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Historic Product Launch Looks to Save Harley-Davidson

These new bikes don’t look anything like your dad’s Harley – and that’s the point.

Iconic motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson has been feeling the heat this summer.

In May the company upset workers and labor unions when it announced the opening of an assembly plant in Thailand. Then in June the company had to recall more than 50,000 bikes due to a faulty oil line. And last month Harley announced plans to eliminate 180 manufacturing jobs at plants in Wisconsin and Missouri.

All of this came on the heels of second quarter sales drops of 6.7 percent globally and 9.3 percent in the U.S., both of which are part of a decade-long sales skid that has seen annual shipments drop from a high of 350,000 bikes to a projected 241,000 this year.

The company’s latest news, however, is more positive.

In an attempt to reverse these sales trends, the company unveiled eight new Softail bikes in anticipation of its 115th anniversary next year.

In addition to a stiffer and lighter frame for easier handling, they feature the new, dual-counterbalanced Milwaukee-Eight 107 and 114 engines with quicker acceleration rates from 0-60. They’re also the most powerful motors the company has ever offered on cruiser models.

The new bikes, which are part of Harley’s largest product development project ever, hope to bring a new generation of riders into the Harley fold.

With baby boomers aging out of the motorcycle riding demographic, Harley performed extensive market research in re-designing bikes for a new generation of riders.

So, if you think these bikes don’t look like your dad’s Harley – that’s the point.

In addition to the new motors and lighter frame, the chassis and suspension have also been overhauled in providing a more nimble, smooth-riding, easier-to-handle option. All of these changes signify Harley’s goal of expanding from their brand persona from the big, heavy touring bikes that put them on the map to the more relaxed riding offered by these cruisers.

The new bikes are also up to 35 pounds lighter than their predecessors, which improves braking and fuel efficiency. Modern features like anti-lock brakes, LED lighting, digital instrumentation, keyless ignition, USB ports and lockable saddlebags have also been incorporated.

The new bikes should be at dealerships this fall with prices ranging from $15,000 to $21,000.

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