Indefinitely Delayed: Harley-Davidson LiveWire Update

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

We’ve got an addendum for our latest story on how automakers should view Harley-Davidson as a cautionary tale. The company, which recently began exploring electric motorcycles as a way to boost sales and spur public interest, recently told dealers not to expect deliveries of its newest model.

The $29,799 LiveWire that was supposed to start re-arriving this month is again delayed.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the manufacturer claims there’s an issue with the all-electric bike’s charging equipment — something that will obviously need to be addressed before it goes on sale. As a result, H-D is pulling the production plug on the two-wheeled EV.

“This is disappointing for all of us,” Michelle Kumbier, the company’s chief operating officer, wrote in a dealer memo intercepted by the outlet.

We asked a few H-D dealerships to verify the claims. Most said they hadn’t planned on carrying the LiveWire this year, with one confirming the delay and apologizing. It should be said that the manufacturer is adamant about dealerships using specific types of chargers. WSJ noted that the brand also wanted customers to use “professional type” chargers at home, but most of the marketing materials indicated the bike would function with any household outlet.

While no dangers are said to stem from the charging problem, Harley-Davidson has not issued a timetable for the fix, postponing deliveries (and production) indefinitely until one can be implemented. Since the model isn’t officially supposed to be on sale yet, it’s unlikely the few in dealer possession have left the premises — meaning H-D won’t have to issue any consumer recalls.

Small miracles, we suppose. But this is another dark smudge on the brand’s already spotted resume that might have been avoidable. While we cannot presume Harley-Davidson rushed the LiveWire to market (possibly to beat winter), there may still have been a way around this that didn’t involve stalling production. While H-D isn’t spelling anything out for automakers, it’s still being generous with its lessons.

[Image: Harley-Davidson]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Lou_BC Lou_BC on Oct 16, 2019

    Maybe Harley executives realized that aging boomers will only pay exorbitant amounts of money for outdated V-twins?

  • HotPotato HotPotato on Oct 18, 2019

    Conceptually, electric motorcycles make a lot of sense. The most expensive part of an EV is the battery, and it doesn't take nearly as big a battery to move a motorcycle as a car. Range is always an issue, but range with a puny gas tank between your knees is an issue too; most people use their bike as either a short distance commuter or a toy. This thing, on the other hand, does not make sense. It's no faster to charge on level 2 than level 1? Really? Is that a misprint? Most people have a garage outlet, and many people have a dryer outlet, but nobody has, and nobody ever will have, a level 3 (DC Fast) charger at home. Thirty grand? Really? I mean, I get that it makes cool loud noises of the sci-fi movie variety, and CAN fast-charge, and doesn't look like a bicycle. So, kudos to H-D over Zero and all the rest. But thirty grand? Also, and most importantly: is anyone clamoring for this type of vehicle at the annual methamphetamine dealer's convention or on Fox & Friends? Because if not, then it's not in the H-D demographic. ;-)

  • Ajla There's a melancholy to me about an EV with external speaker-generated "engine" noise and fake transmissions. It feels like an admission from the manufacturer that you're giving something up and they are trying to give back some facsimile of it. Like giving a cupcake scented candle to someone on a diet. If I was shopping for an EV I'd rather go to a company enthusiastic about it rather than apologetic.
  • EBFlex More proof of how much EVs suck. If you have to do this, that means you are trying to substitute what people want...and that's ICE.
  • Akear The only CEO who can save Boeing, GM, and Ford is Alan Mulally. Mulally is largely credited with saving both Boeing and Ford. The other alternative is to follow a failed Jack Welch business model. We have all witnessed what Jack Welch did to GE, and what happened to Boeing when it was taken over by GE-trained businessmen. Below is an interesting article on how Jack Welch indirectly ruined Boeing.
  • ChristianWimmer The interior might be well-made, but the design is just hideous in my opinion. It’s to busy and there’s no simplistic harmony visible in it. In fact I feel that the nicest Lexus interior ever could be found in the original LS400 - because it was rather minimalistic, had pleasing lines and didn’t try to hard. It looked just right. All Lexus interiors which came after it just had bizarre styling cues and “tried to hard” if you know what I mean.
  • THX1136 As a couple of folks have mentioned wasn't this an issue with the DeLorean? I seem to recall that it was claimed you could do a 'minor' buff of the surface and it would be good as new. Guess I don't see why it's a big deal if it can be so easily rectified. Won't be any different than getting out and waxing the car every so often - part of ownership, eh.