Two established companies with rich and varied histories
Harley-Davidson and Michelin both experienced booming growth after starting out as small family businesses. In 1920, Harley-Davidson became the biggest motorcycle manufacturer in the world as a result of its success in races and the invention of the famous V-twin two-cylinder engine.
For its part, Michelin found global success with the invention of the radial tyre, a revolutionary technology patented in 1946.
More than a century after they were both founded, in 2008 the two companies established a partnership with the aim of creating a range of tyres especially designed for Harley-Davidson motorcycles. At the time, this kind of partnership had never been seen before at Michelin.
Effectively, the tyres would be developed by both companies. They would even be co-branded, another first in the Michelin group. The Scorcher range was born and first went on sale in 2010.
With no real presence in the world of Cruisers before 2010, Michelin drew on Harley-Davidson's vast experience as the biggest Cruiser motorcycle manufacturer in the world. Harley-Davidson's presence is particularly noteworthy in the United States, where one in every two motorcycles sold is a Harley-Davidson model.
Michelin also benefitted from Harley-Davidson's high standards. Behind their reputation as enduring rebels, Harley-Davidson motorcycles are actually a combination of many precise technologies with manuals full of exacting specifications.
The scientific approach of the Harley-Davidson engineers immediately put the Michelin developers at ease. The French manufacturer has product quality and innovation running through its veins, and quickly adapted itself to the high technical standards required, allowing the company's engineers to give free reign to their talent.
For its part, Harley-Davidson was able to benefit from Michelin's reputation for innovation. The tyre manufacturer was the first to introduce radial technology for Harley-Davidson models: the motorcycle manufacturer's most sporty models, such as the famous V-Rod and its Revolution engine. The motorcycle now enjoys a tyre that maintains all of its qualities at speeds approaching 240 km/h.
And the Milwaukee firm has also made the most of Michelin's ability to adapt in order to meet the very specific needs of certain Harley-Davidson models, particularly with regards to weight. For example, Michelin re-launched the bias tyre concept, which it had previously dropped when the radial tyre appeared.
Tyre development between Michelin and Harley-Davidson lasts around twenty months, from the original concept to the tyre going on sale.
Collaboration usually takes place through the exchange of information between Michelin's research and development centre in Ladoux, to the north of Clermont-Ferrand in France, and the Harley-Davidson factory in Kansas City where the current range of Sportster, Dyna and V-Rod are made.
They might look different, but the two brands share common values when it comes to company culture: flawless products, respect for the customer, and preserving the company's heritage. These two hundred-year-old companies both share a true sense of industrial pride.