Harley Davidson is betting on electric motorcycles to attract the next generation of younger and more environmentally conscious riders to reverse declining US sales.
However, as Harley ships its first ‘LiveWire’ bikes priced at $29,799 (€27,129) to dealers, there is little evidence that the 116-year-old brand is catching on with new young customers. The problem lies mostly with this ‘super-premium’ product’s price.
The bike costs nearly as much as a Tesla Model 3, and aims for a market that does not really exist: young, green and affluent first-time motorcyclists. The sleek sportbike has been available for order in the US since January.
However, the bulk of the orders are coming in from existing and old riders, according to interviews with 40 of the 150 dealerships carrying the bike this year.
The dealers account for little over a quarter of LiveWire dealerships and are spread across Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, California, Nevada, New Jersey, and New York.
Harley has for years failed to increase sales in the US, its top market accounting for more than half of its motorcycles sold. As its tattooed, baby-boomer base ages, the Milwaukee-based company is finding it challenging to woo new customers.
In 2018, Harley posted the steepest sales decline in four years in the US. US sales are tipped to fall again this year. The heavyweight motorcycle maker’s stock price has declined by 42% in the past five years. By comparison, the S&P 500 Index has gained 47%.
When chief executive Matt Levatich announced LiveWire’s launch last year, his hope was the ease of riding motorcycles with no gears or clutch would help attract young and environmentally conscious urban riders. The orders thus far have belied those hopes say the dealers.
“It is appealing to a demographic that is already riding,” said Gennaro Sepe, a sales manager at a Harley dealership in Chicago.
His store has received four orders for the bike. All of them are from existing riders. Harley declined to comment on LiveWire preorders. The motorcycle maker is not the only company investing in battery-powered transportation.
Tougher emissions rules in Europe, China, and the US are forcing car companies to switch to electrified models. A survey of US millennial motorcyclists by the Motorcycle Industry Council, found 69% of the riders interested in electric motorcycles.