On March 10, 2021, Harley-Davidson announced that it had appointed its first-ever Chief Electric Vehicle Officer. Ryan Morrissey, who most recently served as a Senior Partner and head of the Automotive & Mobility Practice in the Americas at private equity firm Bain Capital for the past 17 years, will be stepping into this new role as of April 1. Future electric strategy plans as outlined in the Hardwire will be detailed at a later date.
A press release goes on to say that “In this role, [Morrissey] led the development of growth, adjacency and M&A strategies for OEMs, tech providers, and retailers specific to the long-range transition to electric vehicles and autonomous fleets. He has worked extensively with leading global OEMs in powersports, heavy equipment and automotive on developing digital channels, EV product strategy and software-based services.”
It concludes, “As part of Bain's work with financial investors, he has advised many leading investment firms on acquisitions in mobility.”
That, in turn, leads to some natural questions about what’s going to happen with Harley’s electric vehicle operations going forward.
Does this mean that Harley is looking toward a strategy of “if you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em” in the electric motorcycle space? We can’t say that for sure, of course, and we don’t want to jump to any unnecessarily pessimistic conclusions. As adoption of electric mobility and electric two-wheelers becomes more important throughout the world, we want to see American companies innovate and succeed. That includes Harley.
Pushing technology forward can benefit us all. What we don’t want to see happen is stagnation, where a worst-case scenario sees would-be innovators with great ideas (but comparatively little capital, or access to it) completely plowed under, just so their intellectual property can be pillaged and discarded. I mean, people still wonder what happened to Alta.
Now, most humans are multi-faceted people. We have all kinds of interests and skill sets, and while we may have years (or even decades) of particular strength in a given, specific area, it’s both unnecessarily reductive and also unproductive to reduce any person to just ONE thing. None of us, after all, are usually just ONE thing.
However, there are reasons you don’t go to see a veterinarian when your own human heart is acting up. After all, specialists specialize. What does Morrissey, a mergers and acquisitions guy, know about running the EV arm of a massive, international motorcycle company like Harley? What, exactly, are his EV management bona fides?
We don’t know the specifics of any individual business deals centering on mergers and acquisitions that Morrissey presided over in his time at Bain Capital. However, we do know that’s a significant part of his tenure there. Also, if that company name sounds vaguely familiar, it’s probably because Bain was one of the private equity firms involved in the well-publicized 2018 Toys “R” Us bankruptcy debacle.
To be completely clear, we don’t know where this is going. However, we hope that it goes somewhere positive—for riders, for the planet, and for the betterment of electric mobility options everywhere. Whether that’s the rosy future we actually find ourselves living in remains to be seen.