Has It Been Axed Or Could It Still Make Production?by Harry Fisher, on LISTEN 03:11
Last year, spy shots of a ’baby’ Harley Davidson, called the 338R, were all over the internet. The bike was based on the Benelli 302, produced by Chinese manufacturer Qiangjiang, or QJMotor. Since then, all has been silent in Milwaukee. However, a new tie-in with Hero Motor Corp in India, as well as ongoing links with QJMotor, could see a small-displacement Harley Davidson suitable for the lucrative Indian and Asian markets.
Could Harley Still Be Interested in a Baby Cruiser?
Back in 2020, under the banner of Harley Davidson’s ‘Rewire’ future corporate strategy, several new models were mooted. Some have come to market - the Pan America and the Sportster S - but others were abandoned as not talking to the hardcore cruiser-preferring element of its customer base.
The most obvious of these was the Bronx Streetfighter - although how that was any further from the H-D core than the Livewire or Pan America is not clear.
The Harley Davidson 338R
The other model that was seen briefly and then disappeared was the 338R, destined to give H-D a toe-hold into the highly important Asian and Indian markets, where small-capacity bikes sell in their millions.
The 338R was essentially the Benelli 302 with a different name and possibly a slightly larger displacement. Benelli is owned by the Chinese Qiangjiang (QJ Motor) company and the 302 was one of QJ’s models, again with different badges on it. Although spy shots of the H-D-badged model were seen around August 2020, nothing has been seen since.
New Partnership With Hero Motor Corp
Harley definitely needs to be a player in the Asian and Indian markets but they can’t do that with the current line-up of large cruiser models, for the simple reason that they are too expensive and too big. H-D tried to set up a sales operation in India but, with import duties becoming increasingly severe, it was forced to exit stage left unless it was prepared to set up manufacturing facilities there to circumvent said duties. As the bikes weren’t selling well, it was financially impossible for the company to do that.
However, Harley Davidson has forged an alliance with the Hero Motor Corp in India to develop a range of small displacement models that would be sold as both H-D and Hero. This tie-up would make sense for H-D as Hero could take care of production, keeping Harley’s costs down.
Indian or Chinese?
The links with QJ Motor still remain, however. The recently launched QJ Motor SRV300, powered by a 298cc v-twin engine, could also form the basis of an H-D-badged baby cruiser. With the brand equity that the Harley Davidson name has around the world, it would make sense to enter those markets with a cruiser-type motorcycle.
So far, there’s nothing official from the Milwaukee factory but how long can the company resist the lure of the potentially huge sales to be made?