Harley-Davidson seeking Indian manufacturer tie-up amid exit talk?

Harley-Davidson could be looking to expand its global footprint and drive down costs via a tie-in with an Indian manufacturer like Mahindra & Mahindra

Harley-Davidson LiveWire

Harley-Davidson has been courting plenty of speculation in recent weeks as we wait for more details to emerge about its dubbed ‘Hardwire’ strategy aimed at reversing the fortunes for the ailing American motorcycle brand.

Kicked off by the removal of Matt Levatich as President and CEO to be replaced by Jochen Zeitz earlier this year, the new helmsman is overseeing a major overhaul aimed at getting Harley-Davidson back in the black after a protracted decline in sales and profits that has accelerated over the last 12 months.

Though Harley-Davidson is keeping its cards close to its chest, Zeitz himself has intimated the company will pay closer attention to its core demographic, seemingly a turnaround from the recent efforts to forge new paths with models like the LiveWire electric motorcycle and the upcoming Pan America ADV.

Harley-Davidson LiveWire (2020) Review | Visordown.com

However, with the Bronx streetfighter on the backburner for now - and possibly axed altogether - and other models seemingly facing the chop to ‘trim the fat’ from an extensive range, Harley-Davidson could also be looking for more tie-ups to help drive costs down across the board.

The latest talk comes from India, a market which Harley-Davidson is rumoured to be exiting after struggling to establish itself as a force because of high asking prices and a subsequent lack of demand.

However, RideApart says the plan could be to find a new local partner to collaborate with in manufacturing. Such a move is a well worn path for western manufacturers, with BMW teamed with TVS, while Bajaj Auto partners with KTM and will begin developing models with Triumph soon too.

The firm seemingly most attractive would be Mahindra & Mahindra, which is behind the recent revival of Jawa - a brand that has some parallels with H-D - and doesn’t currently have a high-profile partner to help establish the ex-BSA brand globally.

Currently Harley-Davidson has a factory in Bawal, but this could be either shut down or taken on by another manufacturer.

Such rumours would provide some credence to the notion that Harley-Davidson wants to concentrate on its primary cruiser business. Indeed, while models like the recently spied Chinese-developed Harley-Davidson 338R naked is certainly at odds with its US range, it is seen as an important model to grow sales in Asia where smaller displacement motorcycles rule the sales charts.

Harley-Davidson could therefore delegate certain models to local partners to develop and build in its name to keep the brand global, while freeing up time and spend to get its primary US and European business to get back on track.