| Monday, August 4 2003 |
Wow, it's Den Beste season today.
His most recent post is about Harley's new V-Rod motorcycle. In it, he suggests that Harley is producing this bike with a European market in mind.
Adapting to a market is good marketing, but what price victory if you lose your soul? Harley Davidson is changing everything that makes Harley Davidson what it is. To satisfy Europe, they will make them smaller, lighter, wimpier, less powerful, quieter, less in-your-face, more effeminate. Harley is trying to find its inner wuss.
No, in fact, they are not. Harley is something of a strange creature. They've been making motorcycles for over a hundred years, and have become as much a cultural icon as a motorcycle company. They have become such, as they had a winning formula in their bikes which they didn't dare change. The die hard Harley owners don't even welcome shocks
on their bikes.
However, soul must eventually give way to innovation. As much macho, testosterone-pumping bravado as a Harley has, they're finding their markets ever chipped away by the Japanese, German and Italian bike makers.
The reason, in a nutshell, is speed. Harley has remained true to what is largely their original engine design for over 100 years. An air-cooled, large displacement V-twin. It produces a good deal of power for its size, but compared to the high-revving liquid cooled V-twin and inline four cylinder engines produced by Italy and Japan, they're dinosaurs. A 600cc sport bike from Japan will rape and pillage even the largest old school harley, with half the displacement.
As much as Harley wants to keep from alienating their core demographic, they also must attempt to appeal to new markets in an effort to continue to succeed in the marketplace. People want a reliable, water-cooled, high revving engine, and they're going to get it in the V-Rod.
Harley is a lot like another manufacturer of vehicles that has a die-hard cult of followers: Porsche. The 911 owner flat out shrieked
at the idea of their beloved 911 becoming water cooled. But, technology demanded that it do so to keep up with the power production and emissions demands placed on it to remain sellable in the market. As such, they did so, and the 911 shot back into the lead of the supercar market. (Only to be swallowed by Ferrari once again, but that's another story.) Porsche let innovation reign, and they found themselves with a boatload of new customers buying their cars.
It shouldn't surprise people, then, that Harley-Davidson got Porsche to tune the new V-Rod engine.
The V-Rod is an evolution of the classic Harley. It retains its sleek "boots in the wind" long wheel base configuration, but its new engine gives it a new lease on life.
Steven claims that the new V-Rod is "smaller, lighter, wimpier, less powerful, quieter, less in-your-face, more effeminate.", and he's flat out wrong. The V-Rod engine produces more power, and propels the new bike faster than any factory production Harley ever made. It weighs less, thanks to a copious amount of aluminum in its construction, but that too allows it to go faster and handle better. The fuel injection system allows for better emissions control, as well as increased power production over the traditional carbs, allowing it to produce 115 horsepower, and still get 47 miles per gallon.
The new V-Rod is different, yes, but european marketing has little to do with it. Surviving in a marketplace that demands 21st century performance does.
UPDATE: For the record, I ride mainly sport bikes that do 180 plus miles per hour before you get them out of fourth gear. I'm pretty far removed from what would be considered the Harley demographic. However, I've ridden the new V-Rod, and I like it. This is a very good thing for Harley.
UPDATE (again): I was kind of waiting for Mike to chime in. He takes me to task on a few issues, and rightly so in a way-- He knows a lot more about H-D's than I ever will. However, a few issues to clarify:
I know Porsche didn't design the V-Rod engine, and if it was implied in my original article, that was inaccurate. The engine was designed by H-D, and is largely based on their VR1000 superbike/drag engine. However, Porsche did play a large part in tuning the engine before it went into production.
Mike also goes into detail on the differences between the Jap and H-D engines, and he's quite right on all counts. However, the fact remains that pound for pound, the Jap (and especially) Italian bikes are way ahead on the power curve.
posted by Mr. Lion
17:04 hours | comments
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