Harley-Davidson has announced that the Livewire — that’s the Motor Company’s debut electric motorcycle, if you’ve been living under a rock since 2014 — will arrive in dealer showrooms in August. They also nailed down two important numbers everyone was waiting to hear. The MSRP is $29,799. The range is 110 miles. Those two numbers have Internet pundits running about flailing their arms, rabidly declaring that Harley has sealed their doom. Horsefeathers. Harley may be headed to eventual bankruptcy, but for lots of other reasons. And while there have been a lot of missteps along the way, the folks in Milwaukee are not brainless chimps, randomly banging out price sheets by jumping up and down on typewriter keyboards. This is just another chess movie in their corporate history, not the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
All the hysteria over the Livewire’s cost and range can be boiled down to one statement. “I wouldn’t buy one.” Who cares; none of the bloggers and journos are the target market for the Livewire. The fact that this announcement was made at CES, not a motorcycle show, should tell you a lot. There are exactly two kinds of people who will buy this motorcycle: 1) really rich, trendy people who are not dyed-in-the-wool “career” motorcyclists, but live at the intersection of Modern Gadgets and Conspicuous Consumption, and 2) lifelong Harley enthusiasts who already have a $40K Road Glide CVO in their garage and want to try something new without leaving Harley’s carefully crafted corporate image behind. Neither of these people are shocked at the price, and neither will be too hampered by the short range. The Livewire will be taken to work on sunny days and ridden around town for an hour on Saturday morning. Livewire owners won’t care that you can buy a Zero SR with more range for half the price, any more than existing Harley owners care that you can buy a Yamaha MT-07 for half the price of a Softail.
This is not to say that the Livewire is a bad motorcycle. I have not ridden one personally, but I work for one of Harley’s longtime tier-one suppliers, and several of our engineers had a chance to spend significant time with the original “Project Livewire” prototypes in 2014. To a man, they came back raving about the riding experience. I strongly suspect that that phenomenal impression hasn’t been lost in the translation to a production machine, and there will be a small, privileged cadre of Livewire owners who will pay what it costs to buy one and be happy with it, both for what it does and what it symbolizes.
For the rest of us, there’s really nothing to see here. Return to your homes.