Harley-Davidson CEO Jochen Zeitz has not only re-asserted the American brand’s commitment to electric bikes but also underlined the company’s determination to evolve and innovate and even make its Homecoming event an annual rally to rival the lives of Daytona and Sturgis.
Speaking at the end of this year’s record-breaking 120th Anniversary Homecoming, which attracted well over 130,000 Harley fans to the company’s HQ in Milwaukee, USA, was headlined by concerts by Green Day and the Foo Fighter and also saw the public launch of its new CVO models, Zeitz said: “The future is always the biggest challenge. I think that’s our job. As the custodians of this brand and the company it is to continue to evolve and innovate. Cherish the past, the heritage and the history but evolve and innovate. That’s what we’re trying to do, and I think successfully now.”
Of Harley’s LiveWire electric brand, which recently launched its new, cheaper, lightweight Del Mar model, he said: “We wanted to make sure that we stay ahead of the curve and innovate with a separate brand which is part of the Harley family that is leading the electrification of the sport. I think that’s what LiveWire is doing. It’s a huge opportunity with LiveWire and eventually, if you don’t innovate, and you’re not prepared for what the future will bring, you are risking the future of the company. I always want to lead, to innovate, and that’s what we’re doing with LiveWire.”
2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide
Commenting on the radically new CVO Street and Road Glide models, he added: “It’s a new touring experience. We’ve taken the heritage and history of touring but really taken it into the future. It’s lighter, more agile, a more dynamic form of touring. We wanted to push the boundaries while making sure the past is still there.”
But arguably his biggest revelation was that Harley’s Homecoming event, which until now has been held as an anniversary, five-yearly celebration since 1998, will from now be an annual rally to compete with the likes of Sturgis and Daytona, with next year’s kick-off event to take place July 25-28 celebrating the legacy of Willie G. Davidson.
“I decided we would do this every year,” Zeitz told the media. “I’ve gone to big rallies, to Sturgis, Daytona, Faaker See in Europe. Why would we just have a big rally every five years? Let’s do this every year and have a big party. We want to make into one of the biggest rallies, just like other big rallies in America.”
Bill Davidson, Willie G.’s son and VP of the Harley-Davidson Museum, added: “We have all the ingredients. We have the museum as the centrepiece, the Powertrain Operations factory and tours, the Product Development Center – so why not put all of those ingredients into a formula and have a party every year?”
Zeitz added: “Plus it’s a great city, with Veteran’s Park down by the lakefront, it’s just beautiful…so mark your calendars for July 25-28 – it’s now fixed. And I said to Bill: ‘What could we do special to make another reason to come?’ And I suggested we celebrate the life of Willie G. with Harley Davidson, his legacy, next year…”