During the spring we spent some riding time with Zero’s latest 2013 DS electric motorcycle. We also caught up with Scot Harden, Zero's vice president of global marketing.
He was able to provide valuable insights into the priorities and progress of the brand as they continue to grow both here and abroad.
Dealernews: You’ve been making headlines with some new relationships and projects such as the bikes for the U.S. military and Hong Kong police. How do you approach these relationships?
Harden: We have a three-prong strategy at Zero and we really started focusing in on it in October of last year. Our new CEO, Richard Walker, has really [given] some good direction.
Our whole strategy is to focus on our consumer, fleet and powertrain. We are primarily the only ones out there doing it in the marketplace and aggressively so.
For fleet [sales], the TCO models compared to internal combustion models offer a lot of tactical advantages, and it seems like a really good fit. For any type of police, military or commercial authority operations where you would deploy motorcycles, it makes a lot of sense. The cost of operation is much lower; there’s practically no maintenance on the powertrains; [and] the range fits their use cases on a daily basis, providing more than enough range to do what they need to do on it. So we’ve aggressively gone after this segment and it’s found us as well.
It’s a cool powertrain we have, and now we’re focusing our what strategic partnerships we can have with people using that powertrain. We have people here at Zero going after each of those segments just like we cover dealer development. Electrics are starting to get more and more noticed, people are starting to consider them a viable options, and so things like this military contract with the Department of Defense (which is testing out very well), with our distributor going into Israel shortly -- we see all of these as huge opportunities for us.
The 2013 bike basically doubled both the range and power compared to the previous models. Will you be able to maintain this level of improvements in future models?
Harden: It’s a really good question, and I think it’s really important for people to know. Where we are now, we’ve got a level of performance and range that is relevant to the marketplace and is acceptable for a large enough percentage of the customers that we seeing good retail activity. It’s starting to take off.
It’s important for people to have confidence that the bikes they are buying aren’t going to be outdated next year. For Zero, we’ve worked really hard to get the product where it is now. You can see the improvement, and that’s a level that for any motorcyclist that rides that does something that any real motorcycle should do. It can thrill you, it should inspire you, it should make you giggle inside when you ride it, and our bikes do that.
So what we’ll see from Zero in the future, from 2014 on, is more incremental improvements. Yes, we’ll continue to work on range and make range improvements, but we aren’t going to double it next year. We’ll have small improvements and options to increase the range. We aren’t going to double the horsepower next year. We’ve got to this point using our own motor this year but we won’t be able to sustain that level of improvement year after year, so you’ll see incremental improvements like other OEMs do.
Do you have any plans for new models or families of models?
Harden: We’ve got our bases covered. We have our two platforms, the S/DS platform and then the X/MX platform. Add in the police models and altogether they make up eight different consumer models, nine with the military model. We don’t have any plans to expand that, and we might actually refine it down as we realize that it might have grown a bit too quickly too soon. (continued)