Harley-Davidson Inc. (NYSE: HOG) has announced it will be launching an all-electric motorcycle in the near future. Matt Levatich, the president and chief executive officer of the company, said that the company is planning to bring the new motorcycle to market within 18 months. The announcement was made during a routine earnings call.
The new motorcycle has not yet been publicly named. However, many believe that it will be similar to the company’s prototype all-electric motorcycle unveiled four years ago. The prototype had a roughly 50-mile range and could go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 4 seconds. About 12,000 people got to ride the prototype during the testing period, including “Easy Rider” star Peter Fonda.
The electric motorcycle market is small but growing. Levatich told investors, “The EV motorcycle market is in its infancy today, but we believe premium Harley-Davidson electric motorcycles will help drive excitement and participation in the sport globally.” According to Harley-Davidson Chief Financial Officer John Olin, the company will spend $25 million to $50 million annually on electric motorcycle technology for the next few years.
There has been a deepening slump in U.S. motorcycle demand. The industry is struggling to attract new riders. Industry retail sales in the U.S. were down 11.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2017. Worldwide retail motorcycle sales declined 9.6 percent in the quarter.
Harley-Davidson’s retail motorcycle sales were off sharply in the company’s latest quarterly earnings report. Harley sales fell 11 percent in the fourth quarter and 8.5 percent for the year. There were 32,000 new Harley-Davidson buyers in the U.S. last year.
The company reported fourth-quarter profit of $8.3 million, or 5 cents a share, compared with profit of $47.2 million, or 27 cents, in the same quarter a year earlier. The company also announced additional job cuts and a plant closure during the earnings call. The announcements did little to reassure investors. Over the past 12 months, the company’s shares are down more than 12 percent.