Retrospective

Harley-Davidson: A rolling retrospective on the American need for two-wheeled speed

American stunt rider Evel Knievel (1938 - 2007) pulls a wheelie on his Harley Davidson motorcycle, circa 1975.

Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images

Harley-Davidson has been building motorcycles in America for more than 100 years — no small feat. Since the company's start in 1903, more than 150 American motorcycle makers have come and gone, with Harley-Davidson outlasting them all. What began as a drawing of an engine designed to power a bicycle has turned into a megabrand well known and respected for building world-class motorcycles sold around the globe. Here's a look at the journey started by William Harley and Arthur Davidson back in 1901.

American Dream

Harley-Davidson

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In 1901 at the young age of 21, William S. Harley created a blueprint drawing for an engine of his design that would fit into a bicycle frame. Just two years later, Harley and Arthur Davidson had built their first Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Production took place in their first "factory" — a 10-by-15-foot wooden shed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, identified by a hand-lettered name on the door that read "Harley-Davidson Motor Co."

First H-D Motorcycle

Harley-Davidson

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In 1903 Harley and Davidson built their first motorcycle, which was designed for racing. Three were built that first year. C.H. Lang of Chicago, Illinois — the first Harley-Davidson dealer — sold one of the three.

Rapid Growth

Harley-Davidson

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By 1906 the company had six full-time employees and had clearly outgrown the shed, so Harley-Davidson built a larger factory. By this time Arthur Davidson's brothers — Walter and William — had joined the company. One year later the company had 18 employees and the factory size doubled as well. On September 17, 1907, Harley-Davidson incorporated. The company began recruiting dealers to sell its product.

A Solid Reputation

Harley-Davidson

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In 1908 Walter Davidson scored a perfect 1,000 points at the Seventh-Annual Federation of American Motorcyclists Endurance and Reliability Contest. Davidson also set a fuel-economy record achieving 188.234 miles per gallon. By this time, the company's motorcycles were entering races and having great success. One year earlier Harley-Davidson motorcycles had won the Speed Test Milwaukee Hillclimb; Motorcycle Flying Start, Milwaukee; Five Mile Handicap, Janesville, Wisconsin; and Special Handicap Derby Day Races, Milwaukee.

Creating an Icon

Harley-Davidson

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Harley-Davidson created the first V-twin motorcycle in 1909. The two cylinders placed at a 45-degree angle created a V and quickly became associated with the brand. Also tied to this legendary name is the famous Bar & Shield that was first used in 1910. In 1911 Harley-Davidson trademarked the logo with the U.S. patent office.

Expansion

Harley-Davidson

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In the early years of the 20th century, Harley-Davidson grew at an impressive pace. Nine years after production of that first motorcycle, the company had a network of more than 200 dealers across America. In 1912 Harley-Davidson began sales outside the U.S. — the company began exports to Japan.

Going Racing

Harley-Davidson

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Harley-Davidson officially entered motorcycle racing in 1914, and it took only a few years before H-D team riders dominated the sport. In fact, the team became known as the "wrecking crew" because of their impressive success.

War Effort

Harley-Davidson

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Harley-Davidson played a big part in World War I — by 1918 the U.S. government purchased nearly half of all motorcycles built by the company. The U.S. Army used an estimated 20,000 motorcycles during WWI, most of which were Harley-Davidsons. Corporal Roy Holtz of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, was the first American to enter Germany after the signing of the armistice — riding a Harley-Davison.

Largest in the World

Harley-Davidson

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By 1920 Harley-Davidson had become the largest motorcycle company in the world, and more than 2,000 dealers in 67 countries sold the company's product. The company continued its success at the track — riders on Harley-Davidson motorcycles swept all eight national championship races in 1921.

The Hog

Harley-Davidson

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According to Harley-Davidson archives, in the early 1920s the racing team's mascot was a pig — which race winners would carry during their victory lap after each race won.

And Then There Were Two

29th October 1927: The first Indian four-cylinder engine motorbike, on view at the motorcycle show at Olympia, London.

Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

Although there had been more than 100 different companies building motorcycles in America since the early 1900s, by 1931 Harley-Davidson's only competition in the U.S. was Indian. The U.S. motorcycle landscape would not change again until 1953.

World War II

Harley-Davidson

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As the country went to war once again, Harley-Davidson stepped up to support the U.S. In 1941 almost every motorcycle Harley-Davidson produced went to the military. By the end of WWII in 1945, Harley-Davidson had produced almost 90,000 WLA models. The company also created the unique XA 750 with its horizontally opposed cylinders and driveshaft designed for desert use. Only 1,011 of the rare XA 750s were built.

Happy Anniversary

Harley-Davidson

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Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 1953, the company created this unique logo showcasing a V — honoring the engine that had been so important to the company's success. Harley-Davidson attached the logo to the fender of every 1954 model.

And Then There Was One

Harley-Davidson

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In 1953 Hendee Manufacturing — the company building the Indian motorcycle — went out of business, leaving Harley-Davidson as the lone American motorcycle company. The company would go it alone in the motorcycle business for more than 30 years.

Superbike

Harley-Davidson

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An all-new motorcycle from Harley-Davidson launched in 1957 — the Sportster. With a 55-cubic-inch overhead-valve engine, the Sportster offered impressive performance, later becoming known as the first of the "superbikes."

Electric Starter

Harley-Davidson

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In the mid-1960s, Harley-Davidson introduced the electric starter — on the three-wheeled Servi-Car. Soon after, the electric starter became available on the new Electra-Glide and Sportster lines.

Speed Records

Harley-Davidson

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Harley-Davidson made it into the record books in 1965 when George Roeder broke speed records for Class A and Class C in a custom-built Streamliner, hitting 177 mph. Five years later, Cal Rayborn set the land speed record for a motorcycle, hitting 265 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats in a 16-foot streamliner powered by a single Sportster engine.

Low Rider

Harley-Davidson

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Harley-Davidson unveiled the FXS Low Rider at Daytona Beach in 1977. The custom bike featured drag-style handlebars, a unique engine and paint, and — as the name indicates — a lowered seating position. Later in the same year, Willie G. Davidson's dynamic version of the Sportster, the Cafe Racer, was released.

Sturgis Edition

Harley-Davidson

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The annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, is a big draw for Harley-Davidson owners and has been since the first rally in 1938. To commemorate this historic event, Harley-Davidson released a special-edition FXB Sturgis model in 1980, featuring a belt drive, black chrome appointments and an 80-cubic-inch engine.

H.O.G.

Harley-Davidson

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There's no question that Harley owners are a loyal lot, and in 1983 they had a group to call their own. Recognizing the deep roots of the Harley community, the company created the Harley Owners Group, often referred to as H.O.G. The group quickly became one of the largest factory-sponsored motorcycle clubs in the world — currently there are more than 1 million members in 140 countries.

V2 Evolution

Harley-Davidson

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After seven years of development, Harley-Davidson debuted the all-new 1340 cc V2 Evolution engine in 1984. The new motor produced more power while running cooler and cleaner. Five models would use this new engine, including the all-new Softtail.

Trading Publicly

Harley-Davidson NYSE

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In 1969 Harley-Davidson merged with the American Machine and Foundry Company and remained that way until 1981 — the year Harley-Davidson purchased back the company's shares. In 1986 Harley-Davidson was listed on the American Stock Exchange for the first time since the merger in 1969. The following year Harley-Davidson joined the New York Stock Exchange.

Buell Motorcycles

Harley-Davidson

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In 1992 Harley-Davidson purchased a minority interested in Buell Motorcycles. Ex Harley-Davidson engineer Erik Buell started the eponymously company to build American sport motorcycles powered by Harley-Davidson XL 883 engines. Buell became a wholly owned subsidiary of Harley-Davidson in 2003. In 2009 Harley-Davidson discontinued Buell products so the company could focus on the Harley-Davidson brand.

Happy 100th Anniversary

Harley-Davidson

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To celebrate 100 years of motorcycle building, Harley-Davidson put on the Open Road Tour, starting out in Atlanta and ending at the company's hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. More than 250,000 people came to Milwaukee for the final tour stop, as well as the 100th anniversary celebration and party. Even larger celebrations occurred for the 105th which coincided with the opening of the all-new Harley-Davidson Museum.

Around the World

Harley-Davidson

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The first authorized Harley-Davidson dealership in mainland China opened in 2006. Three years later, the company expanded operations to India, rolling out the entire lineup by 2010. By 2014, international sales accounted for more than 36 percent of Harley-Davidson's overall sales.

New Motor, New Touring Motorcycles

Harley-Davidson

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In 2016 Harley-Davidson introduced an all-new Milwaukee-Eight engine — the ninth Big Twin engine design in the company's history. "The Milwaukee-Eight engine carries the legacy of Harley-Davidson Big Twins into the future," said chief powertrain engineer Alex Bozmoski. "While respecting the essential Big Twin character, we've created an all-new motor. Every aspect of performance, durability and styling has been improved as a direct response to the voice of Harley-Davidson customers around the world," Bozmoski said. Shortly after the introduction of the new motor, the company debuted its latest Touring motorcycle lineup, powered by the new Milwaukee-Eight motor.

115th Anniversary

Harley-Davidson

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To help celebrate 115 years since the company's founding, Harley-Davidson introduced a wide range of new motorcycles for the 2018 model year, including eight new Softail models built on a new, more rigid chassis that provides better handling and quicker acceleration. At the same time five new Touring bikes joined the lineup, including custom versions of the Street Glide and Road Glide.

Going Electric

Harley-Davidson

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In 2014 Harley-Davidson unveiled its latest creation — an electric motorcycle. Called Project Livewire, this extremely quick bike has what Harley-Davidson calls "an unmistakable new sound." "Project LiveWire is more like the first electric guitar — not an electric car," said Mark-Hans Richer, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company.

This year the Livewire has reached production as the brand's first electric motorcycle. Livewire's electric motor produces 105 horsepower and 86 pound-feet of torque, powered by a 15.5 kWh high-voltage battery that provides a city range of 146 miles. Acceleration is quick — zero to-60 mph takes 3 seconds. Base price for the Livewire: slightly under $30,000.

Harley-Davidson Edition Pickups

Harley-Davidson Edition GMC Sierra

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For many years Ford and Harley-Davidson worked together to create special Harley-Davidson Editions of the F-150. For 2020 the company switched things up, creating the first-ever Harley-Davidson Edition GMC Sierra. With more than 65 components specific to this model, the special-edition GMC Sierra gets styling inspired by the Harley-Davidson Fat Boy. Only 250 copies of the Harley-Davidson Edition GMC Sierra will be made. But HD has not left Ford altogether — the company also announced plans for a Harley-Davidson-branded Ford F-250 Super Duty. Both trucks are produced in partnership with specialty truck provider Tuscany Motor Company.

What's Next?

Harley-Davidson

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Harley-Davidson has announced plans for two new bikes coming in the next few years. The Pan America will be the company's first Adventure Touring motorcycle, replete with all the functionality and capability required of such a bike. At the other end of the scale will be another exciting new model — the Harley-Davidson Bronx. The Bronx is an all-new "streetfighter" motorcycle built for speed and performance. Both Pan America and Bronx are expected to arrive in 2021.

Today

Harley-Davidson

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The little company that William Harley and Arthur Davidson started in a small shed in Wisconsin has come a long way. In 2019 Harley-Davidson sold almost 220,000 motorcycles worldwide with a lineup of eight different models and a total of 37 unique variants available. The company also sells a complete range of motorcycle parts, accessories, riding gear and apparel.

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This image of a young child was considered so perverted by some that Audi decided to apologize for it.

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Audi has apologized for an advertisement that shows an image of a young girl eating a banana while she stands in front of an Audi RS 4 Avant.

The apology was issued after outcry from critics on Twitter who pointed to perceived numerous flaws in the ad from the overt sexualization of the child because of the banana involved to the potential danger the child was in because she was standing in front of a parked vehicle that can go up to 174 mph.

In the three-part apology, Audi stated, "We care for children. We hear you and let's get this straight: We care for children. The Audi RS 4 is a family car with more than thirty driver assistance systems including an emergency break system. That's why we showcased it with various family members for the campaign."
The statement continues, “We hoped we could convey these messages, showing that even for the weakest traffic participants it is possible to relaxingly lean on the RS technology. That was a mistake! Audi never intended to hurt anyone's feelings. We sincerely apologize for this insensitive image and ensure that it will not be used in future. We will also immediately examine internally, how this campaign has been created and if control mechanisms failed in this case.“
Some of Audi's Twitter followers said that, in their view, the criticism was likely unwarranted while others chose to concentrate on the fact that the model in the photo features a potent power plant. Others pointed out that they felt that the image was pro-pedophilia writing, in German, “I see a pedophile ad here. And child abuse. Disgusting and reprehensible.“

Though this is the first advertising slip up this year for the Audi brand, it's the second major ad folly for Volkswagen Group, Audi's parent company. In May, the company became embroiled in a controversy surrounding an advertisement that features a dark-skinned man being maneuvered around by the hands of a white woman. As the ad developed, the dark-skinned man ended up being flicked away from a yellow Volkswagen Golf, all while upbeat music played in the background.

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Journalists gather around Jim Farley, then-Ford executive vice president and president of global markets, during the media days at the 2018 North American International Auto Show.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company has announced that Jim Farley will succeed Jim Hackett as the CEO of the company beginning October 1. Who is Jim Farley? AutomotiveMap takes a closer look at the man and his rise to the top of one of the most heralded automakers in the world.

The beginning

James D. “Jim" Farley Jr.'s history with Ford and the auto industry started long before he joined the company in 2007. The Argentina-born Farley's grandfather Emmet E. Tracy, was a worker at Ford in the company's early days, working at the company's Rouge River Plant beginning in 1914 when he was just 13 years old. Farley credits his grandfather for spurring his love of automobiles.

Jim Hackett Jim Farley CEO Outgoing CEO Jim Hackett and incoming CEO Jim Farley chart in front of an image of the employee card of Farley's grandfather, Emmet Tracy, an early Ford employee.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

When he was 10 years old, Farley had a paper route in Connecticut that included a local Ferrari distributorship. He says that he would spend hours there chatting up the Italian mechanics.

Tracy would eventually leave the Ford plant to become a Ford dealer and own a Ford supplier plant. Farley worked at that plant one summer when he was 15. The summer before that, he says he spend working at a shop rebuilding car engines. He would eventually buy a '66 Ford Mustang with a blown engine, restoring it for himself, complete with a 289 V8.

Farley is a graduate of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He earned a bachelor's degree In economics and computer science. Farley got his MBA from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He put himself through school by working at a Santa Monica vehicle-restoration shop that was run by former Formula One champion Phil Hill - Hill & Vaughn on Second Street.

Jim Farley Ford 10 Millionth Mustang Ford (and Farley) celebrated the production of the 10 millionth Mustang at its Dearborn headquarters and its Flat Rock Assembly Plant, including flyovers from three WWII-era P-51 Mustang fighter planes and Mustangs produced for more than five decades parading from Dearborn to Flat Rock.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Toyota years

He started his automaker career at Toyota, a move that he says some of his family members resented. However, it was Farley's grandfather who encouraged him saying. Farley told it to Automotive News like this: “He said, 'You should go to Toyota. It's the best car company for now. You can come back to Detroit.'"

And so he did. Farley joined Toyota in 1990 as part of the company's strategic planning department. He moved through marketing and product positions in the U.S. and Europe eventually serving as the man responsible for the successful launch and rollout of the Scion brand.

He went on to hold roles including group vice president of Toyota Division marketing and was responsible for all Toyota Division market planning, advertising, merchandising, sales promotion, incentives and internet activities. He also was the group vice president and general manager of Lexus, responsible for all sales, marketing and customer satisfaction activities.

Toyota Scion tC Jim Farley, working in his then-role as Scion vice president, poses with the new tC Sports Coupe at the North American International Auto Show January 5, 2004 in Detroit, Michigan.Photo by Getty Images

Farley did make it back to Detroit during those days, every January as the North American International Auto Show kicked off. It was during that annual pilgrimage that Farley would visit his grandparents' graves. “"I wipe off the snow, if it's snowing, and I talk about my life," Farley said, before pausing and turning his head to the side. "I'm going to get really emotional — son of a b----, I'm not supposed to do that as an executive — anyway, it's the real deal for me. It's not about money," Automotive News reported in 2007.

The switch to Ford

Farley and his wife Lia are the parents of three children. The couple adopted a baby girl in 2007 before Lia gave birth to their son. When he took his first job with Ford as marketing chief in 2007, it was on the heels of a difficult time for the family that had seen his wife spend the last three months of her pregnancy in the hospital as Farley, with the help of neighbors, took care of their daughter and finalized his deal with Ford, Automotive News reported at the time.

While Farley got up and running at Ford, he would travel back home to California on the weekends to be with his family before finally settling them all in Michigan once his daughter's adoption was finalized. Even in 2007, his commitment to Ford was strong, saying at the time, "I'm going to be there forever. I didn't trade in my life in Santa Monica to move around every two years. I'm a car guy. There's only two car companies I really like, and I'm on the second one."

Jim Farley 2013 New York Auto Show Jim Farley, serving in his then-role as Ford executive vice president of Global Marketing, Sales and Service and Lincoln, discusses the consumer trends and demographic shifts that are reshaping the U.S. auto industry at the 2013 New York International Auto Show.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Big moves at Ford

After two years on the job at Ford, Farley was appointed group vice president, global marketing and Canada, Mexico and South America. He had added responsibility for Ford's operations in Canada, Mexico and South America in September 2009.

In August 2010 when Farley was appointed to lead global marketing sales and service, it marked the first time Ford had a single global leader for Marketing, Sales & Service. He had the added role of he senior global leader for Lincoln from December 2012 to August 2014. It was during his time as executive vice president of Global Marketing, Sales & Service at Lincoln where the brand began its turnaround, setting the course for the company to decliner the types of vehicles it is offering today. He also lead Lincoln's introduction to China.

Lincoln Aviator Launch 2018 New York Auto Show During the New York International Auto Show in 2018, Jim Farley speaks in front of the just-revealed Lincoln Avaitor.Photo courtesy of Lincoln Motor Company

From 2015 to 2017, Farley served as executive vice president and president, Ford Europe, Middle East and Africa. His tenure included milestones of record profitability, record margins, and increased sales.

In use 2017 he was named Executive Vice President and president, Global Markets, for Ford Motor Company. Company CEO Jim Hackett tapped Farley to be the president of New Businesses, Technology and Strategy in April 2019. In that role, he was tasked with helping the company determine how to capitalize on powerful forces reshaping the industry – such as software platforms, connectivity, AI, automation and new forms of propulsion.

Jim Farley Ken Block LAAS Fiesta launch Jim Farley, then-Group Vice President, Marketing, Sales and Service, Ford Motor Company with Action sports superstar, Ken Block after he drove his Gymkhana Ford Fiesta at Universal Studios on the eve of the Los Angeles Auto Show.Photo by Sam VarnHagen, courtesy of Ford Motor Company

In February of this year, Farley was named chief operating officer of Ford Motor Company, taking over for Joe Hinrichs and solidifying his position as the next CEO of the company. In a press conference on August 3, 2020, Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford said that the board talked about looking at external candidates for CEO, but they never actually did because Farley was the obvious choice.

What type of person is Farley? A story in the Detroit Free Press earlier this year said this of him:

“Jim Farley is the guy who prefers to be dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, spending time in a garage wrenching on classic Mustangs and vintage motorcycles. He respects men and women who have oil-stained clothes, busted knuckles and grease under their nails. He appreciates people who do engine and body work themselves.“

He's not a Man who spends his time chatting with old pals at the country club over a game of golf. To achieve relaxation, he races his 1965 Ford GT40 around tracks far and near.

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