It’s only been a couple of weeks since Harley-Davidson broke new ground by unveiling new “Twin-Cooled” liquid precision-cooling engine technology its new Project Rushmore suite of customer-driven refinements, but the Motor Company appears to have even more ambitious plans in the works. Speaking at Harley-Davidson’s 110th anniversary celebrations, Chief Operating Officer Matthew Levatich confirmed the company is producing a new 500cc model and opened the possibility of an electric Harley-Davidson somewhere down the line.
We’ve previously written about Harley-Davidson’s plans to introduce a new 500cc V-Twin model for the Indian market. The new model makes sense for India where the average motorcycle has an engine displacing less than 200cc. The new as-yet-unnamed 500cc model is expected to appear at the 2014 Indian Auto Expo in February. Speakign at Harley-Davidson’s 110th anniversary celebrations, Levatich tells Gizmag the new bike is “nimble, light weight, has a low seat height and supple throttle and braking. I’ve ridden it – it looks great, sounds great, it’s a Harley, and it’s priced right.
“We want to get it out as soon as we can, but it’s got to be right. New engines are complicated, and we’ve got to get everything right from a durability, reliability and confidence perspective. On the other hand, chassis and other things are a lot more straightforward.”
As with all Harley-Davidson models assembled in India, the new 500cc model appears destined for that particular market, at least to start. A 500cc Harley-Davidson may also be perfect for Europe where a tiered licensing system restricts some riders to certain restrictions. As for whether Harley-Davidson would import the 500cc model to the U.S., the company recognizes some consumers may be hesitant about buying an Indian-produced model.
“The American qualities of a Harley are very important to people,” said Levatich. “The literal ‘where does that shock absorber come from’ part of it is less significant, but it has to have the spirit and soul of America. We have Harley-Davidson factories in India and Brazil – can we leverage those facilities and expertise so it can get to the, for example, Indian consumer, faster?
“These are things we are becoming more open-minded to, but we understand the importance of ‘made in America’ – the American quality, spirit and integrity that matters to the customer.”
Levatich also says an electric Harley-Davidson motorcycle does not sound as far-fetched at it seems. Though nothing is in the works along that front, Levatich says the idea is intriguing.
“I am sometimes asked … whether there will be an electric Harley,” Levatich tells Gizmag. “People would say ‘hell no’. But why not: our engineers are quite intrigued with the idea of what an electric Harley would look like, sound like and feel like. And would it be visceral, would it be emotional, would it be luscious. And there’s a way to do that I believe, and it would be very exciting.”