It has been a busy 12 months for Harley-Davidson since it initiated a significant boardroom overhaul and launched the so-called Rewire – later referred to as Hardwire – restructure of model lines and launches.
Since then the Pan America launch has finally gone ahead and this month saw the new Sportster S break cover, while the proverbial ‘black sheep’ in the range – the electric LiveWire – has been shifted into its own sub-brand and tweaked into becoming the LiveWire ONE.
However, this period also saw some major changes to plans going forward, with new CEO Jochen Zeitz keen to embolden Harley-Davidson’s core demographic more interested in cruisers than ADVs and electric models.
This has led to the Bronx streetfighter being put on ice – even if many assume it has been axed altogether – while things have gone eerily quiet with H-D’s burgeoning push into the Asian-market with lower displacement models tied into a badge engineering deal with local competitors.
One such model that briefly appeared in spy shots but hasn’t been seen since is the 338R, a naked roadster that would have become Harley-Davidson’s entry-level model and give it a potential volume competitor in the crucial Asian market, where smaller models sell in larger numbers.
That particular model was based on the Benelli 302S, which in turn started life as the Qiangjiang (QJ Motor) developed model built in China. Though spy shots emerged in August 2020, nothing has been seen since and Harley-Davidson has been tight-lipped about it.
While no news isn’t necessarily bad news and any plans might have simply been put on hold while Zeitz completes the American company’s reorganisation without having to worry about new markets, the 338R does seem at odds with Zeitz’s vision for Harley.
Will this cruiser instead lead Harley-Davidson into Asia?
Regardless of the 338R’s fate, Harley-Davidson won’t be able to ignore the impact Asia could have on its bottom line.
The company has an envy-inducing global image, representing all things big, beefy and Americana to other markets. However, these models are premium and priced to reflect this, putting them out of reach for many.
It is for this reason that Harley-Davidson was forced to exit the Indian market after little more than ten years, with import duty hiking prices to levels that couldn’t be sustained without transferring more production there.
However, there is a silver lining here with Harley-Davidson hooking up with Hero Motor Corp. to develop a range of new badge engineered models that will wear both Hero and Harley-Davidson nameplates, with the Indian giants taking care of production to keep costs down.
It also has these aforementioned links with QJ Motor, which Italian publication Motociclismo is reporting could therefore lead to a Harley-Davidson badged version of its new baby cruiser, the QJMotor SRV300.
A model that would satisfy the growing demand in Asia especially for smaller-engined cruiser models – led by the Honda CMX Rebel 300 – it would also fit Harley-Davidson’s image more succinctly.
This particular model doesn’t meet the same specifications as the 338R, instead being a 298cc V-Twin and offering a modest top speed of 130km/h (80mph).
One would expect from tweaking to bring it up to Harley-Davidson standards, but if the Milwaukee company was looking at making a volume-based splash in Asia, an entry-level cruiser would certainly seem the more logical, box-ticking idea.