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An Interview with Bill Klehm

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CEO of eMobillity solutions provider eBliss delivers insight into transport & consumers
Bill Klehm’s interview through Ujjwal Dey

In our Weekly Thursday News for October 19th, 2023, we had featured excerpts of global mobility issues. It featured insight into the issues influencing and affecting mobility and EV from Bill Klehm, CEO of eMobillity solutions provider eBliss.

We followed up by contacting Bill’s team. We managed to have an interview with Bill Klehm. Below is the questions we asked and the insight on the same from Bill.

Click here to read this exclusive interview only on Bikernet.com

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Harley’s electric motorcycle division to go public via $1.7 billion SPAC deal

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from https://www.cnbc.com/

Key Points :

  • Harley-Davidson’s electric-motorcycle division will go public through a merger with a blank-check firm in a deal valued at $1.77 billion, the company said on Monday.
  • The company launched LiveWire earlier this year, hoping to claw back lost market share as its core baby boomer customer base grows older and interest in motorcycling as a recreational activity fades.
  • Harley-Davidson will retain a 74% stake in the company, which is expected to list on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “LVW.”

Harley-Davidson’s electric-motorcycle division will go public through a merger with a blank-check firm in a deal valued at $1.77 billion, the company said on Monday, as the 118-year old brand bets on younger customers to boost volumes.

The company launched LiveWire earlier this year, hoping to claw back lost market share as its core baby boomer customer base grows older and interest in motorcycling as a recreational activity fades.

A broader awareness about climate change is also paving the way for automakers to lean towards greener vehicles. Valuations have gained as money managers are also increasingly factoring in ESG policies in their investments.

Harley is the latest to cash in on an uptick in valuations of electric-vehicle makers. Last month, Amazon-backed EV maker Rivian shot past $100 billion in valuation in its market debut, surpassing Ford and General Motors.

“If anything this underlines what we’ve been saying for a long time. Detroit, wake up! The train has left the station! EVs are inevitable,” Roth Capital analyst Craig Irwin said.

“Many traditional OEMs (Original equipment manufacturers) with emerging EV businesses can obviously do similar spinoff transactions,” Irwin added.

Harley’s shares rose 11.3% in premarket trading, while those of AEA-Bridges were up 3.4%.

Jochen Zeitz, Harley’s chief executive, will be the chairman of LiveWire for up to two years following the completion of the deal. In an investor presentation, LiveWire projected units sales volume of 100,961 electric bikes by 2026.

Harley-Davidson will retain a 74% stake in the company, which is expected to list on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “LVW.” ABIC’s shareholders will own about 17%.

J J Solari on CEO of Harley-Davidson

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A fictional account of leadership and vision by the one and only J J Solari.

Oh yes, we were talking about me and my vision for Harley-Davidson and whatever it is they do. While I am depicted here with my two-wheeled cycle of manly mayhem, you will notice I am not actually riding it. And the animals and the birds have come to me to ask ‘Good sir, canst thou not defile our sacred home with thine fumes?’ And to this I say ‘consider it done!

I shall merely pose with this monster of manliness: I shall not actually start it up! The forest shall be safe!’ And speaking of not starting things up, this accoutrement to my portrait does not actually have an engine. It is a prototype of what I hope will become the future of Harley- Davidson: engine-free coasting cycles. Noise, smoke, gasoline, decimated rubber forests, asphalt, bugs in the face……these nightmares, under my leadership and guidance, shall be eliminated, to be replaced by happy animals safely crossing non existing roads, bluebirds chirping happily on the ends of our outstretched index fingers, green grass and pine trees reclaiming once again their rightful ownership of the planet.

Click Here to Read this Fun Ride into a new sunset only on Bikernet.

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Harley-Davidson’s new stand-alone electric motorcycle – LiveWire One

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President and CEO Jochen Zeitz with the original LiveWire

by Rich Kirchen from https://www.bizjournals.com

With Harley-Davidson Inc. chairman, president and CEO Jochen Zeitz repeating that the company’s electric LiveWire is “an extraordinary product,” details are emerging on a new model that will be called the LiveWire One.

Motorcycle.com reported the name of the first LiveWire-branded electric motorcycle since Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson announced establishing LiveWire as a stand-alone entity. The website said it deciphered the information from a Harley-Davidson filing with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The new LiveWire One will be revealed in July and will be considered a 2021 model, motorcycle.com said.

The Harley-Davidson filing shows the LiveWire One will claim a peak output of 101 brake horsepower (bhp), which is more than the 70 bhp existing LiveWire model, motorcycle.com said.

A Harley-Davidson spokesman did not immediately respond Thursday to a Milwaukee Business Journal request for comment.

Harley-Davidson delivered the original LiveWire to dealers in fall 2019. The company announced in May that LiveWire will get an official launch in July as a brand in its own right with its own laboratory and showrooms.

Harley-Davidson (NYSE: HOG) initially planned to debut the new LiveWire at the International Motorcycle Show in Irvine, California. However, motorcycle.com reported that the show won’t be held there and Harley is looking to arrange an alternate date and site.

Zeitz, appearing on CNBC Wednesday, discussed the LiveWire strategy but not the specifics of the next phase. He said electrified motorcycles are the future for the industry.

“It might take longer in certain segments such as the traditional Harley-Davidson segment, simply because the technology is not there in terms of range and longevity of a ride that our touring customer wants,” Zeitz said.

The LiveWire product that Harley-Davidson launched in 2019 under the Harley-Davidson brand “was really a product that was more focused and geared towards the urban consumer,” Zeitz said.

“So I felt there was a huge opportunity as we are bridging into electric long term to use the LiveWire — which is the best product out there, the best electric product — but focusing more on an urban customer to actually segment that out and stand it up as its own brand.’’

Harley-Davidson announced in March hiring Ryan Morrissey as chief electric vehicle officer to lead the new electric-vehicle unit. Morrissey previously worked at consulting giant Bain & Company.

New top management at Norton Motorcycles announced

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from https://www.financialexpress.com

TVS announces new top management at Norton Motorcycles: 2021 V4SS to launch soon.

With TVS infusing multi-million-pound investments, the Solihull facility will be the most advanced and modern plant that Norton has operated out of in its 122-year-old history.

TVS Motor Company (TVS), owner of The Norton Motorcycle Co Ltd (Norton), today announced that Dr Robert Hentschel has been appointed as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Vittorio Urciuoli as its Chief Technical Officer (CTO) of the historic Solihull-based motorcycle brand. Hentschel and Urciuoli will take up their new positions as John Russell steps down from his role as Interim CEO. Dr Robert Hentschel joins Norton from Valmet Automotive Holding GmbH & Co KG, where he has served as Managing Director since 2017.

Before that, he headed Ricardo Deutschland and Hentschel System and was also Director of Lotus Engineering. Vittorio Urciuoli’s former key roles within the global automotive industry include Director of URVI LTD, Head of Powertrain at Lotus Cars and Project Leader at Ferrari and Aprilia Racing.

TVS has created a plan for Norton to transform into the future. Along with the entire TVS team, I look forward to working together with them for the revitalisation of one of the world’s most storied brands. Under John’s tenure, with investment and support from TVS, Norton has returned to a firm footing and made marked improvements to engineering and product quality, which will be seen in the updated V4SS that will be launched soon. In addition, we have established a new, state-of-the-art global design, engineering, manufacturing and sales and marketing HQ in Solihull, Sudarshan Venu, Joint Managing Director of TVS Motors, said.

In January this year, Norton announced it would get back to work in full swing by March at its new facility at Solihull, Birmingham in the UK. The British manufacturer has moved its production base from its former headquarters at Donington Hall after its acquisition by TVS Motor Company in April last year.

With TVS infusing multi-million-pound investments, the Solihull facility will be the most advanced and modern plant that Norton has operated out of in its 122-year-old history. The production of the Commando Classic has also been resumed.

The V4SS will also be one of the first motorcycles to roll out as the company resumes operations. Limited to just 200 units, the V4SS boasts full carbon fibre bodywork contrasted by a bright finish on the frame and engine casing. It gets a single-sided swingarm and carbon fibre wheels. It is powered by a 1,200cc V4 engine that makes 200 bhp and 130 Nm of peak torque. Soon after the V4SS, the company is expected to unveil the updated V4RR as well.

Honda aims to have only electric vehicles sales by 2040

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by Reuters from https://auto.economictimes.indiatimes.com

New Honda CEO aims for 100% electric vehicles by 2040

Speaking at his first news conference since taking the chief executive position at the beginning of April, Toshihiro Mibe said the company expects EVs and FCVs to account for 40% of sales by 2030 and 80% by 2035 in all major markets.

TOKYO: Honda Motor Co’s new chief executive said on Friday the company was aiming to increase its ratio of electric vehicles (EVs) and fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) to 100% of all sales by 2040.

Speaking at his first news conference since taking the chief executive position at the beginning of April, Toshihiro Mibe said the company expects EVs and FCVs to account for 40% of sales by 2030 and 80% by 2035 in all major markets.

Mibe began his leadership amid a growing shift in automobile technology to electric vehicles and autonomous driving. Traditionally known for its fuel-efficient internal combustion engines, Honda launched its first mass-produced all-battery vehicle last August.

Mibe said the company also aimed to include advanced driver-assistance systems in all of its models in major markets by 2030.

Ford CEO Jim Farley nominated to Harley-Davidson board of directors

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by Phoebe Wall Howard from https://www.freep.com

Ford CEO Jim Farley, owner of two classic Harley-Davidson motorcycles, has agreed to serve on the board of the Milwaukee-based company.

The director nomination was submitted Friday by the motorcycle manufacturer’s CEO Jochen Zeitz as part of the 2021 Notice of the Annual Meeting of Shareholders and Proxy Statement, released in advance of the May 20 vote.

Farley is the only new board nominee. If approved, he would join executives with diverse corporate backgrounds that include Levi Strauss, Ocean5, Starbucks, he Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, ABB Robotics and the Cummins engine and technology company.

“Jochen’s vision to bring adventure to a wider audience in different forms resonates with me. I’m honored to be nominated for a seat on the Harley-Davidson board,” Farley told the Free Press on Saturday.

“It’s also good for Ford, another chance for us to learn from one of the best,” he said. “This is a legendary American brand with a proud global history and enduring values. Like Ford, they now want to transform how people move, including new customers —through always-on relationships, new technologies and must-have products and services.”

Zeitz and Farley, both 58, run iconic American manufacturing brands in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. They’ve had to cut jobs, restructure and redefine their legacies.

Zeitz is a turnaround expert who transformed Puma from near bankruptcy to a top athletic brand globally. He took the top job at Harley-Davidson in May. Farley assumed the top job at Ford in October.

Not only does Farley collect classic cars, but he also owns and rides Harley-Davidson bikes: a 1930 Knucklehead and a 1942 WLA Navy bike. He restored both bikes with a lot of help from his friends. Farley is known for working on classics himself.

“Jim Farley is cut from the cloth of Harley-Davidson. He is a working person’s CEO who likes to race cars,” said Marick Masters, a business professor at the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University in Detroit. “His adventurous spirit captures the essence of Harley-Davidson. … Farley brings a drive and energy to complement the Harley-Davidson brand.”

These days, Harley-Davidson is looking to find new consumers and shore up its financials. The brand thrived during World War II making motorcycles for the U.S. military. Later, the bikes evolved into a symbol of counterculture.

“The world’s youth were out on the road seeking freedom, and the motorcycle was as sure a vehicle as any to offer a quick hit of it,” said the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum website for its 1998 exhibition, “The Art of the Motorcycle.” “Rebellion became fashion, and Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the motorcycle industry capitalized as never before.”

The ad campaign for Peter Fonda’s 1969 film “Easy Rider” proclaimed, “A man went looking for America and couldn’t find it anywhere,” a sentiment that could be expanded to embrace the entire decade, the Guggenheim said.

By 2018, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle averaged $20,000 and the average buyer age hovered around 50, Business Insider reported.

“Seeing the trials of another classic American brand can help Farley better prepare for potential issues within Ford,” said Sam Fiorani, vice president of AutoForecast Solutions based in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania.

“With Harley-Davidson at a very competitive juncture in its industry, having someone with corporate turnaround experience like Farley on the board can only benefit the legendary company,” Fiorani said.

“While automobiles and motorcycles are very different industries, navigating an established brand like Harley-Davidson would be akin to maintaining iconic brands like F-150 or Mustang through changing markets,” he said. “Ford has done an admirable job of securing their history to the present day.”

Harley-Davidson was reborn 40 years ago by concentrating on what made their bikes different, Fiorani said. “Finding a similar direction going forward is necessary for the brand’s long-term survival, and Farley has the history to help guide the company toward that future.”

The iconic nature of Ford and Harley-Davidson isn’t simply incidental, said Harley Shaiken, a labor economist who specializes in global production at the University of California, Berkeley. “Building on their past could be key to their future.”

The two companies have become a part of the American story, “from the Joads driving West in a Model T in ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ to Marlon Brando,” who purchased a 1970 Harley-Davidson FLH Electra-Glide after filming “The Wild One,” Shaiken said. “So it’s somehow fitting that the CEO of one is now sitting on the board of the other at a tough moment.”

Directors on the Harley-Davidson board earned an annual fee of $91,630 in fiscal year 2020, according to its proxy report. They have the option of receiving all or a portion of their fees in the form of stock.

Farley serves on no other corporate boards of directors except Ford. Farley does represent Ford on the U.S.-China Business Council board of directors and has been appointed co-chair of the Commission on the Future of Mobility.

It is not unusual for CEOs to serve on select boards and develop important business relationships outside their companies. General Motors CEO Mary Barra has served on the board of Walt Disney Co. since 2017.

Ford CEO is cousin of actor Chris Farley — but has another celebrity relative, too – Tripp Tracy a hockey goalie at Harvard University, was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers and later signed with the Hartford Whalers. For the past two decades, he has been the radio and TV color commentator for the Carolina Hurricanes, a Stanley Cup championship winner in 2006.

Why Harley-Davidson Is The Tesla Of Motor Bikes

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by Jim Osman from https://www.forbes.com

Visionary CEO Keith E. Wandell should go down in history as the man who introduced the electric motorcycle to the US market and possibly the first CEO to bring it to the world.

It was in 2011 that Mr. Wandell first showcased his unbranded team-made creation to a keen San Francisco motor bike enthusiast crowd. He might be the most notorious CEO that the iconic US bike manufacturer Harley-Davidson HOG +4.1% has had (founded 117 years ago in Milwaukee, Wisconsin).

However, The Edge (the global leader for activist ideas, special situations and Spinoffs) believes new CEO Jochen Zeitz is the best thing to happen to the company since Mr. Wandell left and successor Matthew S. Levatich was fired suddenly thanks to Impala Asset Management, the $2.4 billion activist hedge fund led by Bob Bishop.

The US military purchased over 20,000 motorcycles from Harley-Davidson in World War I and the company also lent itself to supporting US and Allied troops in World War II, with 90,000 military motorcycles handed over.

Harley-Davidson’s global fan club run in the millions of members, called Harley Owners Group (HOG), and their constant support of US military and Allied troops gives to many charities around the world.

Under Mr. Wandell’s stewardship, the electric motorbike became a reality for Harley-Davidson when the LiveWire was first displayed to the media in June 2014 and released to customers by September 2019.

It even became the star of 2019 documentary “The Long Way Up” featuring Unicef Ambassadors and Hollywood actor Ewan McGregor and his longtime riding buddy Charley Boorman when they traveled from Argentina to LA on the electric LiveWire bikes.

In the 1950s Harley-Davidson dealt with reputation damage as well as economic downturns, and was on its knees by the 1960s. In 1969, American Machine and Foundry (AMF) rescued the nearly bankrupt Harley-Davidson.

AMF sold the company to a group of 13 investors led by Vaughn Beals and Willie G. Davidson for $80 million in 1981. To this day, it’s one of only two major American motorcycle manufacturers to survive beyond the Great Depression.

On July 1, 1987, executives from Harley-Davidson and the New York Stock Exchange rode from the Harley dealership in Queens to the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street to celebrate the first day Harley-Davidson began trading under the ticker symbol HDI, according to the Harley-Davidson museum.

Mr. Wandell joined Harley-Davidson in May 2009, becoming the first external CEO since 1981. On February 7, 2012, under Wandell’s reign Harley-Davidson changed its New York Stock ticker symbol from HDI to HOG.

Mr. Wandell joined Harley-Davidson as CEO in 2009 and by 2012 he had assumed complete control as Chairman of the company’s board of directors while paying investors an increased dividend. It was Mr. Wandell who showed off his unbranded electric motorcycle to enthusiasts in downtown San Francisco in Autumn 2011.

But Mr. Wandell had an eye for talent and promoted Matthew S. Levatich, who joined Harley-Davidson in 1994, as Chief Operating Officer to President, and then CEO of the company in 2015 when Mr. Wandell retired.

Current President, CEO and Executive Chairman Jochen Zeitz (took office February 2020) made two purchases in May 2020, once on May 8 (97,850 shares at $21.26, totaling just over $2m) and again on May 13 (51,020 shares at $19.52, totaling just shy of $1m and representing a 51% increase to his holdings).

These were his first purchases of HOG stock and he has recently made another purchase on August 12 – this time buying 71,450 shares at $27.86 (again spending about $2m, representing a further 47% increase to his holdings) at a significantly higher level than his previous buys. From the May 8 purchase to date, Zeitz’s insider buying made an adjusted +23% return.

Another executive also bought on May 13, then-CFO John Olin, who bought 13,500 shares at $19.02 (spending $260k and representing a 19% increase to his holdings at the time. Since that purchase, Mr. Olin has left the company as part of the larger cost-cutting restructuring called “The Rewire,” though his purchase has yielded a significant return of +45% in just over three months.

Vice President & Treasurer Darrell Thomas has taken over interim CFO duties as of July 9 until a formal successor has been named.

In April 2020, in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, HOG announced a strategic turnaround plan called “The Rewire,” intended to overhaul the company’s global operating model and save costs.

As a result of the ongoing implementation of the Rewire, several optimization changes have been made to the global workforce and reduction of redundancies, there is an increased focus on offering customizable parts and accessories to help consumers make their motorcycles more personal.

The creation of Chief Digital Officer with Jagdish Krishnan in the role is designed create broader and more engaging digital marketing experience for consumers.

This initiative intends to bring Harley-Davidson into the modern era and appeal to generation Z consumers and beyond (as much of the counter-culture base has grown older and motorcycles have struggled to catch on with a wider young audience), and may provide another example of Mr. Zeitz’s turnaround magic.

CEO Scott Wine to leave Polaris Inc to lead CNH Industrial

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from https://auto.economictimes.indiatimes.com

Wine joined Polaris in 2008 as CEO and was elected as Chairman of the Board in 2013.

Polaris Inc on Wednesday announced that Chairman and CEO Scott Wine will leave the company to assume the CEO role at CNH Industrial, the maker of Case and New Holland agricultural equipment.

Wine joined Polaris in 2008 as CEO and was elected as Chairman of the Board in 2013. He will remain in his current role at Polaris through the end of the year. Transition plans will be announced at a later date.

During his time as CEO, Polaris grew from a $1.9 billion organization to a nearly $7 billion global Powersports company, the company said in a statement.

“For the last 12 years, I have had the extraordinary honor of leading the best team in Powersports, and it is incredibly rewarding to reflect on all that we have accomplished together,” said Wine.

“I leave with complete confidence that Polaris’ future is bright. I also want to offer my sincere thanks to my incredibly talented colleagues and to the Polaris Board for their guidance and leadership during my tenure.”

“Scott has been an exceptional leader for Polaris. During his tenure, Polaris grew from a strong Minnesota company into a global leader in the Powersports market—more than tripling sales and vaulting Polaris into the Fortune 500,” said Polaris’ Lead Independent Director John Wiehoff.

In the announcement of Wine’s departure, Polaris reaffirmed financial guidance for 2020 and said sales were on track to increase 2 to 3%. Adjusted net income for 2020 is expected to be in the range of $7.15 to $7.30 share, up from $6.32 a share in 2019, the company said.

Harley’s activist investor backs business reboot strategy

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by Rajesh Kumar Singh from https://www.reuters.com

CHICAGO (Reuters) – An activist investor who shook up Harley-Davidson Inc (HOG.N) earlier this year said he is impressed with the changes initiated by new Chief Executive Jochen Zeitz to turn around the 117-year-old motorcycle company.

Impala Asset Management, the $2.4 billion hedge fund, pushed for the ouster of Zeitz’s predecessor Matt Levatich in January. Months later, it tried to install two directors on Harley’s board, asking for operational fixes to recover its market share in the United States, Europe and Japan.

“For the first time in five to six years, the company is on the right track again,” Bob Bishop, founder and chief investment officer at Impala, told Reuters.

Zeitz, who took the reins in February, is rebooting Harley’s business by shifting the focus back to big bikes, traditional markets like the United States and Europe, and older and wealthier customers.

The new strategy echoes some of the changes Impala has been pushing for. Bishop said Harley should not pursue sales growth at any cost. Instead, it needs to market itself like Ferrari and become an “aspirational” brand, he added.

Bishop does not buy the argument that Harley’s sales in the United States – its biggest market – are suffering because of an aging customer base. He dubbed that an “excuse” to cover the company’s shrinking market share, citing evidence from Europe and Japan where industry sales of motorcycles have been growing despite older demographics.

“When you build up the brand, you will sell more bikes,” Bishop said. “Get rid of this idea that the demographics is killing them.”

Impala bought 1.2 million Harley shares in the quarter through June, increasing its stake to 2.52% from 1.73% in the first quarter of the year.

It also expects an agreement with Harley next month on a new independent board member, Bishop said, as part of an agreement reached in March to settle a board fight.

Under Zeitz, Harley has tightened supplies and cut production, driving up prices for pre-owned bikes, which used to be a drag on new motorcycle sales. It plans to reduce product portfolio and exit lower volume markets, though the company has not specified which ones.

Bishop says models selling below 300 units a year and markets like India and Latin America that have been a “cash drain” could face the axe.

Harley declined to comment.

Robin Farley, an analyst at UBS, reckons the new strategy could shore up Harley’s earnings by saving costs, but would not fix its demand problem. Hopes of higher profit, however, have driven up the company’s shares about 50% since late April when Zeitz first shared his strategy.

Impala expects the restructuring to lift Harley’s earnings to $4 a share next year from $3.36 last year and $5 a share in 2022 even if retail sales remain at 2019 levels.

Analysts surveyed by Refinitiv, on average, expect adjusted earnings of $2.48 per share in 2021 and $2.98 in 2022.

“This is a fundamentally strong company that just lost its way,” Bishop said.