It's a bold strategy, and one that perhaps surprises many. In a time when global automobile players are finding it difficult to sustain their business, niche bike maker Harley Davidson has unveiled its first all-new platform in 13 years, which will spawn two new products for starters - the Street 750 and Street 500.
The two bikes will offer a new kind of product to possibly a new kind of customer, as it establishes Harley Davidson's step into a lower displacement realm than it has operated in so far. And while certain product characteristics on the Street range will also be new to the company's portfolio, the larger story is the manufacturing plan.
For the first time in the company's history, this product will be manufactured outside the United States. So far Harley Davidson has only had assembly operations outside the US - in India and Brazil. But the Street will be made from the ground-up in India and also in Kansas City, US. While the Kansas City production will cater only to the North American market, the Indian plant in Bawal, Haryana will supply to the local market and also to Europe. The number of export markets will gradually scale up over the next 2-3 year period.
India gets only the Street 750 initially, with a launch expected at the Auto Expo in February 2014. The company says it may consider the 500 at a later time, but bases the decision to launch only the 750, on market research that says its potential customers in India want the higher displacement version.
Prices will be announced at launch, but Harley Davidson has promised that the on-road price will stay under Rs 5 lakh. This is significant as it opens up a new volume base for the company - and in an area where others, especially the local giants Bajaj and Hero, want to expand in a major way. It is also a new opportunity for Indian vendors who will supply to not just the production in India, but also have access to Harley Davidson's USA production plants in the future.