While CVO is a division of Harley-Davidson it is operated like a free standing business in that CVO makes its own decisions and owns its model content. CVO employees are generally ex-OE Harley employees that are at the top of their game. Most of the people working for CVO are the best of the best at what they do, and since many of the CVO concepts become integrated into Harleys OE bikes it makes sense that the CVO program is afforded such respect and independence. CVO members personally attend events, dealerships, and ride the streets looking for inspiration and seeing what’s going on from the rider’s perspective.
Each Team Manager is the kind of person (yes, men and women) that inspires, someone completely capable of running and operating their own successful business. For example, a new CVO model has a maximum idea to market time of 18 months, but the real work is less than a year. Following the launch of the new CVOs (usually August of each year) the teams immediately start on building next years bikes. But building in this case is complicated by factors not necessarily applicable to other custom bike builders: feasibility of the ideas and cost. Although CVOs are premium bikes the cost has to be justifiable to prospective owners, whereas a custom builder can offer an estimate and the price can change along the way depending on adding or subtracting options.
CVO positions are highly sought after within H-D and among a particular skillset such as engineer or designer, CVO members must have a quick-to-market mindset, can work under tight timeframes and deadlines, and have a thorough understanding of the production process of building motorcycles at the factory and consumer level. Each CVO team has a brainstorming session and after the styling and model have been decided the Team Manager must put together a business plan with every aspect such as manufacturing, supply, and engineering of the motorcycle accounted for, the target audience, justification, costs, etc. If a new part or technology is sought after the Team Manager must do the research and find out who is producing such part. In the case of the CVO Street Glide here, Randy had to consult with Apple to produce the interface between the Apple iPod docking plug and the Harman/Kardon audio unit. Then the cost and delivery aspects of the part must be factored in before the plan can move forward. If a new part or process is to be sourced from within Harley, the Team Manager musty have a thorough understanding of how the process works, and what it takes and how long from order to shelf. Any glitch in any of these and the bike may not get produced on time.
Even with such a tight schedule the development of each CVO is an iterative process that goes down different paths throughout development. After approval of the Team Managers proposal and the budget and resources devoted to the project by H-D corporate the teams get to work. A lot of communication must occur between the styling departments and the P&A division—the success of H-D as a whole, P&A, and CVO are critically dependent on teamwork. It’s an orchestrated dance between creative types with big ideas and engineers and production personnel to assure the goal of getting parts that people want to market on time and within budget.