In the previous issue of HEAVY DUTY, you got the lowdown on the new Model Year 2018 Softail lineup. Harley is well on its way to providing the promised 100 new Harleys in 10 years, or 10 new bikes a year. In MY18 we have eight new “Softails” with Milwaukee-Eight engines. The old Twin Cams are gone. In addition, Harley now has three sort of new CVO Touring models with the 117 engine and two fairly new Street and Road Glide “Special” models with only the 107. Thus Australia will have both the Road and Street Glide models in two versions: the Special with CVO treatment and the Standard which is essentially a 2017 in new colours. Therefore in MY18, there are 13 new models. This is fantastic as it bodes well for the future because it means we can expect big changes coming in the Touring, Sportster and even the Street models. I can see from the past few years that Harley has set a new model renewal goal to not only build 100 new bikes in 10 years but, if you look closely, at reducing the cost of building bikes and optimising its labour costs. Especially telling, is the fact that the unions have terminated a 22 year collaboration agreement with the Motor Company!
The tip of the iceberg is the new assembly plant in Thailand but that is not the whole story. The unions saw the new Softails and jobs go to Kansas City from York. In 2010 there were 2000 union members at the York plant while today there are only 600. In April, Harley cut 118 jobs at York as part of the Softail move to Kansas City. Earlier, the V-Rod production stopped in Kansas City. The current union agreement for York and the Menomonee Falls engine plants runs out in on 15 Oct 2022. So, what I am guessing is that the Touring line will move to Kansas City at the end of MY22 or sooner, and secondly, the modernised, better and cheaper to make Touring frame with a mono shock will arrive in MY22 or 23. That is, unless the Motor Company buys out the unions sooner. Remember, the MY09 Touring frame lasted only five years until the MY14 Rushmores. Now the Rushmore frame will be five years old in MY19, next year.
What is exciting to me is the elephant in the room that no one is talking about. The rubber mounted Sportster engine came along in MY04. In MY07 it got fuel injection and in MY14 it got new electronics, brakes and a catalytic converter. By any measure, it is long in the tooth. Most importantly, Harley needs to fill the gap between the Street 750 and the M8 1745cc. That is the Millennium rider gap where Harley needs to attract completely new riders to the brand. Not mentioning the Indian Scout’s free run in the sector and its near complete dominance of flat track racing where only a legacy 1972 XR-750 has made it to the podium this year. Again, the real reason for a new Sportster frame and engine is economy of production, just like the new Softail with 50 per cent fewer parts and 22 per cent reduction in frame welds. I’ll probably lose my HOG Life Membership for suggesting that the best engine Harley ever made, the 1986 XL Evolution, needs to be replaced.
Do you wanna see the prototype MY19 Sportster? Have a look at the 2018 Street Bob compared to XL1200 Custom. The Street Bob has a lower seat height of 680mm vs 725mm and only weighs 31kg more while having a Milwaukee-Eight 1745cc. So maybe Harley can shave off some weight on the M8 engine giving the Millennium rider a lighter 900cc to 1300cc to directly compete with the Indian Scout 1133cc and Triumphs etc.
NEW MODEL REVIEWS
One more prediction for next year. Donald Trump will appoint the Harley-Davidson CEO as the White House security officer as he seems to be the only one that can keep a secret! Now for the fun part: there are a bunch of reviews and videos of all the new Softail and Touring bikes.
First Ride Reports of the all Eight Softail Models:
115th Anniversary Models:
Street Glide Special:
CVO Road and Street Glides:
PDF 2018 Parts and Accessories Catalogue: