A few weeks ago, the iconically American motorcycle brand Harley-Davidson announced that it would be shifting some production overseas, so as to avoid stiff retaliatory tariffs placed on it by the EU.
Much of the coverage of Harley has been centered on its American-ness, and particularly its resonance with folks of a certain age (here’s looking at you, Boomers). But since there are only so many Boomers who buy bikes, the motorcycle manufacturer has obviously relied more on overseas roads to compensate for a US market that has limited upside.
On the same day that Harley-Davidson announced the move, Lime bike – a dockless bikesharing service – announced its first international expansion to Paris — a city sorely in need of a ride sharing overhaul, since the collapse of its Velíb system. (Since drafting this post a few weeks ago, I’ve now seen Lime in Paris, which was really neat to see). Scooters and electric bikes are obviously an exploding trend (Andrew Chen recently wrote a thought-provoking piece on this), as more people move to cities, fewer millennials own cars, and public transportation continues to require substantial reinvestment that local or national governments can ill afford. Scooters and other short-haul options provide compelling micro-mobility solutions to larger problems.
Which got me wondering: what if Harley-Davidson got into the scooter game? Consider, for a moment, a powerful Harley-Davidson electric scooter — perhaps sold on its own, under some sort of sans-serif “Harley” sub-brand, and priced at a 20% premium to other scooter brands, which have basically become commoditized.
Remember Razor kick-scooters of 1999? You either had a Razor, or you didn’t. (And, in 2004, you either had a RAZR or you didn’t). Harley Davidson might be able to transfer the same sort of cachet to a more downmarket, if still upwardly mobile, segment of riders.
An investment into, or an acquisition of, a line of electrified scooters could provide a “hook” into millennial buyers, who might find a rebadged Harley brand to have the same resonance as other revived retro-Americana brands like Shinola, Pendleton, and Jeep.