Harley-Davidson insisted on spinning off the LiveWire brand earlier this year. The U.S. bike maker was eager to establish a separate identity for its upcoming electric motorcycles, but it was also eager to secure funding for its new EV brand, doing so through a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) in lieu of an initial public offering (IPO). That plan has become costlier than Harley could’ve hoped for, now that LiveWire’s funds are being funneled out of the company by investors to the tune of $370 million, according to Ride Apart.
It’s hardly been over a month since LiveWire went public by merging with AEA-Bridges Impact Corp. on September 27, but the initial investors who propped up the EV maker with a $400 million investment, per Ride Apart, have withdrawn $370 million and left the company with just a tiny fraction of its startup funds. It’s a big loss, which comes on the heels of LiveWire falling short of projections by $251 million: it was expected to get an influx of $545 million by going public and selling shares, but it made only $294 million.
Harley-Davidson pitched in $100 million when LiveWire went public, but now that investors are pulling out their funds, Harley had to make up for the loss by pumping another $100 million into LiveWire. Ride Apart notes that a money-in-money-out pattern is not unusual for SPACs. So it wasn’t all that unexpected, but these kinds of fundraising mergers are becoming more and more risky.
Whether Harley wanted to or not, it now owns 90 percent of LiveWire shares, which is up from 74 percent when the EV maker spun off and went public. That’s either good or bad depending on your opinion of H-D as a parent company. Remember Buell? We remember Buell. Well, the LiveWire S2 Del Mar is almost as cool as any Buell.
Of course, things are a little different this time around, since the storied motor company from Milwaukee is under new leadership, and the industry overall is undergoing a sea change from ICE to EVs. Harley CEO Jochen Zeitz seems to be all in on the future of both mobility and the workplace, which only makes the split between Harley and LiveWire that much weirder. Sure, I get the need for LiveWire to distinguish itself as its own badge, but as a whole other brand?
Harley-Davidson could’ve stayed the course and forced the future down the intake of its old motorcycles. Maybe even more than cars, motorcycles are great candidates for electrification. Lower battery weight, lower mass, lower range. All of these are apparently nonstarters for electric cars, but bikes don’t have these hangups. Harley shouldn’t have them either. Harley has a built-in audience, and I bet LiveWire does, too. We’re just waiting for lower prices.