Can Harley-Davidson increase the heat on its electric ambitions with the LiveWire S2 Del Mar, despite the low response to the LiveWire?
It has been an exciting 18 months for Harley-Davidson, with the Pan America paving new ground and the Sportster S adding some ‘future nostalgia to its core cruiser line.
They are important, but this week’s LiveWire S2 Del Mar launch is undoubtedly the most crucial new launch by the American marque since Jochen Timez, who took over as CEO, and reorganized the company vision board.
This is the first model from H-D since LiveWire, its ambitious, but flawed, electric motorcycle, was transformed into an EV brand. It is hard to say that it has a lot of expectation given its small dimensions.
This is Harley-Davidson’s second major gamble in pushing an electric agenda few expected it to lead.
You have to give Harley-Davidson credit for the noble goal of its rather mind-melding model planning when it developed the LiveWire.
It was in direct contradiction to everything Harley-Davidson stood up for with its range growling bruisers.
The LiveWire has not been very successful despite its rapid rise onto forecourts thanks to a lot of publicity. Two clear reasons are evident for this: one, the LiveWire is a bland, appealing motorcycle that makes it expensive to run, and two, the consumer’s insatiable appetite for electric motorcycles.
It looked like Harley might park the LiveWire completely, something it might have been tempted to do at the end of 2021, when only 387 units had left dealers worldwide. LiveWire was rebranded as its own brand by that time. However, it is up to you whether this new approach is a vote of confidence or a way to distain it from the rest.
Try again if you fail the first time.
It doesn’t matter what, the S2 Del Mar model is important for LiveWire or Harley-Davidson. This model should have fixed most of the flaws.
The company had a vision back in 2015 but it seems unlikely that it would have chosen a PS20,000-plus motorbike as its first attempt at electric motorcycling. However, the ONE is a unique product in a niche market where incoming options are more affordable.
The Del Mar is an easier entry point to EV biking. Engineers have learned valuable lessons that make the Del Mar a more appealing buying proposition. Marketing professionals will also appreciate the LiveWire’s awkward past position in Harley’s range.
Although prices are still to be confirmed, they are expected to range between PS14,000 and PS15,000. This is still a good price for an 80hp compact bike. The 200kg weight combined with the motorcycle’s 80hp should give you a range between 50-98 mi.
These figures are not relevant because the Del Mar, which will be offered with the smaller and more efficient second-generation Arrow powertrain platform, will likely offer attractive lease options. It is primarily marketed as an urban runaround who enjoys getting out on the highway and going back to its flat tracker roots.
LiveWire failed to create a more striking design for the Del Mar. The Sportster S-style headlight and large tyres are rather drowned by an ungainly battery pack. This is a common problem with electric motorcycles. We were also taken aback by the camo-esque livery that made us believe we were seeing spy photos for a second.
This model is still more suited for the Harley-targeted demographic, but it was largely overlooked with the LiveWire. It will be more successful in luring younger customers to its doors.
LiveWire’s success in the future will hinge on the evolution of the electric motorcycle market over the next months and years. Even though the LiveWire/ONE is with us since 2019, the premium EV market has not changed much. While a complete transition to electric bikes will take place faster than we might hope, other brands have already begun to release products.
This is a gamble Harley-Davidson knows will pay off. The shift to electric is a certain certainty over the next 10-15 years. By then, the Milwaukee marque will have mastered zero emission motorcycling.
Harley’s forward-thinking approach may finally be able to see its day, with the technology in this area evolving rapidly as more companies invest. It is just not clear when.
However, Zeitz is optimistic about a huge uptake in LiveWire sales in the coming years. He has set a goal of 101,000 units by 2026. We had to double-check it was not a typo.
The LiveWire may have been the start for Harley. It remains to be seen if the Del Mar will be the main course or just an appetizer.