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H-D’s Willie G. Davidson Set to Retire

Friday, March 16, 2012
Willie G. Davidson is retiring after 49 years from Harley-Davidson.
Willie G. Davidson retires from Harley-Davidson after 49 years  working at his namesake company.
After nearly 50 years as head of styling, Willie G. Davidson is retiring from Harley-Davidson (NYSE:HOG) April 30, 2012.
Willie G., Senior Vice President and Chief Styling Officer, is widely recognized as a legend in the world of motorcycling and motorcycle design. He will continue his involvement with the company as an ambassador at motorcycle rallies and events, and through special design projects as Chief Styling Officer Emeritus.
“Throughout my life, I have been truly fortunate to have the opportunity to marry my passion for design with my love for this amazing brand that runs so deeply in my veins,” Willie G. said. “What’s most rewarding has been to see the impact our motorcycles have on the lives of our customers. Everything we do in styling is based on the notion that form follows function, but both report to emotion.”

Over the course of his career, Willie G., 78, built a design team at Harley-Davidson that established the company’s unrivaled leadership in custom, cruiser and touring motorcycles. Today, the styling department is led by 19-year company veteran Ray Drea, Vice President and Director of Styling, who has worked collaboratively with Willie G. in the development of numerous milestone vehicles.

“It has been my privilege to work alongside many incredibly talented people at this company and I have great confidence the future of Harley-Davidson’s design leadership will continue to grow in its pre-eminence,” Willie G. said. “I look forward to spending time with riders at rallies and to my involvement in special design projects.”

“Few individuals have the kind of impact on an organization, a brand and a lifestyle that Willie G. has had,” said Keith Wandell, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Harley-Davidson, Inc. “Everyone with a love for motorcycles owes a great deal to his vision and talent, and all of us have been blessed by his presence. His legacy will continue to grow, thanks to the talent he has nurtured in the Harley-Davidson styling studio.”

Willie G. has long served as ambassador of Harley-Davidson at rallies around the world – meeting riders, talking to customers, lending his famous signature to jackets, and setting an example of being close to the customer that has become one of the hallmarks of the company.
Grandson of one of the company’s founders, William A. Davidson, and son of William H. Davidson, its second president, Willie G. joined the company as its first head of styling in 1963. With responsibility for the look of all Harley-Davidson motorcycles, landmark motorcycles to emerge from Willie G’s styling studio team include the Super Glide, which established the factory custom category in 1971, Low Rider, Heritage Softail Classic, Fat Boy, V-Rod and Street Glide. He is one of 13 Harley-Davidson executives who purchased the company from AMF, Inc. in 1981. 
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Piglet2010   March 18, 2012 07:36 AM
@ wildpig - Love them or hate them, at least BMW Motorrad has brought innovation to the market: full sport fairing, ABS, shaft drive, adventure touring, Tele-Lever and Para-Lever, heated grips, radial tires, and some others. Maybe not the absolute first to do so, but the first to be commercially successful. When was the last time that H-D was first to market a technological innovation successfully? The only innovation H-D has done in the last 40 years is selling motorcycles as fashion accessories to a pre-packaged "lifestyle".
wildpig   March 17, 2012 09:33 PM
bmw-- over rated over priced not all that reliable and untill recntly very under powered. no dealer net work to mention- they aint bout 145 nation wide and zero count em zero parts inventory-- ... with the worst re sale value outside of moto guzzi. u can keep the bmw...
Piglet2010   March 17, 2012 08:26 PM
@ fkranich23 - Erik Buell eventually came to the conclusion that a competitive sportbike could not be built around WW2 era engine technology (i.e. H-D air-cooled, push-rod V-2 engines). Does anyone know why the Buell 1125R used the Rotax Helicon instead of the H-D/Porsche Revolution (as that might have gone over better with H-D management)?
fkranich23   March 17, 2012 02:31 PM
I've always been a bigger fan of Erik Buell and his engineering ability
Piglet2010   March 17, 2012 01:34 PM
Why is it that the H-D fans can dish it out (telling everyone else their bikes are junk), but not take it?
Piglet2010   March 17, 2012 01:32 PM
Well, all the US made motorcycles (except Buell) of the past 50 years could have been styled 50 years ago - everything newer looking has come from Europe or Japan. Did people indoctrinate their children in the H-D religion at an early age, or is it just wanting to be an anti-social conformist? Sorry, but I really don't understand the attraction to paying a premium for outdated styling, performance, and technology. As a child in the 1970's, British bikes were already old and hardly seen; Italian bikes oddities; H-D motorcycles were large, loud, gaudy, and ridden by people best avoided; while BMW and the Japanese were making modern and interesting bikes ridden by non-thuggish people. The next three decades have show me nothing to change those early impressions, except for the revival or Triumph.
woodco100   March 16, 2012 10:05 PM
Piglet, your ignorance never ceases to amaze me. Did you even read the article? Willie G has been the single most influncial (sic) person in US MC styling for 50 years. Half a century at the forefront of an industry. I used to feel just pity for you for some of your comments over the last few years. But I must admit, lately it is turning to contempt. Lets us just leave it at that. Please, do not even respond.
Piglet2010   March 16, 2012 07:29 PM
Well, I like the way the XR1200R looks - if H-D would drop the Revolution engine in I would be tempted to buy one. And of course, the "Hummer" models, Topper scooter, and the Aermacchi built Harley-Davidson's are cool too.
wildpig   March 16, 2012 05:22 PM
willies finest piece of work in 50 yrs was -- THE SPRINGER FRONT END ON THE FXSTS-B. AINT NO SPRINGER -- BEFORE OR SINCE BY ANY COMPANY ANYWHERE THAT EVEN COMES CLOSE TO THE FUNCTON AN LOOKS OF THE springer he disigned for the soft tail -- and the boy boy-- the best springer of the softtails.