Harley sportsbike
(Image: Young Machine)

Is Harley-Davidson planning a sportsbike?

This image has been doing the rounds of the internet rumour mill for days suggesting Harley-Davidson is about planning to return to sportsbike manufacture.

It’s an artist’s rendering from Japanese magazine Young Machine who frequently speculate and don’t always get it right.

In October 2018, their artists suggested this would be the small bike Harley would make in China for the Asian market.

Harley sportsbike
Young Machine rendering of small Chinese Harley

However, this is now the official Harley drawing of the 350cc bike they are calling project HD350. It’s substantially different to the Young Machine drawing.

Harley-Davidson HD350
Harley-Davidson HD350

So has the magazine go it right this time?

Sportsbike return

And would Harley really return to making a sportsbike like its 1994 VR1000?

VR1000

Later this year they will introduce their bareknuckle 115hp/94Nm Bronx Streetfighter range.

Harley-Davidson Revolution Max platform Bronx Streetfighter
Bronx Streetfighter

It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to give the Bronx a half fairing and extended belly pan as in the latest artist’s rendering.

VisorDown points out that a similar image is featured in the background of this photo from the Harley design house when the Bareknuckle was in its clay model stage.

Harley VR1000 tease
Bronx clay model wth small sportsbike image indicated (Image: Visordown)

But the question is why would Harley return to sportsbikes after axing its Buell brand and selling MV Agusta in the wake of the GFC?

Sportsbike sales have been declining in sales in recent years, although super-hi-tech models have had a slight recovery.

Asian Harleys

Meanwhile, India’s Hero MotoCorp is suggesting Harley may extend its Asian presence with a collaboration.

Hero MotoCorp’s Chairman, Pawan Munjal recently told the Times of India his company was open to partnering with Harley-Davidson, which is looking at making a 250-500cc motorcycle for the domestic market from 2022.

“The sooner it happens, it’s good for everyone,” he is quoted as saying.

Other recent motorcycle joint partnerships in India include KTM, Kawasaki and now Triumph with Bajaj; MV Agusta, Moto Guzzi and even Norton with Kinetic; and BMW’s G310 built by TVS.

Proposed Triumph 250
Proposed Triumph 250

Harley already has a factory in India making Street models and a plant in Thailand commissioned late last year to make motorcycles for Europe to avoid high tariffs on American products in response to Trump’s trade wars.

In June 2019, Harley-Davidson also announced plans for a joint venture with China’s Qianjiang to produce a motorcycle under their HD350 project, indicating a 350cc engine.

Harley-Davidson HD350
Harley-Davidson HD350

However, it could be even smaller as they now call it the HD338, presumably powered by the Benelli 338cc twin-cylinder engine from the Benelli 302S as Qianjiang also owns and makes the former Italian brand of motorcycle.

The baby Hog will hit the showrooms in China in June and India by the end of the year.

There is no word on whether it will be exported to any other markets, but we suspect it will be sold throughout Asia.

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