Harley-Davidson LiveWire 2020 struggles to impact the all-electric motorcycle industry

Written by Theo Koenig – December 30, 2020

Reviewed by Kfir Kedem

2020 has been unkind to Harley-Davidson. The world-renowned motorcycle manufacturer is struggling to attract a younger audience as its core customer-base begins to age to the point of no longer purchasing new Harleys. In September this year the company announced that it will be withdrawing its operations in the world’s biggest motorcycle market, India, after an unsuccessful attempt to convince a pragmatic and price-oriented audience to make the switch to the historic bikes. The Trump administration’s tariffs on European Union steel and aluminum led to direct tariffs retaliations of up to 31% on the US manufacturer, estimated to have cost the company $1.4 billion in market capitalization. Finally, after 26 years with the iconic US brand, CEO Matthew Levatich stepped down in February this year. Since recovering from the COVID-19 March recession, the stock currently sits at roughly 52% of the peak in 2014.

Amongst this chaos, the company launched the all-electric LiveWire motorcycle, aimed at rejuvenating interest in a younger customer-base. To put things bluntly, the strategy has not been successful.

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The LiveWire 2020 is for sale starting at $29,799 (without any added customizable features, in vivid black) and up to $30,539 (without any customizable features, in color). Comparisons to its main competitor, Zero Electric motorcycles, can be seen here.

Despite the company’s pessimistic-looking future, the LiveWire is a well-designed bike, full of innovative technologies. It features an aggressive riding position, despite being quite a tall bike, with riders sitting at 76.2 cm above the ground. One stand-out feature is the fully-adjustable front and rear-suspension, allowing customers to dial in comfort and handling with high precision to their preferred riding style. The motorcycle comes pre-programmed with 4 different features: sport, road, range and rain, each offering different combinations of power, traction control, throttle, and so on. Customers can additionally save 3 further ride modes. The LiveWire comes with a 10.9 cm, full color touchscreen-display capable of connecting to mobile devices. Everything from speed, range, battery status, music and navigation can be monitored through this display.

Harley’s Reflex Defensive Rider Systems (RSRS) safety technology has naturally also been incorporated. This in-house technology offers guidance systems that range from advanced braking, traction control, drag torque slip controls, vehicle hold, and tire pressure monitoring, all designed to offer additional help to riders.

The instant acceleration, along with the lack of moving components offers customers a powerful yet smooth ride. The lack of vibration means riders become less fatigued after long rides compared to internal combustion engine alternatives, without compromising on aspects such as speed. In September of this year, the LiveWire 2020 set a top speed of 177 km/h at the Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.

The LiveWire offers many positives, but has missed the mark on some key aspects, notably price and range, especially in comparison with their rivals. Under stop-and-go conditions, such as those experienced in the city, the LiveWire has a range of up to 235 km. Under combinations of highway and stop-and-go conditions, the motorcycle’s range is reduced to 152 km. In comparison with direct competition, this simply does not suffice, especially considering the high price. The stability of the ride, due to the large battery, along with the fact that it has an incredible charge-rate, may offset the damage caused by the price. Moreover, the truth is that the electric motorcycle market still remains relatively niche, despite the clear expansions made by the industry over the years.

Auto Trendy’s take:

When looking at the price of the LiveWire, it seems Harley-Davidson are persisting in remaining a luxury motorcycle brand. While this may have worked for the iconic motorcycles of the past, the Milwaukee-based company will continue to struggle to convince a younger audience. Relying on a world-famous brand name seems to have little effect on an all-electric audience that seems more preoccupied with the main points of price and drive range. The LiveWire, despite being a beautiful and exciting vehicle, has fallen victim to a poor marketing strategy that is too determined to hold on to an identity of the past.