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Wednesday 25 May 2022

Comment by Editor-in-Chief, Robin Bradley

Harley-Davidson and The Theory of Relativity

Everything is relative. Relatively speaking, Führer Putin is having his ass handed to him by Ukraine and, relatively speaking, Harley's Q1 Fiscals weren't so bad.
They were relatively okay-ish, way better than they might have been, but being held back by events way above the motorcycle industry's pay grade. The underlying trend shows Harley with wind in its sails, and with any semblance of a global return to sanity, then relative to the 'macros', I think it'd be seen to actually be doing quite well.
Certainly, that fickle bellwether of the stock price isn't showing a panic attack on Harley shares, maybe mild stress response at most. One of the few bright spots in a market in a tempestuous sea of uncertainty.
Relatively speaking, it has been an interesting month for news - assuming you can look beyond the destruction of democracy and all that we hold dear.
For obvious reasons, the LiveWire 'Del Mar' soft launch got my attention. This is the first 'S2' Arrow platform iteration and the approach that Harley/LiveWire is taking has good thinking stamped all over it. The long gestation period between announcement and showroom (neither the limited production Launch Edition nor the volume production model will appear until the spring of 2023) is proving to be a not uncommon feature of the EV industry - two and four wheels.
Indeed, BRP recently confirmed the long-expected comeback to the motorcycle market for the Can Am brand with a proposed range of electrics (see AMD May) that won't be in showrooms until 2024.
However, with rumors about a delay in the LiveWire SPAC NYSE float perhaps having more horsepower than I initially thought, maybe there is an element of "jam tomorrow Dear Investor, please last the course with us" about Harley's play - and if so, then it is not a bad move, given that the present market instability could stretch well into the future.

“moto-culture meets urban mobility”

It certainly does look like the war between Ukraine and Russia has got a way to go yet - unless NATO does decide to pull the splinters out of its arse and get down of its fence. Well done Finland for swallowing the difficult decision to abandon its time-honored neutrality, and looks like Sweden is going to do the same. Well done Vlad, you fascist dimwit!
'In other News' (as the saying goes), the cancelation of the planned IMS series for 2022 is a disappointment. For me it smacks of a familiar syndrome in the powersports industry - a major corporation (this time British!) having an unrealistic P/E ratio baked into its own investor expectations and, frankly, not understanding what it is they bought or how to nurture it.
The loss of the series robs us all (including the MIC and its outreach programs) of something that - given the attendance and test ride reports from 2021 - should and could have been profitably invested in and have been built into a viable and valuable platform. From what I can gather, there was nothing wrong with the year-one IMS Outdoors experience that couldn't have been improved with a bit of creativity and lateral thinking.
The news that Yamaha, Suzuki and, eventually, Kawasaki and Honda are to step up their collaboration in pursuit of hydrogen power for PTWs is something I've been hoping to see for a long time. Indeed, there is also an uptick of mainstream and financial media 'noise' about the viability of pump-ready low carbon ICE synth-gas in-play.
The 3D printed trellis frame from Spain is worth a read, as is the resurfacing of rumors about the H-D 'Bronx'; and there is news about new ownership for Mustang Seats in the latest stage of the great MAG 'unwind'.
However, it is the news about 'Reload Land' - a new moto-culture meets urban mobility electric PTW (Powered Two-Wheeler) fest planned for Berlin, Germany, this summer - that really floats my boat this month.
Very sensibly, the organizers are being relatively modest in their forecasts for their event - it is always better to manage expectations and over-deliver to create momentum.
'Reload Land' is positioned as a very different approach to future transport than that being taken at some of the major Expo Centers. It is grass roots and authentic rather than corporate big picture - and for that exact reason it, actually, 'feels' like it could well be a very convincing 'bigger picture' insight into how the electrification of motorcycling could (and maybe should) evolve.
It will become evident soon enough whether or not there is room for both approaches to succeed at this still early stage - the grassroots and the corporatist approaches - but make no mistake, there certainly is a need for them both to do so, and there is a symbiotic relationship between the two approaches that requires them both to exist.
Another necessary next step is a near-simultaneous need for emergence of a convincing crop of (no doubt online) grassroots motorcycle electrification media to complement the shows. There are some broad-based electrification outlets already, principally in America - such as Electrek - and some of the traditionally ICE based custom blogs are paying attention, but regardless of the changes at play, the fundamentals of communication have remained unchanged in 6,000 years - even if they look, feel and work differently with each passing generation.
As a publishing 'lifer', if I were 20 years younger, I'd be all over it! In show terms too. This is another reason why the market (especially the OEM community) could come to regret the passing of the IMS Outdoors concept. It is to be hoped that others who are skirting the area, such as the Comoto Get On! Moto Fest series, and other precisely targeted streams such as the Electrify Expo series, are able to build platforms that can convincingly speak 'new gen'.
Relative to other event projects we are seeing in Europe in particular at this time, this is one of several reasons why the new 'Reload Land' project could well turn out to be informative and influencer in equal measure.