Harley-Davidson’s first electric motorcycle, LiveWire, will now become its own brand.
The Milwaukee-based company revealed that its electric motorcycle division would be spun off as a separate company with its own lineup and retail experience.
It’s a strategy similar to how Harley-Davidson approached Serial 1, its new electric bicycle company.
The idea is that LiveWire will continue to benefit from its parent company’s partnership while still developing its own brand identity separate from Harley-Davidson.
It’s a shift from the new LiveWire model, which features the Harley-Davidson logo prominently while the LiveWire brand is virtually non-existent.
It’s also an indication that Harley-Davidson wants to make its electrified models stand on their own in the future.
“With the mission to be the most desirable electric motorcycle brand in the world, LiveWire will pioneer the future of motorcycling, for the pursuit of urban adventure and beyond,” Jochen Zeitz, chairman, president, and CEO of Harley-Davidson, said in a statement. “LiveWire also plans to innovate and develop technology that will be applicable to Harley-Davidson electric motorcycles in the future.”
With tech teams in Silicon Valley and Milwaukee, the company has a new logo and a new “virtual” headquarters. As an independent company, LiveWire will partner with Harley-Davidson dealerships to offer a mix of digital and physical retail formats.
A Harley-Davidson spokesperson replied with a carefully worded comment when asked if this would include online shopping. “It depends on the state in which you live,” the spokesperson explained. “LiveWire is creating a purchase path that allows us to meet the expectations for a digital-first purchase experience, supported by a network of committed dealers that allow customers to choose their path and engagement model.”
The question is whether or not Harley-Davidson’s electric models would profit from this branding strategy. According to Reuters, the company’s attempt to cater to a younger generation of motorcyclists with the LiveWire was failing last year, with the majority of preorders coming from older or preexisting consumers.
Since reaching a low point in 2018, Harley-Davidson’s overall sales have been flat recently.
The issue could be that the starting price of $29,799 isn’t all that much less than that of a Tesla Model 3. Dealers told Reuters that the price turned off many younger customers.
Harley-Davidson is also up against stiff competition from Zero Motorcycles, which recently collaborated with power sports manufacturer Polaris on a new lineup of electric-powered ATVs and snowmobiles.
And, as the world of transportation shifts to electric, the company’s shareholders will put increasing pressure on it to demonstrate that its vision for the future can be profitable.
The LiveWire brand will have its own models and showroom network, with the first one opening in California. In most ways, it will be distinct from Harley-Davidson, but it will share technology, manufacturing footprint, and supply chain with the parent company.