of recall events are:  On 3/31/14, Harley-Davidson’s Customer Service department notified the Harley-Davidson Recall Investigation Committee (RIC) that the ignition switch on an FXDL motorcycle fitted with a non-Harley-Davidson exhaust system moved on its own from the “IGN” (ignition on) position to the “ACC” (accessory only) position during operation on a chassis dynamometer for tuning purposes.

The RIC initiated an investigation and analysis of this issue. A search of existing warranty data in April, 2014 disclosed no warranty events, but a search of customer complaints disclosed one complaint, which referenced an event similar to the initial report, i.e., an FXDL model motorcycle fitted with a non-Harley-Davidson exhaust system, operated on a chassis dynamometer.

During May, testing was initiated to attempt to re-create this condition.

During May and June, the RIC met to review test and field data information. The testing indicated that this condition could potentially occur both on the road as well as on the dynamometer, that a non-Harley-Davidson exhaust system was not necessary to create the condition, but could enhance it, and that the production Electronic Control Module calibration was not able to create the condition, as an engine speed of 5800 rpm or greater (production calibration includes a 5600 rpm rev limiter), was required to create the condition.

Another review of the warranty and complaint databases in June revealed a total of four events, all of which occurred on motorcycles believed to be fitted with non-Harley-Davidson exhaust systems and ECMs with higher than production engine speed rev limit calibrations.

There were no reported crashes or injuries.

On 6/19/14, the RIC completed its review and analysis, and referred the issue to executive management.

On 6/27/14, upon review of the results of the RIC’s investigation and analysis, Harley-Davidson’s executive management made its determination that a safety related defect existed in the subject population and declared a recall to remedy the issue.

Authorized Harley-Davidson dealers will replace the engine mount bracket assembly and ignition switch knob on the affected motorcycles with the components provided in the recall kit which is covered by the warranty.

Photo courtesy of H-D.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Jim Federico - Harley-Davidson VP Engineering

Jim Federico – Harley-Davidson VP Engineering

I’m intrigued by appearances and a hound for information, for your story. I want to hear everybody’s story, from the homeless person to the billionaire, because that’s what life’s about, the victories, the defeats, and within said stories is wisdom. And the older I get the smarter I become. But, I also know the older you get in America the more irrelevant you become.

And speaking of appearances…

On May 6th, General Motors Co. announced that Jim Federico, 56, an executive involved in the investigation of faulty ignition switches, had decided to retire, effective the day before.  “After a 36-year career with General Motors, Jim Federico has decided to retire from the company to pursue other opportunities,” said Greg Martin, a GM spokesman.  From the tone of this announcement GM must have been heartbroken!

Then today,  Harley Davidson announced Jim Federico, who “just retired,” would start as vice president of engineering on June 2, working at the company’s Milwaukee headquarters.  I’m not sure what conclusions can be gleaned from this other than the institution of a versatile employee wanting to return to work to maintain a desired lifestyle after retirement is still respected in Milwaukee.

Federico holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from General Motors Institute (now Kettering University).  In his 30+ year career at GM, Federico oversaw the development of a number of global vehicle programs for markets around the world, including the Opel Insignia, the Chevrolet Silverado, and he also served as vehicle chief engineer for Cadillac, working on the CTS, STS and SRX.

Federico was one of the executives involved in looking into why GM cars were stalling in 2012, according to GM records released by a House panel last month. Federico, held different jobs during the period related to small- and compact-car development. For a time, he oversaw the company’s in-house investigator who failed to unravel the source of the defect or its poorly documented fix.

The automaker has recalled 2.59 million small cars with faulty switches that have been linked to at least 13 deaths. Congress, federal regulators and the U.S. Justice Department are all investigating why it took GM more than a decade to recall cars with switches that allowed the key to slip out of the “on” position, shutting off the engine and disabling air bags.

GM stated that Federico’s retirement was his choice and had nothing to do with the switch recall.

Photo courtesy of automobilemag.com

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Ethanol Boosted Gasoline and Harley-Davidson

That’s horseshit!

No, I’m not afraid to put that in the title.  It’s just if I do, this finely crafted missive is unlikely to pass the blog filters.  In fact, those of you working at companies probably won’t see it pass through your company filter now that I’ve spelled out the word.  Because that’s how afraid of plain English this country is.  And if you’re protected from reality, how can you know the truth.

And speaking of truth…

What kind of crazy world do we live when environmental and industry groups who frequently oppose each other,  AGREE to jointly ask Congress for thorough and objective scientific testing before allowing an increase in the amount of ethanol in gasoline?  The ethanol industry, primarily lead by the Growth Energy trade group has been pushing hard to allow the amount of ethanol in gasoline to increase by 50%.  It’s called E15 and some 36 groups have signed a letter that went to the majority and minority leaders of the U.S. Senate urging opposition to any amendment to the coming energy bill that would authorize the sale of gasoline with more than 10% ethanol.

But, today the contrite attitude of the Obama administration granted the request of ethanol producers and will permit higher concentrations of the corn-based fuel additive in gasoline for vehicles made in 2007 and later.  The EPA announced its “rubber stamp” decision just minutes later on how they will allow refiners to blend as much as 15%.  The fact is that the Obama administration doesn’t have the power to order use of E15, however, the decision will have profound impact to motorcyclists.

Automotive manufacturers (GM, Ford, Chrysler) have all expressed major concerns and believe ethanol concentrations of higher blends can damage exhaust systems, engines, fuel pumps and destroy catalytic convertors.  By-the-way, this decision excludes ALL MOTORCYCLES, marine engines and non-road engines such as snowmobiles.

Who wins with this “boosted” blend ratio?  Well let’s follow the money…  Corn-ethanol lobby groups like Growth Energy (headed up by Wesley Clark) will benefit.  The U.S. pays a $0.45-cent tax credit to gasoline refiners that make a blend of as much as 10% ethanol.  They win.  Farm exports will increase and they win.  Poet LLC, based in Sioux Falls, SD is the largest U.S. ethanol producer followed by Archer Daniels Midland Co.  They win.  In fact, the annual market value for ethanol in the U.S. has risen to $27.1 Billion since federal support began under the Jimmy Carter administration.

Who loses?  Consumers.  Corn prices, cost of food, cost of fuel and cost of maintenance or repairs.  And then there is the ever present mis-fueling issue. Lastly, how long until measures are put in place for motorcycles?

Photo courtesy of Flickr

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Uh, that would be a NO.

No, I don’t have a man crush on Mark-Hans Richer the Harley-Davidson CMO.  But, we do have some things in common and that is we’re both motorcycle enthusiasts of double-digit years, and proud owners of H-D motorcycles.

Mark-Hans Richer is the “Billy Mays” of pitch men for H-D products, brand and lifestyle.  He pontificates about the rebellious nature.  He’s on the advertising speech circuit.  He is an opportunist.  He defends H-D founding fathers and their ideals.  He mixes up speeches with dramatic entrances.  He quotes the younger generation and the thanklessness of posterity.  He laments about young-rebels-with-tats ethos.  He slams “American Idol” and aligns product placements with fictional motorcycle gangs (“Sons of Anarchy”) through the use of attitude-enhanced advertisements, social media efforts, and lifestyle programs around counterculture happenings.

Mark-Hans Richer (H-D CMO) Dramatic Entrance

To say Richer is a marketer would be like describing Bill O’Reilly as just another news anchor.

Richer is a blow-hard motorcycle zealot to the core evangelizing and marketing a company strategy.  He would make Peter Drucker, the management guru of the 20th century PROUD.  It was Mr. Drucker who stated, “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation.”

So, what’s behind the man sticking it to the man, the chief marketer or H-D rock star?  Mr. Richer joined H-D in July 2007 as the Sr. VP and Global Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) with primary responsibility for overseeing all global marketing activities including promotions and advertising, motorcycle product planning, the H-D Museum, and the Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.).

Mark-Hans Richer (at Pontiac) Slammn'

Prior to joining H-D, Richer held marketing and advertising positions at General Motors’ defunct Pontiac brand. In November 2006 he was inducted into the American Advertising Federation’s Hall of Achievement for his career of high-impact, non-traditional marketing approaches. These include two Cannes Gold Lion-awarded marketing programs while at Pontiac, and prior successes helping lead advertising and promotions at GMC and Chevy Trucks. Richer also has previously won three Effies, the PMA Super Reggie, Promo Magazines’ interactive promotion of the year and a Kelly Award for best national print.

Harley-Davidson is lucky to have hired this motorcycle in every garage evangelist!  Richer has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show (remember the Pontiac Give Away?), The Apprentice III and V, The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch and CNBC. He has been on the cover of Promo magazine and Advertising Age’s Point. He and his team’s accomplishments have been covered by Advertising Age, Ad Week, Brandweek, Media Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA TODAY, NPR Radio, The New York Times, Chief Marketer Magazine, Business 2.0 and Fast Company among many others.

Have I blogged about H-D marketing tactics?  Yes.  Have I’ve been critical of some H-D marketing?  Yes.  But, how do you fault a guy whose job it is to find new ways to “stick it to the man” so to speak?!  In the Greek to New Jersey dictionary that translates to – ti na kanoume – whaddya gonna do?

Seeing this as a small hurdle, I decided to take a different angle and set out on a behind-the-scenes, unauthorized “tell-all” blog – everything Richer – and the icon behind the worldwide marketing empire at Harley-Davidson.  I did my best “Nixon Deep Throat” impersonation and was hopeful to uncovered it all…sham marriages, secret informants, shirtless outtakes in Cosmo, fear of flying, a celebrity-Melisa-Miller-addiction dysfunction, or personal hygiene habits that would make Michael Jackson blush, but I didn’t.  There is nothing worthy of TMZ.  Nadda.  Mark-Hans Richer is either squeegee clean boring or has a brilliant publicist who ran interference — always putting a good spin on whatever embarrassing predicament their boss found himself — like that time as the marketing head of Pontiac he jumped up on a conference room table in a Digitas meeting to shred a few tunes on Guitar Hero.

It turns out that Richer is the marketing real deal.  It reminds me of that saying “A marketer without the press is like a pencil without a sharpener: pointless”!  All he wants to do is sell Harley-Davidson, the brand, the motorcycles, the lifestyle and talk about the achievement of double-digit sales to young adults.  Look for a Richer “Fan Club” page coming to a Facebook near you…

Photo courtesy of H-D, WARC and SlyFox.com.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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First was a slam about H-D imitating and going down the General Motors path.  Then there were calls for a Lazarus-like resurrection!

Not my words, but direct from Mr. Keith E. Wandell (Harley-Davidson CEO and President) who states; “Look in a mirror – Harley was already so far down that same (GM) path it wasn’t even funny.” More talking point nuggets from his first in-depth press interview HERE and HERE.

I’m not sure about you, but I’ve never thought of my Harley as a “Chevy” and I own both!  Never mind that many GMs are made in Mexico or Canada.  The public perception of GM is that it stands for overlapping product lines with bland differences and the “bigger is better” mantra is followed to extreme, and then a crash diet when fuel prices soar.  This has lead to a sea of monstrosities as well as a few genuine moments of clarity and even a hint of brilliance.  But in total, the brand is most often marred with an indifferent quality perception and inexpensive or cheap label.

I don’t hang on Mr. Wandell’s every word, but his point above is an interesting way to send a condescending comment to the Harley-Davidson employees and buying public.  Does the Harley Chief really want his current customers to associate their recently purchased premium ride with GM?  It seems disingenuous to compare GM to the state-of-state at Harley-Davidson or use them as the poster child for everything wrong at H-D.  Wasn’t it just a little over a year ago that H-D management and the board approved what many would consider the equivalent of GM buying Ferrari (H-D acquires MV Augusta)?

Keith E. Wandell - CEO Harley-Davidson

The implication from the CEO interview is that H-D, like GM is a fading American industrial might, one that offered up a motorcycle to feed every market segment which has since degraded into exuding minimal coolness from contrived models.  Many others with little identity and somehow you’ve been duped into paying a premium price for indifferent quality.  This doesn’t seem intellectually honest or make for good PR!

The mind-set reminds me of an article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal about plastic corks and how they’ve made major inroads into the 400 year-old world of wine-corks.  One quote rang especially true and reminded me of the Harley motorcycle business.

“By the 1990’s, retailers and wineries were clamoring for a solution to wine taint, but the cork industry didn’t respond.  No industry with 90% market share is going to see its propensity to listen increase – and that’s what happened to us,” stated Mr. Carlos de Jesus (Head of Marketing, Amorim Group (largest cork producer in Portugal)).

The bottom line is corks didn’t work that well and wine ended up contaminated/bad because of cork deficiencies.  No cork manufacture believed there was a problem and didn’t see the opening for an entrepreneur.  In less than 10 years, plastic corks account for about 20% of the bottle stopper market.  They changed the way winemakers think about making and closing wine.

Lessons for Harley?

  1. Never lose focus on your core mission.  Which is bringing great quality motorcycles to the public.  Some motorcycle manufactures have tumbled into the abyss because it became more about hip-hop star alignment, brand marketing, finding a tiny niche and filling it, oblivious to the point most of your market just doesn’t care.  Oldsters and hipsters are both confused.
  2. Don’t be inured to nostalgia or old technology.  The public is more open to innovation than the supplier.  People are not married to the old ways, they’ll embrace new ideas even if not every innovation triumphs.
  3. Success breeds complacencyAll most innovation in the motorcycle business is by the independents or custom shops doing it outside of the system.  To say you need a major motorcycle company to triumph is to say plastic cork suppliers can’t win unless they align with real cork suppliers in Portugal, who after all are fluent in distribution and have pre-existing relationships with wineries.  But, the plastic cork guys went it alone.
  4. Efficiencies and price. We’re not talking virtual here, corks are physical whether real or plastic.  The future is lower priced motorcycles and the cycle time for new models can’t be like harvesting cork from a tree every 9-to-10 years.  The fundamental measurement of lean manufacturing is cycle time.  It doesn’t matter how many “Kaizen” events or “six sigma” projects a company holds. Cycle time is to lean what weight is to a dieter.  You can get all the bean counters to measure inches lost or reductions in calorie intake, but at the end of the day the bottom line is determined when you step on the scales.
  5. Multiple answers. There is always more than one answer which can take hold.  Screw caps are triumphant ‘down under’ in Australia and New Zealand.  Who will develop the next “screw cap” for the motorcycle industry?

The point is not to be weighted down by your presuppositions.  Don’t think that you’re operating in a world of immutable laws.  And to realize that trying to hold back the future is a losing proposition.  The only way to maintain your share is to improve what you’ve got. Concentrate research dollars on fewer models, pack them with the latest features and technologies, manufacture them in low-cost, U.S. factories (non-union?) and update them relentlessly on rapid fire engineering design cycles.

Schematic photo taken at H-D Museum; Keith Wandell photo courtesy of Tom Lynn/JSOnline.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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H-D announced a recall order that according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) could affect up to 111,569 motorcycles.

Touring motorcycles are manufactured in York County, PA at the Springettsbury Township plant which has been under a lot of pressure to ratify a new labor agreement.  More information HERE on the approval of that agreement.  In addition, H-D announced this week that effective December 16, 2009 Ed Magee would be general manager of the plant replacing Fred Gates who will retire in 2010.

The NHTSA Campaign ID number is 09V457000 and the component effected is the gasoline storage tank assembly/mounting.  The front fuel tank mounts may distort in reaction to severe frame damage from a frontal collision which in turn may cause a fuel leak at the weld of the front bracket to the tunnel.  The result could lead to a fire.  Dealers will install a left and right brace which is intended to reduce front mount distortion during certain crash conditions.  The repair is free of charge and the safety recall is expected to begin on or about December 14, 2009.  Owners can contact H-D at (414)343.4056 or the NHTSA at (888)327.4236.

The models effected are:

  1. All 2009 – 2010: FLHP; FLHPE; FLHR; FLHR SHRINE; FLHRC; FLHT; FLHTC; FLHTCU; FLHTCU SHRINE; FLHTCU W/SC; FLHTCUTG; FLHTP; FLHX;
  2. All 2010 – FLHXXX; FLHTCUSE5; FLHTK
  3. All 2009 – FLTR; FLTR3-CVO; FLTRSE3; FLHTCU4-CVO; FLHTCUSE4

In 2008, H-D announced recalling nearly 47,500 touring vehicles because of a fuel-filter shell issue.  More information available HERE on that recall.  Then earlier this year they announced a 2009 CVO Road Glide recall HERE.

Photo courtesy of H-D

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GTOI’m fascinated by the rapid decline of the American car industry. 

And given Harley-Davidson’s consideration of closing its main assembly facility in Pennsylvania and moving production elsewhere is it déjà vu all over again?  GM and Chrysler went through the same China and Mexico facility debate to lower cost and cope with sales downturns now H-D wants the same experience?!  Huh?

A couple weeks ago there was an interesting article in “New York Times” on the GTO.  I recall hearing the Ronny & The Daytona’s song, but didn’t truly appreciate the “goats” until several years later when the Pontiac was a sleek ride on the boulevard.  At the time I had no idea that Jaguars were an exclusive make.  I’d see an XKE now and again, but if you wanted a real car, a hot rod, one that sparkled in the sunlight and impressed the girls, you got an American car.

In our family we had an string of American cars.  Trained as an engineer, my dad started off with GM/Chevy.  He purchased a sporty rear-engine Corvair Monza that caught fire on the way home from the dealership, but that’s what the brand stood for, great engineering.  There were several models purchased after, but not before the in-line six cylinder C-10 Chevrolet pickup that we must have drove 89,000 miles.  No matter how hard it was driven it got 9 MPG’s!  I remember a partially dismantled block in the driveway at one point theorizing how to boost the gas mileage with a timing belt change. At the end of the sixties and armed with a premonition of gas station lines my dad purchased a new 1970 Toyota Corona.  A Canary Yellow practical four door for a family of four with a dog.  A 1900cc (1.9L) 4 cylinder (3R-C) engine with a 2-speed Toyoglide automatic transmission.  After that Corona purchase I don’t remember much in the way of American car’s in our family.

My love affair with the automobile was not that much different from what I suspect was many of yours.  I studied “Car and Driver.”  I debated buddies what machines we were going to own.  Had friends with Cuda’s and “Stangs.”  But with the early-70’s oil embargo, Yom Kippur War and then later on with Jimmy Carter inflation and national energy policies… I went foreign and never looked back.   People made fun of that Fire Engine Red Corolla that looked like a thirty year old vehicle, even though it was brand new.  But then almost overnight the Datsun 510, 240Z and Celica converted the masses.  Who knew driving could be so much fun?

The usual suspects at GM have run that outfit into the ground.  And it’s hard not to compare analogies to the current state of the Harley motorcycle business.

Detroit said it was just giving the public what it wanted.  So let’s slap the backs of all those Detroit execs for ignoring the coming rise in the price of oil, the environmental concerns and just sell more SUVs.  It’s taken years.  But the Harley-Davidson world seems to be in a similar place as Detroit.  After years of coasting, it’s collapsing, and it’s not sure what the path out is.   Could it be that the blame lies on the pros who drove the business to the cliff, milking millions all the way, believing they’re entitled to their riches?  Is it union busting or “negotiation tactics?”  Where is the next act that H-D can rally around and declare great?  Not marketing noise.  Or accountant speak….like saying Britney might book revenue, but you’ll have a hard time finding any believer in her music.  Her music is not seen as necessary to most people’s lives.  It’s too discordant, or made for the cash register, not humans.  

Be it GM, H-D or Britney…until they change the product, we’ll remain in the doldrums.  It can be done, but only if the execs stop worrying about their lifestyle and get honest.

Photo courtesy of NYT.

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