Let's take a look at how these changes have contributed to what Harley says is their most significant product launch in their 110 year company history.
Born During DuressIn short, Project Rushmore is Harley-Davidson's in-house quest to build a better bike. And while virtually any company is always striving for improvement, even casual observers could see that when the global recession struck in 2008, Harley was well accustomed to stratospheric sales and easy customer conquests-- and was basically resting on its laurels. When the motorcycle market started to slide, Harley-Davidson took a big hit that signaled a sea change in how customers viewed premium motorcycles-- especially ones with stubbornly antiquated functionality.
In 2009 during the depth of the recession, President and Chief Operating Officer Matt Levatich says "We had to figure out what we had to double down on," in order to listen to customer feedback and make improvements to their lineup. It took three and half years, over 20 focus groups in the US and Europe, and a complete reworking of internal processes and procedures to become a leaner organization that could work more efficiently at engineering and developing motorcycles.
Project Rushmore: What's in a Name?Project Rushmore was named after the famous monument that's near the grand daddy of all motorcycle rallies, Sturgis. But the name also subliminally nods to two goals: Quicker development time (rush) and deeper features (more). "Four years ago we came to a hard realization that we needed to change how we develop our product," explains Senior VP of Motorcycle Operations Michelle Kumbler. After studying successful product development organizations across numerous industries, Harley re-worked their engineering, marketing, styling, manufacturing, and supply management strategy, and reduced their product development timeline from 5 to 5 1/2 years down to a little over 3 years. They also run more efficiently now, with 30 percent greater production capacity than they had three years ago.
What Does that Mean For You?Harley-Davidson says their efforts around Project Rushmore focused four areas-- Control, Feel, Style, and Infotainment-- and has resulted in over 100 new features, from more aerodynamic fairings and easier-to-use saddlebags to the availability of two Twin-Cooled engines that incorporate liquid-cooled cylinder heads for the first time in the Motor Company's 110 year history (aside, of course, from the liquid-cooled V-Rod model, whose engine was co-developed with Porsche).
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say, so stay tuned for reviews of the 2014 Harley-Davidson Project Rushmore bikes.