Where Are The Harley-Davidson Street 750 and 500 Made?

HFL, Positions -

By

2014 Harley-Davidson Street 750

Last week at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy, Harley announced its first all-new motorcycles in 13 years. But, one question remains: Where are the Harley-Davidson Street 750 and 500 made? With manufacturing and assembly split between Missouri and India, it’s just not clear.

Targeting entry-level buyers here in America and upmarket buyers in developing markets, the liquid-cooled V-twins will be launched in six countries during the second quarter of 2014, retailing for $7,500 and $6,700 respectively.

It would be fair to say at this point that the news from Milwaukee was met with upbeat enthusiasm from the motorcycle community, who see it as a positive move by H-D to get new riders into the fold. The proof, of course, is going to be how good these bikes are when we get to ride them.

H-D has made no secret of the fact that it’s looking outside of the U.S. to grow its market share and ultimately sell more motorcycles. For the past two years, the company has operated a CKD (knock down facility) in Bawal, India, assembling Sportster, Dyna, Super Glide and Softail models that are then sold in that market. Parts for these bikes have been shipped from the U.S. and around the world and the bikes are then assembled in India, which helps them avoid local tariffs and price the bikes assembled there at an accessible level for Indian riders.

Harley is open about the fact that Street 750 and 500 models destined for India, Portugal, Italy and Spain will be made in that same Indian factory. And we do mean “made,” not “assembled.” The bikes will be manufactured at that facility, including the new “Revolution X” motor and its six-speed transmission.

However, Harley says that all U.S.-market Street 750 and 500s will be “made” at its plant in Kansas City, Missouri. As with all bikes, many of the components will be sourced from around the world. What’s not clear is how much of the bikes will actually be “made” there.

2014 Harley-Davidson Street 750
Can the Harley-Davidson Street 750 appeal to both new riders in America and upmarket buyers in India and Europe simultaneously?

There’s now a dedicated assembly line for the Revolution X engine at the Kansas City plant. However, Harley has made no mention of where the Street’s transmission, frame or other major components will actually be manufactured, nor where the engine’s cases and head would be cast.

On the face of it, it seems to make economic and business sense to us to have all parts for these new models (including the engine, transmission and frames) cast, manufactured and shipped from India to the U.S. for assembly in Kansas City, for the bikes destined for North America. It doesn’t add up financially to have two separate manufacturing sources for parts for the same bike on two different continents.

During my time at Aston Martin there were times when we had to make a decision to build engines in Germany and not England. We found that you can have two assembly lines, but economically, it’s not good business to have the same parts being manufactured at two separate locations.

So, are the Street 750 and 500 being built in America or are they Made in America? Because there’s a difference, we reached out to Harley-Davidson to find out, requesting an interview with a company executive immediately upon the model’s release. After some back and forth, that request was denied and an interview with a PR person offered in its place. That interview has yet to occur. Lacking answers to our questions, we’ve instead decided to state publicly what we’d like to know:

1. Harley showed dealers a production line for the Revolution X engine in Kansas City. Where do the parts for that production line originate?

2. Where are the Street 750 and 500 frames made? If they are being simultaneously produced in both India and America, how does that add up financially?

3. Does the low price of the new models reflect India’s cheaper labor rates?

4. Can Harley really build the same bike at the same cost in America as it can in India?

5. How does Harley predict Sportster sales will be impacted by the Street’s release? Why buy a more expensive Sportster over a more affordable Street 750?

6. Why, from a cost perspective, would Harley duplicate the manufacturing process on two different continents?

So, Harley-Davidson, are the Street 750 and 500 made in America or assembled in America? You have our phone number and we’d really like to find out.

Related Links:
Project Rushmore: 2014 Harley-Davison Touring Range Review
A Bigger HOG: 2014 Harley-Davidson FXDF Fat Bob Review
Rebel Yell: Bikers, Patriotism and Righteous Dissent

  • luxlamf

    Oh I cannot wait for the “Brilliance” here in the comments section to commence, hopefully with the Neon Vest wearing crowd then the hipster ride 1000 miles a year crowd, both whom have never owned a HD.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      We should point at that the creator of this article, Tim Watson, owns a Harley and loves it.

      • Kyle Art

        I’d wager that the crowd these particular models are aimed at may not care as much about country of origin as those who purchase Harley’s more expensive bikes. Yeah, it will still matter to some, just not as much to the intended consumer.

        • Jack Meoph

          Yeah, entry level riders will mostly be seeing the H-D on the tank, and not the “assembled in the USA” sticker on the frame. People may not like Hardley’s (raises hand), but the PIC’s at H-D aren’t idiots. A local H-D shop now sells Triumph, Kawi, and Honda, and the people I see over in the H-D section, look like me, old and worn out. There isn’t much future in catering to that crowd, maybe 20 years if you’re lucky.

      • Bruce Steever

        We try not to hold that against him, however…

        • Tim Watson

          Ha!

          • JT

            Best response I’ve read here ever.

    • Ben W

      I dream of a world where power rangers, brabra pirates, safety nazis and dirty hipsters all live in (relative) harmony.

      Oddly enough, I’ve spotted neon vest wearers and low-mileage hipsters on HDs down here. It wasn’t quite as magical as a unicorn sighting. They’re not the majority, but they exist!

    • charlie

      I don’t think Harleys suck necessarily. It’s more the people managing the company. They’ve lost interest in the smaller dealers and are stuck in the past when it comes to innovation. I know a bunch of people at different dealers and their passion can’t be matched. I just wonder how long before the image thing doesn’t completely do it anymore since that’s how they get the majority of their sales.

      • Piglet2010

        Harley-Davidson has quite expensive requirements regarding facility size, age, parking lot size, etc that are hard for smaller volume dealers to meet (the land cost alone for 460+ parking spots is huge in most cities).

  • darngooddesign

    Who knew this would be the final outcome of the old Harley/Indian rivalry.

  • Rameses the 2nd

    As long as you maintain the quality, nobody really cares where things are made and assembled. iPhone and all other iDevices are made in China and sell like hot cakes here at home and pretty much everywhere else. The problem with HD is that there is no quality and bikes are POS, so they have to rely on bogus nationalist agenda to sell their overpriced underperforming bikes. Triumph does the same BS, but at least they produce some amazing looking bikes.

  • Ducky

    Not sure about Aston, but where i work, it’s common to have engines made from local sources. The truth is that there is usually a mix…. Some companies are better than others at making specialized parts so they come from overseas, whereas for others suppliers are a dime a dozen and sourced locally no problem, same quality and appearance. even so, it rarely makes sense for entire engines to be shipped overseas on a month long cargo ship journey unless they have high profit margins and are complex. I imagine the same is true for things like frames.

  • William Connor

    I simply don’t care where it’s “made” as much as whether it’s made with quality and craftsmanship. That is what matters. HD is a US company where they make the parts only matters if the bikes get worse, or quality suffers. (Insert everyones snarky jokes about HD)

    • Bruce Steever

      Snarky joke inserted.

  • Mark D

    I also wonder how Harley is going to rein in its distributors and salespeople from deriding the new Streets as crappy, “Fehr-un” made knockoffs. “Oh, I know that little street 500 over there is nice, but if you want to be a REAL MAN who LOVES AMERICA, you’d better go Sportster or nothing.”

    • Ben W

      On the bright side, now there’s someone lower on the HD totem pole than riders of the lowly Sporster 883.

    • Jeremiah R.

      Grizzled old farts like me will walk right by the Street anyway, that’s for the young’uns. ;)

    • Dan Vendt

      In much they way they did with the Buell brand.

  • Stig Sarangi

    Where in the world are you my dear friend ? KTM over took BMW motorrad as Europe’s highest selling marque primarliy because of the smaller dukes. All of them get manufactured in India. Heck Bajaj even owns 44% of KTM. India is considered to be a manufacturing power house. Just Google for the number of cars that Ford/Nissan-Renault/Hyundai export from India. Hero group (worlds largest 2 wheeler maker, just tied up with EBR to launch small, efficient bikes in the states). BMW tied up with TVS to make a global small bike platform. the list can go on and on.. however as Ducky mentioned below, as long as the quality is intact (Harley quality as compared to a Honda is still way down), does it really matter ?

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      There’s absolutely no slight intended against Indian manufacturing in this article. As you state, the new Indian-made KTMs are some of the most desirable bikes out there right now.

      • Alex

        I remember a few days back there was a major “india” bashing session going on during the launch. I hope this new HD brings the spirit and freedom to the massess and can take the fight up to Royal Enfield in their own back yard.

  • deuce_sluice

    ” Why buy a more expensive Sportster over a more affordable Street 750?” I think Harley is taking a page out of the Fender (guitars) playbook. Right now you can buy a Stratocaster made in China, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, and both “Made” and “Assembled” in the USA.

  • Ben W

    Vaguely-related HD observation. At the IMS show last weekend here in Dallas, HD had the best showing. A large showcase of their bikes and large staging made an impression. They also blocked off a “learn to ride” area in their space. A rep would give you a crash course in how a motorcycle works by sitting you on a bike, firing it up, and showing all of the controls. I guarantee that lined up future sales.

  • appliance5000

    nice wheels.

  • Kr Tong

    All motorcycles sold in india have to be manufactured in india and rebranded as a collaboration with india. Hero Honda is a great example of this. If harley wants to tap India markets they have to open factories in india.

    Indians are very xenophobic about anything thats not indian.

    • Richard Gozinya

      I don’t know if it’s xenophobia, so much as protectionist trade policy.

      • Kr Tong

        It’s 100% part of their culture in a way that baffles me on a regular basis.

    • Jeremiah R.

      I’ve seen a Tata, not sure what they’re so proud of. Hah.

    • Chris Cope

      “Indians are very xenophobic about anything thats not indian. ”

      Since it deals with, supports and encourages the same sort of mindset in America, perhaps Harley will use the same sort of rhetoric to find success in the Indian market.

    • Sid Philip

      “Indians are very xenophobic about anything thats not indian.” — What a load of bull. The funny thing about India is that Indians love imported/foreign brands. So Harley, Triumph and Ducati are all looking to cash into the demand. And no, no collaborations are necessary. If you’re referring to Harley and Davidson, they’re the same company just in case you didn’t know.

      Hero Honda split up in 2010, and now Honda and Hero compete against each other (and Yamaha, Kawasaki, Bajaj and Vespa). Next time, use Google and don’t make stupid, sweeping statements. They just make you look silly!

      • http://krtong.com/ Kr Tong

        Sorry, next time i wont rely on my indian (by nationality) roommate, or his friends, for info. Next time I’ll google.

  • El Isbani

    Still learning to like fork gators.

    • LS650

      Very easy to remove them if you don’t like them.

  • Guzzto

    There was a newspaper article about these new models in a local paper and not a mention of country of origin, I emailed the journalist and asked if it was a deliberate omission from the piece and the was hyper defensive and replied ‘harleys have been made in India for ages’ and it wasn’t worth a mention. Touchy touchy.

    • http://www.RideApart.com/ Jen Degtjarewsky

      Exactly our point. What does the word ‘made’ really mean when it comes to their Made in America slogan. I think if they were just more transparent, it would be a non -issue.

  • Braden

    I was able to take an extended test ride on a near production Street 500 last week. HD is pushing this model not only for their newly rebranded rider training but also looking to win over the MSF (hence my test ride) where it can. The Harley rep stayed fairly vague when it came to pointed questions regarding source of parts vs manufacturing vs bolting together the last few bits in Kansas City. The company seems to not only be disingenuous with its core customer base but also thinks rather poorly of their collective intelligence. Asking two questions regarding manufacturing origins gets vague and evasive answers? Thinking that somehow using the term “Twin-cooled” will keep the HD purists from realizing that a bike is actually liquid-cooled? This and more keeps me from having respect for the brand, despite the fact that the Street 500 is actually not terrible and in some cases well thought out for its intended purpose.

    • LS650

      So what did you think of the actual bike?

  • Jeremiah R.

    Pretty sure they’re Assembled here for this market, but largely use foreign-made parts. Personally, I don’t care, because this isn’t an iconic HD line with loads of tradition, and those of us buying Softails and Sportsters (I own a Fatboy custom and a V-Rod) won’t generally be cross-pollinating into the new series. Not that there’s something wrong with them. It’s for people who want the name, need something that’s still nice (and they are, from what I’ve seen in person), but want a lower price point. Bully for them, I don’t see an issue here, unless the press wants to make it into one.

    That’s my .02, adjusted for inflation.

    • Tim Watson

      You make some very good points. We have absolutely no issue with H-D manufacturing bikes in India or supplying parts to the U.S. factory – if that’s what they will do. What we’re waiting for is a straight answer to our questions. Hopefully we’ll hear soon….

      • Jeremiah R.

        Yeah, I’m not trying to break your balls, you’re good guys and I’ve read your stuff for a while now, but at the same time I don’t want HD to get lynched just for trying to be competitive with a new starter line. They just need to come clean, lay it out there, and let everyone adjust.

        • Piglet2010

          But having the bikes sold in the US made in India would be a psychological blow to the H-D owning Made in America™ crowd that derides all foreign made (or at least Japanese made) bikes as junk. : )

          • Jeremiah R.

            They aren’t made in India, if they’re sold in the USA, but many of the parts probably are. No big deal.

            • Piglet2010

              You obviously have not recently encountered a Harley Blowhard™.

              • Hot Stuff

                The kind of people you (Piglet2010) are describing are not the target market for these bikes

    • mjc_iv

      As Tim writes in the article, motorcycles are all global products to some extent. Even if Harley published every geographic detail of their supply chain and manufacturing process, it wouldn’t tell you much about the quality of the bike. I guess that’s part of the issue…Harleys don’t sell on quality.

  • MotoBell

    “The proof, of course, is going to be how good these bikes are when we get to ride them.”

    Not tre.. it does not matter how these ikea ride.. the 883 is crap by any modern bike standards but great in harley standards.. these bikes are going to be a hit (my brother owns a 883 iron in india and I got ride it on tour). As much as I don’t like cruisers or don’t care for the HD brand, i do like how well Harley is run as a company – this is brilliant strategy.. american business innovation wins over europeans who should be killing it in India and china.

  • CruisingTroll

    #2 – The frames for both production sites are most likely made locally.
    #6 – It makes sense for the frames because they are simple to produce. The labor saving advantage of having them made in one location only doesn’t make up for the logistical cost and complication of shipping from one point to the other. For other components with much higher capital costs (i.e. anything with casting, forging and/or a lot of machining going on) a single location makes more sense.

  • Riedl

    Another episode in the HD witch hunt. Would you all make this big of a deal if this wasn’t Harley?

    • Tim Watson

      Explain how this is a witch hunt? We simply have asked questions which up until now H-D has not or will not answer.

  • Guzzto

    I think the issue is that HD are being backwards about coming forwards , they also have aggressively marketed their brand in the past on a basis of “Made in America’ .
    A change of manufacturing location would be a non issue if it was anyone but Harley. So not a witchhunt but a legitimate question .

    • JohnnyWaffles

      Spot on.