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Harley-Davidson: ‘LiveWire is just the start'

Published: 18 July 2014

Updated: 20 November 2014

Harley-Davidson President vows to show the world what the company is capable of.

Harley-Davidson stunned the world with the launch of the all-electric LiveWire two weeks ago, and MCN was amongst the very first in the world to test the new bike, but according to Harley president Matt Levatich, this is just the beginning.

Levatich explained to MCN how it was the financial crisis of 2008, and the resulting 40% crash in Harley-Davidson sales, that resulted in fundamental changes to the way the company operates. Before becoming president of Harley-Davidson, Levatich did a stint at Harley Europe, and was based in the UK for many years before taking the helm at MV Agusta during the firm’s short-lived ownership of the iconic Italian brand.

Under the leadership of Levatich, the company has put customer feedback at the heart of everything it does. It has radically shortened the time it takes to release new models, and has modernised many facets of its current range. The Project Rushmore tourers, introduced in 2013, were the start of this process, and introduced water-cooling into Harley tourers for the first time.

Levaitch told MCN: “In 2009 our strategy completely changed. Before that we were merely adequate in what we were doing, but until we lost 40% of our sales there was no motivation to be better. There’s a Japanese saying about it’s only when the water level drops do you see the large rocks that were under the water. As the water drops further you get to see the smaller rocks that were also stopping the water flowing. We are in the process of removing as many rocks as we can.

“LiveWire says something new, and is an innovative demonstration of what Harley-Davidson can do. We are a big company and we have many advanced technologies on our bikes. Take the voice-activated GPS on the Street Glide, or our linked braking systems. These are the best in the class, and an example of what Harley is capable of.

“We need to free the company from the question of ‘Why are we doing this?’ to instead ask ourselves ‘Why not do this?’ We need to show everyone that we are a lot more liberated about what we can do now. The Project Rushmore bikes were an example of us listening to customers, LiveWire is something completely new and this is just the beginning of the next stage of Harley-Davidson’s future.

It’s our biggest and boldest new product since the company formed in 1903, and it’s just the start of the future for us.

“We need to change people’s perception of what Harley-Davidson is all about. We used to make motorcycles for Americans, which we happened to sell all over the world. Now we make global motorcycles for everyone.”

The next stage in the evolution was spied this week when the firm’s 2015 models were caught being shot for a brochure (see right). The models include the 2015 Road Glide, Street Glide, Ultra Limited, and an all-new trike.

All three of the two-wheelers are the latest models to stem from Project Rushmore which was launched last year with the aim of giving the touring range a complete makeover to bring it up to the latest standards, while maintaining the tradition of the marque.

Harley refer to their new water-cooled engines as ‘twin-cooled’ and next year’s Ultra Classic Limited and Street Glide will use it. However, the trike and the Road Glide will not.

The images appear to have been taken on East 1st Street in LA on a bridge over the LA River – only noteworthy because it’s near to where the famous Fat Boy scene was filmed for the movie Terminator 2.

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