Harley-Davidson COO Matt Levatich reportedly confirmed The Motor Company is edging closer to releasing a new 500cc motorcycle aimed at foreign markets and beginning motorcyclists. Most clues insinuate the 500cc Harley is being produced in India’s H-D manufacturing facility.
The rumor mills about Harley-Davidson producing an entry-level 500cc bike were once again stoked after Harley Chief Operating Officer Matt Levatich reportedly confirmed the motorcycle is getting ever-closer to production. According to Loz Blain’s article on Gizmag, Levatich intimated that the 500cc motorcycle will be produced in India, which was expected, and according to him is imbued with the qualities common to a beginner’s bike – nimble, lightweight, low seat height and easy to modulate throttle and braking.
The new Harley will supposedly feature a 500cc V-Twin and efforts are being made to insure it still sounds and feels like a Harley cruiser. From Levatich’s comments, combined with info from one of our own sources, getting the engine dialed in is the major point of contention in the project’s development. The motorcycle’s MSRP is estimated to be in the Rs. 3-4 lakhs range which would undercut the current lowest priced Harley in the Indian market, the $8430-priced SuperLow, potentially by a couple thousand dollars. To keep the price point low, the 500cc model would have to be built from the ground-up in Harley’s Indian manufacturing facilities and source parts from regional suppliers. In Harley’s quest to infiltrate the Indian market, it has had to contend with high import tariffs for Completely Built-Up Imports which it has circumvented by assembling Complete Knock-Down kits in India instead of shipping over complete motorcycles. Building bikes solely in India is the next logical progression toward reducing the price and making the Harley lifestyle even more affordable to Indian motorcyclists, especially the younger demographic. The 500cc Harley cruiser reportedly will make its debut at the 2014 Indian Auto Expo.
A 500cc Harley also makes sense for the Indian market which is dominated by small step-thru scooters and Chinese-made motorcycles with low displacements. Royal Enfield is also well-established in the Indian motorcycle market with its 350 and 500cc Bullet models. The move also opens up the possibility of selling the 500cc Harley in other overseas markets that use a graduated licensing system which puts motorcycle size and age limitations on new riders. The beginner Harley could also replace the Buell Blasts that The Motor Company frequently uses in its Rider’s Edge New Rider Course, but whether the motorcycle would even make it to American soil is pure speculation. While a 500cc motorcycle is perceived as a big bike in other countries, the 883cc Harley Sportster already often gets stuck with the stigma of being a “girl’s bike” here in the States where we still herald the mantra of “no replacement for displacement.”
But Harley has recently taken strides to shed some of its staid reputation with its ambitious 2014 lineup, including its first “Twin Cooled” tourers with dual radiators circulating liquid coolant, its Reflex Linked Braking System and an interactive, voice-modulated infotainment system. And talk about breaking from tradition, the Gizmag report states that Harley-Davidson “engineers are quite intrigued with the idea of what an electric Harley would look like.” What this actually translates to, only Harley truly knows, but for a company that has built brand loyalty over the last 110 years by building bikes that shake, rattle, roll, and rumble, an electric Harley would be a hard sell.