LiveWire, the recently-launched Harley-Davidson electric bike spin-off brand, is going down an interesting new path. The company just announced the launch of its new LiveWire Experience Center in Malibu, California. The press release talks about a facility that seems intended to sell motorcycles, but it’s not a traditional dealership.
Here’s an extended excerpt from the press release, which should give you a pretty good idea of what the whole thing is about:
The first LiveWire Experience Center, designed to offer a fully immersive experience centered on the all-electric LiveWire ONE motorcycle, has opened in Malibu, California. Inspired by the soulful connection of riding LiveWire ONE, the Experience Center looks to introduce the electric riding experience to visitors while also creating a community space for LiveWire riders.
“California is one of the most established electric vehicle markets in the world and is an ideal location for the first LiveWire Experience Center,” said Jochen Zeitz, Chairman, President and CEO of Harley-Davidson. “The LiveWire ONE motorcycle is designed for the pursuit of urban adventure and the Malibu area offers superb riding in a variety of environments, both urban and beyond. The Experience Center will give both riders and non- riders a chance to engage with the LiveWire brand and ultimately experience the thrill of riding the most desirable electric motorcycle available today.”
The LiveWire Experience Center was created by LiveWire in collaboration with London-based designer Steve Lidbury. The interior expresses cool urban adventure, with polished concrete, engineered wood, perforated steel and detailed textures. The 1,766-square-foot space incorporates a virtual showroom to support live video chats with LiveWire representatives, displays of LiveWire technology and design, a collaborative showcase featuring displays by LiveWire partners, socializing and event space and LiveWire One motorcycles available for demo rides. Customers can place an order for a new LiveWire ONE motorcycle online and take delivery at home or locally, courtesy of an authorized LiveWire dealer.
So. You can hang out with other LiveWire fans at this Experience Center, and you can learn about the motorcycles. You can even interact with the brand’s staff. But, you cannot buy a bike there … or can you?
The press release makes it clear that this isn’t a traditional motorcycle showroom. However, it also suggests you could order a bike online while you’re on-site, with help from staff, and a traditional dealership will fill your order.
It’s quite clever, if you think about it. Whether it’s true or not, one reason that bitter fans of Buell Motorcycles give for the brand’s failure is, traditional Harley-Davidson dealers were not interested in the sporty spin-off brand of the ’90s and early ’00s. LiveWire (which is still tied very tightly to Harley-Davidson) could possibly face a similar fate, if unhappy dealers were forced to push their Big Twins to the side of the showroom to give valuable sales space to a machine that they don’t understand, and their customers don’t want. Sour salesmen could scare off the new customers that Harley-Davidson very much wants to reach.
And yet, it seems impractical to build all the infrastructure behind a new battery bike brand, when Harley-Davidson has all this infrastructure already sitting there. So, we see this new model: LiveWire can sell its bikes remotely, and have the customers pick them up at the back door of a local dealership.
Very clever, if that’s the plan. Maybe it isn’t. Harley-Davidson/LiveWire won’t give much away right now, but no doubt we’ll learn a lot more in the months ahead. Don’t be surprised if we see more of these centers expanding across the US, and maybe even in major Canadian cities (Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto at least).