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Harley-Davidson Halts Production, LiveWire Continues

Road & Track logo Road & Track 5/21/2022 Emmet White

Harley-Davidson announced production and vehicle shipments will be halted for next two weeks. Due to “a regulatory compliance matter relating to the supplier's component part,” the company will remain inoperative, with the exception of electric off-shoot LiveWire. Harley has declined to comment beyond its original statement.

The Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based company has three factories in the US and additional factories in Brazil, India, and Thailand, all of which may be closed due to the stop work order. It remains unclear which third-party part supplier or specific part is responsible for such a drastic turn. Considering the production standstill is specific to the Harley brand, it’s possible that the part in question is related to Harley’s internal combustion engines.

This is not the first sign of trouble for Harley. In its most recent quarterly report, the company cites two significant negative impacts as of late: semiconductor chip shortages and European Union tariffs.“...The Company experienced higher costs as well as supply constraints related to certain components including those impacted by the continued global semiconductor chip shortages,” the report reads. Additionally, motorcycles imported into the EU are subject to a 6% tariff and will continue to be taxed as such until the end of 2023.

This combination led to a slow first quarter in North America, though globally the company posted a 2.1% rise in sales. Harley stock took a sharp dive yesterday afternoon and remains slow moving Friday morning.

LiveWire aims to continue its brand image separation from Harley with a plan called HardWire. © Neilson Barnard - Getty Images LiveWire aims to continue its brand image separation from Harley with a plan called HardWire.

LiveWire, on the other hand, hopes to compete for a larger share of domestic electric motorcycling. Fresh off the launch of the S2 Del Mar, LiveWire aims to continue its brand image separation from Harley with a plan called HardWire. At LiveWire’s Investor Day on May 10, key members of the company's leadership chimed in to clarify the vision going forward.

“...Our mission is to build LiveWire as an independent brand, with its own identity and with its own business model to support that, and with its own set of customers,” said Ryan Morrisey, Harley’s chief electric vehicle officer. “The benefit that I think we have when we do that is no matter how much we make that the primary mission, we’ll always have the halo of the association with Harley-Davidson.”

Sales numbers matter for a fledgling brand like LiveWire, but so does its development progress. As the new S2 frame architecture conjoins with the Del Mar, the company has been able to reduce production cost and time, with 44% reduction in assembly time for the Del Mar. Simultaneously, LiveWire is also working on a lightweight S3 frame, which is set to allow for cheaper retail prices. Following current trends in EV infrastructure, LiveWire is working with city-bound Harley dealerships and ZEV states to launch their new and upcoming mobility tools.

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