Harley-Davidson, the hip, happening, multicultural, multinational, outlaw dream machine manufacturer, announced a new concept motorcycle this morning. Harley calls the thing Project LiveWire, spelled just like that, in the manner of advertising agencies. The big news is that it runs on electricity not gasoline. The lesser but more telling news is that the public relations campaign for the new bike is also called Project LiveWire.
Harley has been teasing this concept bike for months. Earlier this spring, a newspaper in London ran a photo of Scarlett Johansson’s stunt-double in the next Avengers movie riding an electric Harley. The Motor Company released a video of the new bike on YouTube this week and issued an accompanying statement that read: “There are milestones that change history – those pivotal moments where the future is defined. This is one of them. Just like this country, Harley-Davidson has reinvented itself many times in our 111 years. This is the next chapter of our journey. Whether you’re a rider or not, we’re inviting you to take part in the experience, and be there for this historic ride forward.”
This morning’s press release explains, “While not for sale, Project LiveWire is specifically designed for the purpose of getting insight into rider expectations of an electric Harley-Davidson motorcycle.” Also according to the release, “In keeping with the company’s customer-led product development approach, starting next week select consumers across the country will be able to ride and provide feedback on the bike, helping to shape the future of Harley-Davidson’s first-ever electric motorcycle.”
According to an amalgam of sources, the LiveWire electric motor delivers 74 horsepower, 52 foot-pounds of torque and a top speed of 92 mph. The bike can accelerate to 60 mph from a standing start in four seconds and it will go about 130 miles between charges. It takes an hour to charge the motorcycle’s 250 pound battery. Because the battery is so heavy, the motor company has shaved down the weight of numerous other components. The wheel spokes, for example, are hollow.
If you are a traditional and plain spoken Harley guy, like if you’re one of those guys who has a Harley tattoo on the inside of your forearm, you should understand that the LiveWire concept bike is not for you.
Fatten The Tails
John Olin, Chief Financial Officer explains, “The development of Project LiveWire supports our Fatten The Tails Strategy…. The Fatten The Tails Strategy is our balanced approach to investing in products across the customer spectrum of core riders, outreach and international.”
In case you are lost already, “Fatten the Tails” has nothing to do with swingarms or rear tires or fenders. It is the insincere and sanctimonious story the Harley suits have made up about how their motorcycle company is going to outlive the guys who are stuck with Harley tattoos. “Fatten the Tails” describes a perfectly symmetrical Bell Curve with the Harley tattoo guys at its apex. They are labeled as Harley’s “core” customers. The two tails of the Bell Curve comprise the “outreach” and “international” markets. In case you are still lost, “Outreach means “young adults,” “women,” “Hispanics,” and “African-Americans.”
Really. We aren’t making that up to make Harley look stupid. The “tails” of Harley’s corporate marketing strategy refer to the theoretical tails of a Bell Curve. “Tails” does not refer to anything tangible or real. The term refers entirely to a statistical abstraction.
What the press release and the exclusive news accounts written at Harley’s behest by legitimate motorcycle journalists neglect to say about Project LiveWire can be found in an investor relations video that is currently viewable only on Harley’s website. You can watch it by clicking here.
The video is a song and dance by John Olin, Harley’s Chief Financial Officer and Matt Levatich, President and Chief Operating Officer. John and Matt do not appear to be the kind of men with whom most Harley tattoo guys would want to sit at a bar and talk bikes. The video begins with Olin exclaiming, “Hi everyone. Thanks for joining Matt and me today,” and goes downhill from there.
Most of what the men have to say is so blatantly contrived by cynical image makers that it is difficult to imagine trusting anything any Harley executive might ever have to say again. In fact their words and speech patterns are so generic it is impossible to tell the two apart. They come across as Hollow Men. “Leaning together,” to borrow a few words from T. S. Eliot, “heads filled with straw,” their “dried voice, when” they talk as “as quiet and meaningless as wind in dry grass or rats’ feet over broken glass.”
“I want to reiterate that the Project LiveWire motorcycles are not in production” John/Matt says. “At this time we do not have plans or a timetable to bring this bike to market.”
“We have more to learn about customer desires in the electric motorcycle space.”
“We believe an electric motorcycle might be of greatest interest to outreach groups in the U.S. and to international customers.”
“Efforts like Project LiveWire and our Street motorcycles reflect our commitment to provide products that meet the lifestyle and riding needs of the growing generation of urban young adults.”
Public Relations Campaign
The Project LiveWire public relations minstrel show will tour 30 cities in the United States this year starting next Monday and additional cities in the U.S., Canada and Europe next year. Some visitors to this show will get to ride one of these concept bikes but John/Matt explain, “Even those who don’t yet ride can try out Project LiveWire on ‘jump start,’ a simulated riding experience.”
The part of John/Matt also known as Levatich enthuses, “Like all Harley-Davidson motorcycles, LiveWire is an expression of individuality and iconic style. It just happens to be electric. We’ve been saying Project LiveWire is more like an electric guitar, not an electric car.” So, because John/Matt has uttered the magic words “individuality” and “iconic” everybody should swallow that electric guitar analogy whole.
John/Matt also claims “the motor makes a muscular statement.” This new thing molded around a 250 pound battery will “evoke styles and feelings from many historical Harleys.” It features a clutchless, single speed transmission, a “colorful touch screen display” and doggone it, it is just “a great motorcycle for city riding” even though Harley has no plans to put it into production because John/Matt and their army of propaganda elves haven’t yet decided who might yet be convinced to really want it.
“We believe an electric motorcycle might be of greatest interest to outreach groups in the U.S. and to international customers,” the executives who are apparently part of alien intelligence, like the Borg, proclaim.
“Project LiveWire expands the boundaries of Harley-Davidson’s iconic look, sound and feel and elevates technology into art in a way that only Harley-Davidson can deliver.”
Stay tuned to see what ridiculous thing some Harley-Davidson executive might say next.