In a remarkably frank, and detailed interview from EICMA, our friends at AutoEvolution posted some very interesting comments and statements from Zero's Scott Harden. Brew up a cuppa, and have a nice sit-down and read the whole thing (here), but for a tease, here are the highlights we found particularly interesting.
On their strategy:
SH: ...Building two prototypes does not make you a motorcycle manufacturer, things are far more complicated than this.
ae: Lovely to see you being so confident, especially as Brammo is no more, and Mission Motors is also extinct. What do you think about such companies, that looked promising, but did not quite make it through?
SH: I believe we had a good strategy from the very start. We've always taken a stance that we wanted to be real, we wanted to talk about things we were REALLY doing.
We had a joke at the beginning of time, that if you could build one or two working prototypes and write a press release, you were an electric motorcycle manufacturer, but we always took it more seriously.
We only talked about the things we were PRODUCING, and we always had the strategy of building motorcycles, going to the market, continuing to improve them, and evolving them. Basically, building a real motorcycle that would be affordable and offer what the people needed.
Our studies show it, people are looking for the right balance of weight, range, performance, reliability, durability and cost. We wanted to be that company!
You know, Mission was a great motorcycle, but there is not much of a market for a $40,000 motorcycle. Brammo, they liked to write a lot of press releases about what they were going to do, and often nothing happened, and I don't think that people could ever trust what these were...
OK, we feel validated now. For years we've been of the opinion that much of the progress Zero made was because they "stuck to the knitting"... foregoing a lot of noise and blather, factory sponsored racing, vaporware concepts and other indulgences of larger companies, and put all of their resources into production and R/D.
On their goals for their model lines:
ae: What's more important for Zero, building new bikes, offering a model for virtually any type of rider, or making the current line-up better and more affordable?
SH: Definitely the latter...
Sorry Cruiser dudes.
SH: We could always sell more, that's sure. Our trend is in the right direction, even though I can't say our growth this year exceeded 30%.
We are still a small company, we don't even sell 10,000 units a year, it's much less than that, but we are happy with the progress, and so are our investors. We are looking forward to the day when Honda, Yamaha, or KTM will be serious about electric motorcycles.
OK, one last snippet, a little light shed on their investors, and the strategy there:
SH: We are very blessed with our investors, who are not the typical investors. They have very deep pockets; they manage a $4-5 billion fund and have plenty of money to see this project through. They are happy with the current state and don't need money from additional sources, so we can afford to be selective who we work with.
This is particularly interesting. It tells us a number of things about Zero's fairly unique position, especially in light of its past history of management, investor backing, and rate of innovation. It seems to us that a company has to have backing for the long-term in a game like this, with deep pockets, yet a laser focus on ultimate profitability. Sort of an interesting mix of visionary dreamer, well-heeled risk-taker, and grounded bean counters, dare we say?
Well, one very last snippet. Just a little jab, well, let's call it reality, pointed at Harley Davidson Livewire. A veiled jab, but nevertheless.
ae: What about the Harley-Davidson's LiveWire electric motorcycle project?
SH: What they did is great, because when they announced the model they attracted a lot of attention. We recorded the highest traffic on our website ever in that period, so it helped us. Seeing H-D going electric, even in prototype form validates what we are doing.
They literally acknowledged that electric bikes were coming. From that standpoint, it's great, from the execution standpoint, we blow them away. The bike is heavy, pricey and has a very low range.
I think they looked at it and understood that there is so much more work to do. When you start comparing apples to apples, you see how far Zero has come. With their deep pockets and talented design and R&D people, the LiveWire was the best they could come up with...
ooOOOoo, the burn.
Thanks to AutoEvolution for the insightful interview (which we encourage you to check out in full here), and Harden for some forthright discussion. annnnnnd, a tip of the hat to Chris Rowe for the heads up!
ZeroCast: Z-Force Motors with Ryan Biffard
Stay tuned, on Dec. 9 Zero is hosting its third ZeroCast, this time featuring Ryan Biffard and the Z-Force Motor story. Details here, on the Facebook.