Harley Davidson is making some major decisions as it completes its first makeover in decades after feeling a squeeze by the competition. The makeover will attract younger buyers as the company makes big changes.
The motorcycle maker unveiled its lineup of coming 2014 models during its summer dealer meeting in Denver. The rollout included a redesign of its touring motorcycles, including the Road King, Street Glide, Street Glide Special, Electra Glide Ultra Classic, Ultra Limited and Tri Glide Ultra.
The company said the brand new line is the result of a broad product-development program called Project Rushmore, which focused on improving the bikes based on requests, comments and other feedback from customers. Harley also said the bikes represent the biggest launch of new models in its 110-year history.
“Project Rushmore has been touched by thousands of people, most of them being our customers and our employees,” said Scott Habegger, Harley-Davidson’s director of motorcycle planning. “The voice of the customer is represented not just up front, but throughout the process,” he said.
That process included formal focus groups and events like motorcycle shows and music festivals, and simply chatting with customers “sitting on the next stool at a diner,” Habegger said.
Harley-Davidson boosted power, improved braking and changed the styling of the new bikes. The makeover also includes practical improvements like brighter headlights, and a system called Reflex that links the bike’s front and rear brakes, making them work together to improve safety even when the rider applies only the front or rear brake. The bikes also have anti-lock brakes.
For power the touring bikes use the high-output Twin Cam 103 two-cylinder engine. In a move borrowed from car makers Harley added “infotainment” systems that includes voice recognition and a touch screen for controlling music, navigation and phone communication.
While Harley-Davidson continues to dominate the market for large, long-distance touring bikes, it is under increasing pressure from a growing number of competitors, including Honda Motor Co., BMW AG, Ducati and Triumph.