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Harley Davidson eyes electric motorbikes as part of 2022 growth plan

Harley-Davidson Inc. will launch a series of electric-powered models and small-engine bikes for the burgeoning Indian market, strikingly novel products for a brand whose low-slung gasoline bikes command a fiercely loyal following, as part of a growth strategy unveiled on July 30.

The "More Roads to Harley-Davidson" plan will see the company release new models, improve its dealership network and broaden its customer base. In the segment of motorcycles and related products, Harley-Davidson by 2022 aims to increase turnover by $1 billion to $1.5 billion, operating profit by $200 million to $250 million and operating margin by 0.75% to 1.25%.

It will be funded through cost savings and the reallocation of existing planned investments, including operating investment of $450 million to $550 million and capital investment of $225 million to $275 million. It expects to make an operating loss through 2020 as a result of the strategy.

The plan includes the launch of the gearless "twist and go" LiveWire electric motorcycle in 2019, the first of a series of battery-powered bikes it plans to release over the next four years, including some lower-priced models that will broaden access to the brand.

The company said its plan to offer a motorcycle with 250 cubic centimeters and 500 cc engines in India, and later elsewhere in Asia through a strategic alliance, would boost exposure in one of the world's fastest-growing markets.

"The bold actions we are announcing today leverage Harley-Davidson's vast capabilities and competitive firepower — our excellence in product development and manufacturing, the global appeal of the brand and of course, our great dealer network," said CEO Matt Levatich.

In June, Harley-Davidson drew the ire of President Donald Trump after announcing it would move more production overseas to escape import tariffs placed on its motorcycles by the European Union. It had already announced in May that it planned to move some U.S.-based manufacturing to a plant in Thailand. The growth plan mentions a plan for manufacturing in Thailand by the fourth quarter of 2018 in a timeline diagram that offered no additional details.

Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson said it wants to boost access to the brand including through smaller, urban storefronts that stock apparel and paraphernalia. It will also aim to improve the financial strength and profitability of its dealer network with new incentives for performance and modernization.

Harley-Davidson will open between 25 and 35 new dealerships worldwide each year through 2022 while at the same time expecting more sales to come through digital platforms or be influenced by online content.

Within the brand's more traditional heavyweight motorcycle lineup, it will introduce new Touring and Cruiser motorcycles, as well as a platform of middleweight bikes with engines ranging from 500 cc up to the 1250 cc Harley-Davidson Pan America.

By 2027, the company hopes to increase the number of Harley-Davidson riders in the United States by 2 million, launch 100 different models and increase sales volumes abroad by 50%.

Harley-Davidson shares were trading down 0.24% at $44.28 at 13.19 p.m. E.T.