Harley-Davidson, the iconic American motorcycle manufacturer, is hoping to jump-start stalling U.S. sales with the introduction of the LiveWire, an electric motorcycle, Reuters reports. But the device’s staggeringly-high price point and the fact that electric motorcycles don’t have much of a market in the U.S. may doom the model before it has a chance to take off.
Harley-Davidson has been around for over a century as an iconic American manufacturer that got started in a Milwaukee garage. Over the decades, the company’s customer base developed disparate yet similar stereotypes. On the one hand, there were the bearded, tattooed riders who formed gangs, running drugs, weapons, etc. On the other hand, there were the bearded, tattooed riders who weren’t gangsters, but Americans with time on their hands and disposable income — doctors, lawyers, or professionals who put on the gear for weekend rides, then put on their suits and ties for the work week.
Both of those markets, however, are declining, largely due to the customer base aging out.
In 2018, the manufacturer suffered its worst sales decline in four years; it’s slated to suffer a sales decline in 2019 as well.
Tapping Into A Market That Doesn’t Exist
With the LiveWire, says Reuters writer Rajesh Kumar Singh, the company is aiming for the pocketbooks of young, environmentally-focused, affluent consumers who are also first-time motorcycle owners. That market simply doesn’t exist, says Singh.
Summer may be over, but the #HarleyDavidson X @OutpostTrade Second Summer is just getting started. Join us in San Francisco October 19th-20th for #LiveWire test rides, culinary demos and Bay Area music & culture. Space is limited so RSVP for free now. #HarleyDavidson
— Harley-Davidson (@harleydavidson) October 5, 2019
Sales numbers seem to bear that out. The LiveWire has been available for pre-order since January, and of the 150 dealerships that are authorized to carry the vehicle, Reuters interviewed 40. Managers at all 40 such dealerships — across Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, California, Nevada, New Jersey and New York — say that the orders they’ve gotten for the bike have come from existing Harley owners.
Several dealers authorized to sell the bike have opted not to, including one Ohio dealer who oped out at the last minute after deciding it wasn’t worth it.
There are a couple of issues facing the LiveWire as well. For starters, there’s its staggering price point: $29,799 — roughly equivalent in price to a Tesla Model 3 — may put the bike out of reach for customers who actually want one.
Then there’s its limited range: as AutoBlog notes, the machine can travel 146 miles (235 km) in the city or 95 miles in combined city and highway riding per charge. That effectively renders the bike useless for a road trip.