Harley-Davidson’s Kansas City plant will build two new motorcycles

11/06/2013 3:02 PM

11/07/2013 10:16 AM

Harley-Davidson has handed the production of two new bike models to its Kansas City plant.

Next year the motorcycle maker will begin selling the Street 500 and Street 750 models, the company’s first lightweight models in decades. The Kansas City plant will build them for U.S. buyers and its plant in Bawal, India, will build them for international customers.

In the United States the bikes will carry $6,700 to $7,500 price tags, the lowest-priced bikes the company offers.

The new models, while lighter, will have the Harley-Davidson sound, a lean chassis, super-low seat height and a broad handlebar sweep. With a new fuel-injected and liquid-cooled engine, they are the first all-new platform from Harley in 13 years.

Harley last had a true lightweight model in the 1970s. The new bikes are designed to be agile for driving in an urban environment and are aimed at younger customers.

“These new bikes are leaner, yet still have a mean streak,” Mark Hans Richer, a senior vice president at Harley-Davidson, said in a statement. “They’re the real deal, made of real steel.”

Harley expects to sell 7,000 to 10,000 of the new Street 500 and 750 bikes in the United States and other countries next year. Production of the bikes at the Kansas City plant will start late this year or early in 2014.

“It’s very cool that Kansas City is going to able to build these bikes,” said Maripat Blankenheim, a spokeswoman for Harley, which is based in Milwaukee. “Kansas City has been, is and will continue to be an extremely important part of Harley-Davidson.”

The Harley plant, near Kansas City International Airport, has 800 permanent hourly and salaried employees, and for now that is not expected to change. The extra work will be covered by seasonal employees who will come in to handle production surges. The 358,000-square-foot plant also makes the Sportster, Dyna and V-Rod models.

The new models are being warmly received by the company’s dealers. Donnie Rooks, sales manager of Gail’s Harley-Davidson in Grandview, said they should attract a new generation of bikers. They also fill out Harley’s lineup, which will now offer something for everyone.

“They’re going to be a great addition for Harley-Davidson,” said Rooks, adding that the Street 500 will be the bike used in a rider training program at dealerships.

Harley has been bouncing back after being hit hard by the economic meltdown in 2008, but the company has continued to control costs and about 70 full-time employees at the Kansas City plant lost their jobs this spring. But third-quarter earnings rose 21 percent while U.S. sales were up 20 percent from July through September. International sales rose 6.5 percent. The improvement follows an increase in the second quarter.

Matt Levatich, president of the company, said in a statement that the Street bikes are the newest members of the Dark Custom lineup, which has helped make Harley the No. 1 selling brand of motorcylces to young U.S. adults in the past five years.

“Both the Street 750 and Street 500 were designed with thousands of hours of input from young adults in cities around the world,” Levatich said. “This input guided both the attitude and capabilities of these motorcycles.”

The company earlier this year also unveiled eight retooled and enhanced models.

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