Win some, lose some. Right call, wrong plant closing. I predicted that the York Vehicle Operations Plant would close because it was old, had two strong labour unions and it was cheaper to move the Touring, CVO and Trike assembly to Kansas City where the new Softails and Streets were made. But in fact the York unions were already beaten and they had cancelled the contracts with the Motor Company. The legacy of the original 1981 leveraged buyout from AMF and a good working relationship with the York community were more attractive than moving to far-off Kansas City.
All this asks the question, what is Harley’s big plan? Today as in the past the international market is key to Harley’s survival during downturns in the US market. And with Trump’s tariff wars, Harley needs to insure its access to overseas markets. To that end the new Harley-Davidson assembly facility at Rayong, Thailand is big enough and tariff-free to replace all the Oceanic and Asian plants.
In 1993 when I bought my Dyna Low Rider, Harley only made 59,449 Big Twins and had a six month to a year waiting list. Even in the 100th Anniversary Year they only made 233,982 Big Twins. Today they are making about 240,000 bikes and continue to turn a profit for its stock holders. They made enough money in 1993, so why would one think they need to sell 300,000 bikes to make a living? Make them right, make them loved.
Which leads me to anticipate two big 2019 Model Year announcements on 21 August. The mid-sized Sportster update or replacement and the electric or even hybrid bike/trike. Those should attract the needed new riders to the Harley family but must be competitively priced, yet be profitable.
Heck, don’t sell your Harley stock at its current low price. Do like the Motor Company is doing. It’s buying back its own stock. Some say it is preparing to privatise and buy the Company back or positioning itself with debt to avoid a hostile takeover.
Softail & Sportster Names
Names for the MY19 motorcycles and parts have been Trademarked as the 48X, Pan America, Bronx, Harley-Davidson Bronx, and H-D Revelation.
Whatever Harley does with the naming of its new models, I pray that they don’t make the same mistake they did with the “Softail” name for the replacement of the old Softail and Dyna models. They just confused or alienated the old loyal fans. The MY18 “Softails” deserved proper names even though they shared so much in common. You just can’t lump the Fat Bob in the same category as the Fat Boy or even the true sport tourer, the Sport Glide. None of them are soft in the tail. Like most modern bikes they have a single hidden adjustable rear shock. Up front the fuel tank, rake, wheel size, and chassis refinements make them different models. I think the new MY19 Sportster has to have a wonderful race-bred four-cam/valve engine. Plain and simple.
Sparky is a Revelation
The H-D Revelation is trademarked for the new bike’s powertrain, engine, transmission and electric drives – a complete bike not just a motor. Harley just invested in Alta Motors which has some exciting electric bikes while the LiveWire is totally dead. I wouldn’t be surprised if the new electric bike is a hybrid or even a hybrid trike like the Service-Cars of old. Or maybe a leaning trike from 2011. There are already a few hybrid motorbikes out there. One thing that electric/hybrid cars have over two wheeled bikes is that they have a lot of floor space for the batteries and thus range.
Changing gear, while we were in Las Vegas recently, we met up with my wife’s friend Amy “Pineapple” Smith who is an amazing woman. Not only does she give of her time and love to many needy people and organisations but she showed me her fantastic customised Road Glide. I had always had difficulty parking my Roadie at six foot tall but she at five feet found the solution. With handlebar push-button controls she lowers the electric MRI Centre Stand as she tiptoes to a stop and then with the air shocks, she lowers the bike down onto the ground.
If you need a magic lowering kit for your touring or softail bike, get onto Sean at www.tolmotorcycles.com and Matt at: