The made-in-China Harley-Davidson motorcycle saga has been drawing on for years, and now we think we know what’s coming for North America. Maybe. According to recent comments from H-D bigwig Jochen Zeitz, the Harley-Davidson X350 series is coming here as a training school bike, but not as a street motorcycle.
This story goes all the way back to 2019, when we first saw rumors and then confirmation of a Chinese-built Harley-Davidson 350. Back then we told you:
Harley-Davidson has announced an agreement to produce small-capacity motorcycles for overseas markets, Asia in particular, in conjunction with Chinese manufacturer Qianjiang.
Rumours of this deal have been floating around for several weeks now, ever since Harley-Davidson CEO Matt Levatich basically confirmed it in a phone call with investors. But the particulars remained a mystery until now.
The Harley-Davidson announcement (below) starts by announcing the partnership as a way to build a “smaller, more accessible Harley-Davidson motorcycle for sale in Harley-Davidson dealerships in China by the end of 2020.” Other Asian markets will follow.
Given the fact that this appears to be a simple re-badge of existing designs, you’d think we would have seen it on the market by 2020 at the latest, and maybe that would have happened if not for COVID. Things went quiet for a while, and we assumed this project was canceled, until it resurfaced again in 2022. Great, we should see the bike soon then, right?
Wrong. Nearly a year later, this machine is still not on the market overseas or here in North America. Despite popping up in regulatory documents that hinted its release was imminent, H-D did not announce the bike at its January model launch—and in a call discussing its 2022 Q4 financial results, CE Jochen Zeitz explained why. Sort of.
In post-call Q&A, Zeitz told analysts that Harley-Davidson will indeed bring the X350 to North America, but only for use in riding schools. As of right now, there is no plan to sell made-in-China Harley-Davidsons for public roads in the US and Canada.
Remember that Harley-Davidson operates its own in-house rider training programs, which must necessarily use the company’s own bikes … and with no Street 500 models in the lineup anymore, not even any EVO Sportsters, Harley-Davidson has no low-priced affordable bikes to sacrifice to the capricious whims of ham-fisted newbies. The X350 totally makes sense as a riding school machine, tucked far away from the public eye.
As for other markets: No doubt the plan is the same, and the X350 will go on sale for Chinese customers and other buyers as a Bar-and-Shield-branded bike.
There is also an X500 variant – is that coming too ?
I like the looks of it. I know it’s a Benelli underneath but this has much nicer proportions and the colour doesn’t hurt either. Never owned a Harley, and I guess if I were to eventually buy this, I still wouldn’t have.
So if someone taking the course says “I like this bike, I’d like to buy one.” Harley has to send them down the road to Honda. Brilliant!