Harley-Davidson & Zaiser — Who is Building the Arrow?

The new Arrow motorcycle is still at least a year away, but it’s already being eagerly awaited by the motorcycling community who want something new, different, and electric, but that is still true to the spirit of American motorcycling. There’s a problem with the Arrow: it’s not entirely clear who is building it.

“Wait,” I hear you saying. “What do you mean we don’t know who’s building it?” Read on…

About The Arrow

Image courtesy Zaiser.

Electric motorcycle startup Zaiser made a big splash last year, when he announced plans to build an all-electric, bagger-style motorcycle that seemed to offer a much more Harley-Davidson style motorcycle than, well, H-D’s own LiveWire. That bike, with its upright seating position and lickity-quick acceleration, appealed to a few sportier buyers, but it never really caught on with H-D’s core buyers, and it was eventually stripped of its bar-and-shield emblems and spun- off into its own EV-only brand.

Zaiser’s bike on the other hand, had a vintage cruiser style. It offered a long, low riding position, high bars, and promised nearly three times the cruising range of the LiveWire. It got lots of press, too — we covered it here, so did Forbes, Maxim, and others. In September, Zaiser’s CEO, Anthony Cross, showed off a more evolved and polished design. That motorcycle was called the Arrow, and it joined the original bagger concept, which was officially called the Silhouette.

While car brands often build several cars off a similar architecture, it’s somewhat novel for Zaiser to apply the idea to motorcycles. “The Electrocycle Platform,” reads the brand’s September 14th press release celebrating their successful crowdfunding round, “(means that) both models share over 60% of their components, keeping build costs across the platform low and allowing us to hit two markets in the electric motorcycle space.”

Then, a few months later (in December), Harley-Davidson announced the same thing. “Arrow will be a proprietary scalable and modular system that will be shared across multiple models,” reads the Harley announcement on Motorcycle.com. “It combines a motor, battery, inverter and on-board charger that can be used in different configurations, which means a more efficient use of R&D funds and the ability to adapt to market and regulatory needs.”

I got the chance to talk to Anthony again recently, and congratulated him on working with Harley — it seemed like the motor company was, after buying and shuttering Alta and missing the mark with the LiveWire, finally on the right path.

All he said was, “no comment.”

I was shocked. Anthony has been on my podcast a few times over the last year. I’m a huge fan of his team’s work, and I am eagerly awaiting my chance to spec out an Arrow of my own (in British Racing Green, of course — the red is all wrong). I asked him to clarify, and he just muttered something about “legal,” and made me drop it.

This is All Pretty Confusing

Image courtesy LiveWire.

When I tried to talk about this with our own Steve Hanley, he looked at my links, gave me a polite head-nod, then said, “HD may have some ‘splainin’ to do.” I think Steve’s right. As an entrepreneur, your brand name and logo, called trademarks in legal terminology, are among your most important intellectual property assets. That’s not my opinion, it’s from the Economic Times. But, as someone who has tried their hand at ship once or twice, it feels right.

What’s more, you can bet Harley’s own army of Esquires would be beating down your door if you even thought about building a gas-powered motorcycle and calling it a “sportster” in any of your PR copy. Heck, Harley sued Honda for building a V-twin motorcycle that kinda sorta looked like a Harley to people who didn’t know anything about motorcycles in the first place. Could you imagine? Unfortunately, I think my buddies at Zaiser can imagine all too well. Godspeed, guys — I hope you get this all sorted out soon, because I am dying to know what’s going on over there!


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