One of the many strengths of the CVO program is its ability to conceive and produce motorcycles that are relevant to what is happening in the marketplace when they are released. Styles and fads change and it’s not easy to predict if last year’s trend will be next years dud. These machines are the biggest and baddest bikes coming out of the Milwaukee manufacturer, although the bikes are assembled in York, Pennsylvania. A select group of engineers and designers create cutting-edge bikes that incorporate the latest technology and innovations aimed at the premium crowd. Big motors, big paint, and big style are targeted to H-D’s core and primarily affluent customers. Harley has done extensive research to offer these customers a more exclusive experience. Contrary to what we hear on the streets, CVO owners actually ride more miles per year on average than do non-CVO riders. And although the CVO bikes come loaded with the latest in parts and accessories they still shell out more cash on P&A. While the owners love the bikes, the CVO motorcycles also create aspiration among prospective buyers who seek the ultimate in rideable art while still having a bike that comes with full factory and dealer support. Many of the custom touches added to CVO bikes are available in the P&A catalog, so an OE bike owner can add touches as time, money, or desire warrant. For owners that know what they want the CVO motorcycles are a value as it’s impossible to build the same bike from parts for less money. It appears Harley may even use the CVO program as a testing ground for future motor developments as the larger capacity engines that made their way in to the OE models were first offered only on the limited number CVO bikes.
While the main goals of the CVO program are to produce cutting-edge features and performance, they also develop what the company calls “a custom of one,” a close relationship between all customers and P&A. Harley uses real world data from riders and from the streets to rallies of the world to offer what riders want. A lot of energy is put into the fit, function, and style of new P&A. There is interplay at work between the OE Harley engineers and designers that helps both independently operated units. The rideable art philosophy of the CVO program must quickly identify and adapt to current trends and the pace is extremely fast from discussion to market. It has to be or the bikes could appear dated. At the heart of the CVO program and a mantra among the CVO members is to take a good stock bike and make it better through style and design.
While much is known regarding the CVO motorcycles we wanted to get a better understanding of the inner workings of the department. We reached out to Jennifer Hoyer our main communications contact at Harley and she set up an exclusive interview with Randy Klopfer, the CVO Team Manager for the Street Glide platform. Each specific model of CVO has its own team of engineers and stylists responsible for that machine from idea through production. Julie Chichlowski, an extremely focused and energetic woman, is the Director of the CVO program. There are four CVO models this year (and the past five years) so there is a CVO Team Manager for each platform. Also at the core of each team are an Assistant Team Manager, two engineers, a designer, and two purchasing personnel. The CVO team working at the Juneau Avenue building works closely with Harley’s overall styling department at the Product Development Center and P&A throughout the process.