Harley-Davidson is doubling-down on electronic bike technology with an investment in Alta Motors.
Things aren’t looking good for the iconic American motorcycle brand. People just aren’t buying noisy, obnoxiously loud motorcycles like they used to, as evident in the fact that Harley-Davidson’s fourth-quarter profit took a huge hit in 2017, down 82 percent from the same time in 2016.
On top of that, Harley-Davidson recently announced that they’d need to close their Kansas factory as a result of lowered demand.
Putting icing on the cake is a recent recall on over 170,000 Harley-Davidson motorcycles as a result of a potentially faulty brake line. Only 1 percent of bikes are expected to be affected, but that’s still a lot of bad press for a company that’s already on the ropes.
To keep their investors from bolting to greener pastures, Harley-Davidson recently announced they’re going full steam ahead on plans to electrify their bike lineup by investing in e-bike maker Alta Motors.
"Earlier this year, as part of our 10-year strategy, we reiterated our commitment to build the next generation of Harley-Davidson riders, in part, by aggressively investing in electric vehicle (EV) technology," said Harley-Davidson President and CEO Matt Levatich in a statement. "Alta has demonstrated innovation and expertise in EV and their objectives align closely with ours. We each have strengths and capabilities that will be mutually beneficial as we work together to develop cutting-edge electric motorcycles."
The amount of the investment or percentage stake in Alta Motors was not disclosed, but Harley-Davidson is expected to collaborate with the e-bike company on their own upcoming electric bike known as Project LiveWire.
"We believe that EV is where global mobility is headed and holds great appeal for existing riders as well as opportunity to bring new riders into the sport," Levitach added. "We intend to be the world leader in the electrification of motorcycles and, at the same time, remain true to our gas and oil roots by continuing to produce a broad portfolio of motorcycles that appeal to all types of riders around the world."
LiveWire is set to make its official unveiling in 2019, with production beginning in 2020. However, electronic bikes haven’t picked up at the same rate as electric cars have, and it seems unavoidable that Harley-Davidson will continue to shrink as demand for their motorcycles dries up.