Business / Corporate

Harley halts output of electric model pivotal to revival bid

Bloomberg

Harley-Davidson Inc. has halted production of LiveWire, the debut electric bike it’s counting on to attract new riders.

The motorcycle maker recently discovered an issue during final quality checks, according to an emailed statement that doesn’t provide details. Harley said it stopped production and deliveries as it conducts additional testing and analysis.

Chief Executive Officer Matt Levatich, who’s presided over 10 consecutive quarters of declining U.S. retail sales, has positioned LiveWire as key to building a new generation of customers. While it’s easier to operate — there’s no clutch or gears to figure out, just a twist-and-go throttle — analysts have questioned whether its $29,799 price tag will attract the younger riders the company seeks.

“We made a deliberate decision to launch a halo product to demonstrate what’s possible in electric — a no-excuses electric Harley-Davidson — and we feel very good that we’ve done that,” Levatich said during an earnings call in July.

LiveWire deliveries were initially supposed to be delivered in August, but the company said during an investor day on Sept. 24 that it was holding back the bikes to make sure they were perfect, according to James Hardiman, an analyst at Wedbush Securities. Pre-orders started in January.

Harley shares briefly reversed gains and plunged as much as 2 percent before trading little changed as of 2:50 p.m. New York time. The stock has risen about 3 percent this year, trailing the 18 percent gain by the S&P 500.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier Monday that Harley told some of its dealers last week it was suspending output as it conducted tests on the bike’s charging mechanism, citing a memo from Chief Operating Officer Michelle Kumbier. The company asked customers and dealers to only use a professional type of charger available at dealerships rather than home electrical outlets, the Journal said.