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Posts Tagged ‘Zero Motorcycle’

Jochen Zeitz with an electric Harley-Davidson LiveWire motorcycle – Photo Credit: Joshua Kurpings

He saved Puma. Now he’s going to fix the Harley-Davidson global business!

I’m talking about Jochen Zeitz, the interim Harley-Davidson CEO.

The motor company today announced that Zeitz has been appointed President and CEO, effective immediately. You might recall that Zeitz assumed the role back in February when Harley-Davidson ditched CEO Matt Levatich for years of disappointing sales.

Before we ratchet up turnaround enthusiasm of new leadership, it might be good to peel back a layer on the mysterious Mr. Zeitz.  I’ve written a detailed background post HERE.

It’s been my experience that business leadership works much differently during a turnaround transformation.  Managers are less able to rely on practices that previously insulated them from criticism. In addition, a traditional consumer goods company is research driven, and don’t typically decide on action until research tells them to change – but the reality is that research doesn’t always tell you what the consumer wants.

Let’s check out some of the Zeitz FACTS:

  • Zeitz is on a combat mission to make the Harley-Davidson business sustainable in a way that improves both society and the natural environment, and that creates economic growth.
  • Zeitz was the driving force behind Harley’s sustainability efforts and approved former CEO Matt Levatich’s desire to “bet the farm” on electric motorcycles.
  • It took 8-years and the work of a thousand engineers to fully realize the LiveWire, the company’s first electric model, that finally went on sale at $30K.
  • Among the entire Harley-Davidson board of directors, there’s a total of ZERO years of motorcycle industry experience.  Coincidentally, ZERO is the top manufacturer of electric motorcycles for the street and dirt.
  • No public (via Google search) photo exist of Zeitz riding a motorcycle, attending a motorcycle rally or HOG event.
  • At Kering, Zeitz was known as the “sustainability Taliban” — Kering employees characterized him as impatient and demanding unrealistic standards.
  • Lack of gender equality on the Harley-Davidson board, yet Zeitz has been a board director and influential member since 2007.
  • Zeitz history of working with unions is murky.  In China workers don’t have the right to Freedom of Association and Asia remains Harley’s strongest sourcing region
  • Zeitz gets the gist of enlightenment after a dialogue with Benedictine monk Anselm Grün – yeah, yeah, you let go of attachments, dissolve your ego, and then you get enlightened and write a book.

Let’s gain some additional insight of the Zeitz thinking from his previous statements; “My belief is that every company has an opportunity to innovate by creating business solutions for services or products that significantly reduce your impact and create more demand for your product.”  “Well, unless you are an extracting business. In that case, you’re a dinosaur and you’re dying.”  The solution is to marry sustainability with growth. “It’s a question of what we grow and how we grow, and how we can reduce our impact significantly and still grow,” he went on to say, “We have to grow within planetary boundaries.

Planetary boundaries?  Huh?

I’m as green as the next fuel/air motorcycle enthusiast, but I had to do a deep dive on this one…  It seems the 11,700-year-long Holocene epoch (“Age of Man”) is the only state of the Earth System (ES) that we know for certain can support contemporary human societies. The planetary boundary (PB) concept, introduced in 2009, aimed to define the environmental limits within which humanity can safely operate.  The planetary boundary (PB) framework contributes to such a paradigm by providing a science-based analysis of the risk that human perturbations will destabilize the Earth system (ES) at the planetary scale.

Whoa, this is heavy!

I would assume that in Harley-Davidson parlance and every day practice, this means that instead of making short-term profits that may incur costs later on (an obvious example being depleted resources leading to higher raw material prices, or social inequalities reducing at-work performances and purchasing power), businesses need to spread some of that growth to the wider world around them, for the sake of the planet – but also themselves.

Who would’ve thought… buy a Harley-Davidson motorcycle for the sake of the planet!

Zeitz might actually be on a path similar to Alfred Ford.  Currently known as Ambarish Das, he is a great-grandson of Henry Ford and heir to the Ford Motor Company who has converted his earthly consciousness to helping build the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium in Mayapur, which was largely funded by Ford’s $35M donation.

I don’t want to appear like I’m self-serving, but as you get gray hair in the beard you tend to focus the “More Roads” plan on which rides you are really trying to accomplish in life.  Maybe it’s time to published a memoir, meet-up in Alachua County, Florida and reflect in one of those “healing” pools.

I hope this transcendental awakening works out for Harley-Davidson.

Photo courtesy of Harley-Davidson.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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eROCKIT Electric Motorcycle

eROCKIT Electric Motorcycle

Building a better mouse trap.

It’s about engineering.  It can be a daunting task, especially after 105 years in the market with the leading heavy cruiser segment share locked up.  It seems impossible to surpass.  With success like that why would anyone at Harley-Davidson do anything different or even consider trying to break a proven success?

But, that’s exactly the point, right?   Remember what happened to the record companies?  They cruised along, making buckets of $$ selling overpriced CD’s with one good song and Napster came along and ruined the business model.  What was the response?  They tried to keep the future from happening by suing those who wanted to live in the future, then blaming the artists, then demanding 360 degree of rights for almost nothing rather than jump ahead of the curve, retool part of their business and innovate for what didn’t exist today, but clearly would in the future.  Does Harley have visionaries who see the electric transportation future? Or are they doing a “Detroit”…  denying what’s possible and booking the profits… extracting cash, but failing to reinvest it… only changing when forced to by the government or when consumers go elsewhere?

Toyota has been showing the world it has engineering prowess.  It has a proven piece of hybrid propulsion technology that set the de-facto standard of the world when the hybrid Prius debut in Japan in 1997.  Honda was second with the Insight, but Toyota is perceived as the world’s hybrid leader — and estimates it has saved consumers more than 135 million gallons of gasoline worldwide via its technology.

Brammo Enertia Motorcycle

Brammo Enertia Motorcycle

With Harley-Davidson’s engineering I’m not referring to a different headlamp configuration, paint scheme, or removing a few pounds from the overall weight to improve fuel consumption or save $$ in raw material costs.  Difficult as each of those may be, it’s not a better mousetrap and will do nothing to set them apart from traditional players.  The present always rests on the foundation of the past, and when it has taken shape, it incorporates the essence of the future. Where is Harley-Davidson’s electric motorcycle future? Do they have the intellectual and engineering capabilities to get ahead of the customer and entice them when they finally catch up?  Providing more not less.  Sure the motorcycle business is altogether different than automobiles with shorter development cycle times and the visceral passion shown by customers who literally feel exactly what the motorcycle is doing.  But, is Harley stretching their design ethos to showcase their engineering skills and expand into new segments?  They are either dark with a double top-secret projects or in denial.  My hope is they take motorcycle design in a new direction and show people there is something unique about the engineering of their bikes and demonstrate that electric motorcycles have a place in their line-up.

There is a lot going on in this space ranging from electric assist bikes ($1-$5K) to the fully functioning electric motorcycles ($15K).  There is the 30-employee Zero Motorcycle company that builds a 140 pound dirt bike called the Zero X that uses clustered lithium ion batteries which fully charge in 2 hours.  Then there is the 12-man eROCKIT (.pdf) company building a variety of bikes, mixing the aesthetics of a motorcycle with a battery motor and adding bicycle pedals to come up with a totally unique two-wheeled vehicle.  There is Electric Motorsports and their model called the GPR-S that sells for approximately $10K.  There is the world’s fastest (0-60 in 0.9 secs; 7 seconds in the ¼ mile) electric motorcycle which has been showcased at the National Electric Drag Racing Assoc.  In Oregon, there is the Ashland-based Brammo Enertia Motorcycle manufacture which is selling motorcycles via Best Buy while the state is working on a bulk purchase agreement for EV charging stations open to private industry as well as local governments.  And in Hillsboro they announced the planned installation of 16 charging stations.

Clearly electric motorcycles are coming of age and not only for the fuel economics as there are military stealth implications.  So, what is Harley’s position on electric motorcycles?  Is the Harley sound of silence the inevitable sound of the future?

Photos courtesy of Brammo and eRockit.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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