Operating on the same frequency.
In September, 2019, Harley-Davidson delivered its first all-electric motorcycle, the LiveWire, to eager customers. Just two months later, in November, 2019, Ford introduced the all-electric Mustang Mach-E SUV. Of course, Harlistas had misgivings about the LiveWire and Ford fans railed against the beloved Mustang in SUV form (and an electric one at that). However, both models received critical acclaim and established a new direction for the two American brands.
With Harley and Ford on similar electrification trajectories, forming a collaborative relationship could benefit both parties. So, it’s no surprise that Harley-Davidson CEO Jochen Zeitz nominated Ford CEO Jim Farley to join the Motor Company’s board of directors in an April 9, 2021 shareholder letter. The announcement comes ahead of HD’s annual shareholder meeting on May 20, 2021, where board members will vote on Farley’s nomination.
If confirmed, he will join a diverse array of executives from Levi Strauss, Starbucks, ABB Robotics, and Cummins. While it isn’t unusual for CEOs to serve on select boards to foster business relationships, the two brands collaborated on a Harley-Davidson edition F-150 pickup truck for years. The cross-pollination doesn’t end there, though. As an avid car and motorcycle collector, Farley owns a 1939 EL Knucklehead and a 1942 WLA Navy bike.
Under Zeitz’s Hardwire strategy, the MoCo has reinvested in its core heavyweight models for the immediate future. On the other hand, Zeitz is also laying the groundwork for an expanded electric line-up with the appointment of Harley’s first Chief Electric Vehicle Officer, Ryan Morrissey. Adding Farley to the brand’s board of directors would represent another step in Zeitz’s plan to modernize the century-old company.
“Jochen's vision to bring adventure to a wider audience in different forms resonates with me. I’m honored to be nominated for a seat on the Harley-Davidson board," Farley told the Detroit Free Press.
Of course, Harley’s board still has to vote on Farley’s nomination, but there’s no question that the two American brands could learn from one another. With both toeing the line of heritage and electrification, they may need each other more than ever.