Feedback from customers who test rode the Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycles was “overwhelmingly positive,” according to a research note provided to Powersports Business by BMO Capital Markets analyst Gerrick Johnson.
Johnson attended the NewYork City leg of the H-D Project LiveWire Experience Tour, where five motorcycles were available for customers to test ride through the streets of Manhattan.
Johnson reports that “after the test rides, the most hardened motorcycle veterans looked like little kids getting off their first ride on Disney World’s Space Mountain. The most enlightening part of the experience for these riders was how the electric engine delivered power to the wheel and the ground, and the immediate torque it generated. Since LiveWire is still a prototype, there will be no direct revenue benefit from this tour. However, after seeing the steady flow of visitors to the Harley-Davidson of New York dealership during this three-day event, we think HOG will benefit from sales of clothing and merchandise as well as from publicity and PR.”
The tour will hit 30 dealerships in 2014 and continue into 2015 with more dealerships in the U.S. as well as Canada and Europe.
Johnson writes that “we believe some sort of production motorcycle might be available in calendar 2016.”
Here’s more of Johnson’s commentary:
“We do think some reactions will be a bit skewed to the positive in an urban environment like New York City, as many of the LiveWire’s differentiating points are advantageous to city riding. In addition to quick hole-shot from the electric engine, there are no gears to shift on the 400 pound LiveWire motorcycle. Shifting of gears might not be an issue for the long-haul touring rider, but can be something of a nuisance for the city rider who experiences a lot of stop and go. Also, the lack of any sort of engine heat was cited as a positive, as city riders tend to spend more time at stoplights and other stationary situations in the city.
“Contrary to the conventional wisdom that says a motorcycle cannot be a Harley without its throaty growl, we found that test riders liked the fighter jet sound the bike emits. The sound is distinct, unlike anything we have heard in everyday life, and when five of these motorcycles whiz by it definitely grabs attention.
“The only negative feedback came from reaction to the motorcycle’s regenerative braking system. With this system, when one releases the throttle the bike begins to brake and kinetic energy from the wheel is used to “charge” the battery. So when the throttle is released, the motorcycle slows down rather than coasts. This was cited as a negative by one test-rider who said that when he tried to adjust his right mirror he released the throttle to do so and his motorcycle almost came to a complete stop. Others thought the brake lights should engage when the throttle is released and the bike slows down. But this is the exact kind of feedback that Harley is hoping to collect on this tour.
“The experience seemed to draw a lot of onlookers. While many test-riders had scheduled their rides before arriving at the dealership, we saw many walk-ups and passersby who saw the motorcycle and had to try it. True to New York, we observed folks from many different walks of life giving the product a test ride. And with plenty of Suzuki, BMW, and Yamaha motorcycles parked out front, as well as several Harleys, it was a clear indication that both traditional riders and outreach customers alike where giving this new motorcycle a try.
“Harley believes that during this tour, between its two trucks, it can deliver 600 test-rides in a single weekend. With 30 different cities currently on the 2014 tour, the company could generate 9,000 consumer test rides, and many more pieces of constructive feedback. We think this is precisely what Harley-Davidson has in mind when it says it is in the process of becoming consumer-led company from a product-led one.”
Johnson continues to rate HOG as “Outperform.”