H-D puts it’s baby to bed, bye bye V-Rod
In a surprise announcement this August at a dealer meeting, Harley-Davidson had a few twists up it’s sleeve. The V-Rod discontinued was a huge surprise, but was tempered by the unveiling of the Milwaukee 8. The V-Rod took over 5yrs of development as a secret project before it was released in 2001, and has sold roughly 10,000 units per year since. Those are pretty respectable numbers, one that warrants the question….why?
When I first wrote about the V-Rod in an article in 2001 titled Harley’s V-Rod Starts A Revolution I referred to it’s nickname “the showerhead” and scoffed at the market H-D seemed to be aiming for. Inside I thought to myself that I would no longer write about new developments with the company and instead would focus on it’s history. In fact, as this website changed software platforms I kept bringing the article back and updated it when Willie G retired, it was his baby after all. Something about the V-Rod discontinued now just seems so wrong…even when I lamented inside so long ago that a production water cooled hybrid sports bike was the wrong move. The bike proved me wrong and did quite well for the company….but why?
ENTER THE BUELL
Erik Buell was a Harley-Davidson engineer who left the company and formed The Buell Motorcycle Company in 1983 two years after Harley-Davidson was sold by AMF to a group of investors including Willie G. The Buell was wildly popular and incorporated Harley-Davidson engines. Erik Buell filled a niche with his bike and H-D took notice, especially of the market they didn’t really have a handle on, sports bikes. After an initial investment that garnered 49% ownership, Harley-Davidson later acquired Buell in it’s entirety. The driving force was to elmininate having an outside name associated with the Harley-Davidson brand. But in the end, it was always a Buell, and always Erik’s, and not Harley-Davidson’s. In 2009 H-D ended the Buell product line after 136, 000 bikes were built and sold. Through all the capital expenditure to acquire the company and to integrate it into the Harley-Davidson line, the company broke even when it called it quits. In the meantime, a lot was learned about sports bikes and the people who loved them and passed on to the V-Rod.
The V-Rod benefited from huge amounts of capital and research and development, and H-D’s long standing success with their liquid cooled racing engines. It was no Buell, but it was all Harley-Davidson, and that was what mattered most in the end. The fact that it changed little in 15yrs is testament to it’s near perfection. It found it’s niche with the H-D enthusiast who liked a little zing with their potato-potato.
Harley-Davidson got it wrong though, the market wasn’t young riders who could hang with their YamaHondaZuki pals, instead it was 30 something and up professionals or folks who wanted an American sport bike. It was hard to develop marketing for, and suffered because of it. Still, 10,000 units a year was nothing to sneeze at. What exactly the reason is, is still unknown at this time, and what will become of the technology is another. Many speculated that the platform could be morphed into a new version of the Sportster, or could have been used as research and development for something else…..or maybe it has already? The V-Rod discontinued…..maybe not.
The V-Rod discontinued, production halts in October 2016. Remaining 2016 models are still at some dealerships and whatever branded as a 2017 will be available next year and then they’re gone. Prices on used V-Rods are extremely affordable and if you’re the type that has to have one of everything or just wanted one all along, now is the time to buy them, end of story.
Introducing The Milwaukee 8
Not much to say at this time, but here’s a video shot at the unveiling. Riders that have now experienced them at Harley-Davidson test rides consider it a tamer engine although still quite capable. It’s new…give it time.