Pathway to the electric Hog: Harley-Davidson buys a chunk of Alta Motors
In the wake of Harley-Davidson's eyebrow-raising announcement last month that the loudest, brashest motorcycle brand in the world is planning to go electric, the company has put its money where its mouth is and bought a stake in California-based electric motorcycle manufacturer Alta Motors. The two companies plan to work together to build the first generation of electric Harleys, for release in 2019.
Alta brings plenty to the table in this arrangement; its Redshift series of electric motocrossers and supermoto bikes have already proven themselves in performance terms, famously winning the 250 class and coming second in the 450 class in their first race against combustion bikes. So the company clearly has significant tech to offer.
Harley, for its part, has a gigantic international dealership network, mass manufacturing capabilities, one of the world's most storied brands and a baked-in horde of logo-tattooed fans to rival any corporate messiah.
On the other hand, members of said horde are probably among the least likely individuals in the world to sacrifice their noisy motorcycles for a quiet electric cruiser, no matter how cool the design is or by how much it out-performs the big-bore originals.
But Harley isn't worried; it'll continue to make the kinds of bikes HOG members have loved for 115 years now. The electric venture is all about bringing new riders into the fold.
The press release is clear on this: "Harley-Davidson and Alta Motors aim to attract new audiences who are inspired by motorcycles and drawn to the 'twist-and-go' ease and exhilaration of an electric motorcycle with no gears or clutch."
With the expertise of Alta and the muscle of Harley-Davidson, there's every chance this union could achieve its goal of becoming the world leader in electric motorcycles – certainly in terms of sales at least.
This kind of mass market push could be the rising tide that lifts all boats in this fledgling market. We certainly hope so.