Harley revs up with lightweight versions of its classic bike

Harley-Davidson, which has long dominated the market for heavyweight motorcycles, is rolling out its first Harley-brand lightweight bikes in decades as it eyes a global market.

Harley-Davidson, which has long dominated the market for heavyweight motorcycles, is rolling out its first Harley-brand lightweight bikes in decades as it eyes a global market.

Harley is introducing the Street 500 and Street 750, the latest in its Dark Custom line of bikes that aim to bring Harley's classic look and sound to a modern and younger audience.

The Street was developed with one eye on a global market, where many customers are put off by Harley's classic road hogs.

Harley expects to begin selling the Street in 2014 in the US and India, as well as Italy, Portugal and Spain. The 500 will sell for about $US6700 ($7000) and the 750 for about $US7500, making them Harley's least expensive bikes.

For most of its 110-year history, Harley sold motorcycles to customers it knew well: wealthy, middle-aged American white men. The global recession forced a reckoning. Revenue in 2009 fell almost a quarter from a year earlier. The company cut costs, increased development and pushed to expand its customer base.

That meant seeking input beyond Harley's Milwaukee headquarters from consumers in countries as disparate as India, Italy, Brazil and the US.

The feedback indicated that when consumers think Harley, they're reminded of metal fenders and fuel tanks, rich, glossy paint and the deep, throaty rumble of a Harley engine, said Matthew Levatich, Harley's president and chief operating officer.

The Street, Harley's first new bike platform in 13 years, reflects the customer feedback. Harley tweaked the frame, lowered the seat and changed the handlebar sweep. At 218 kilograms, it is Harley's smallest and easiest to handle.

Harley, which received 25 per cent of revenue from outside the US in 2006, forecasts 40 per cent of sales from international markets by next year. More than half of its dealerships are outside the US as the company tries to broaden its traditional customer base.

"Harley's core base in the US, the bread and butter of the company, is a demographic that isn't growing a lot," Robin Diedrich, an analyst with Edward Jones & Co, who rates Harley a buy, said in an interview. Bloomberg

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