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Willie G. Davidson calls it a day after almost half a century as the H-D design chief, but don't expect radical changes when he's gone...
One of the best-known Harley-Davidson employees with blood-ties to the founders, Willie G. Davidson, has handed his retirement papers to the Milwaukee company.

Willie G. Davidson, aged 78, has been with Harley-Davidson for almost 50 years as the company’s chief designer. He was hired in 1963 and some of his best-know works include the H-D Super Glide from 1971 (pictured).

"Throughout my life I have been truly fortunate to have the opportunity to marry my passion for design with my love for this amazing brand that runs so deeply in my veins," said Willie G., whose grandfather started the motorcycle company in 1903.

"What's most rewarding has been to see the impact our motorcycles have on the lives of our customers. Everything we do in styling is based on the notion that form follows function, but both report to emotion," noted Mr Davidson.

Willie G. Davidson can also stamp his name on Harley-Davidson bikes such as the Heritage Softtail Classic, Fat Boy, V-Rod and Street Glide.

Willie G. will still keep his links with the famous American cruiser brand and will even contribute to the design of special edition models with an honourary role as Chief Styling Officer Emeritus. Harley-Davidson refers to him as “a legend in the world of motorcycling and motorcycle design” who will continue to be a visible presence for the brand “as an ambassador at motorcycle rallies and events”.

Replacing Willie G. Davidson on April 30, 2012, will be Vice President and Director of Styling, Ray Drea, who has worked closely with Willie G. Davidson and company for almost two decades.

"It has been my privilege to work alongside many incredibly talented people at this company and I have great confidence the future of Harley-Davidson's design leadership will continue to grow in its pre-eminence," stated Willie G.

While Willie G. Davidson won’t be heading into the office any more, it’s unlikely we’ll see any dramatic changes in the way Harley-Davidson designs its motorcycles – at least not in the short term.

The company is actively seeking younger buyers but changes in its design ethos will be subtle and via new models, with the core product range unlikely to be radically altered under Ray Drea’s reign.

Published : Tuesday, 20 March 2012
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