Harley chief loves ScarJo's 'Avengers' electric bike

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Harley-Davidson is in the second year of road testing its prototype electric motorcycle dubbed Project LiveWire—featured in the new "Avengers" movie—and customer feedback so far has been "unbelievable," incoming CEO Matt Levatich said Monday.

"We've got a fleet of bikes. We've done 6,800 demo rides last year," he told CNBC's "Squawk Box" in an interview.

To the Harley faithful worried about how an electric bike sounds, Levatich said, "It sounds awesome as it is." There's no simulated motorcycle sound added. "It's got this awesome kind of turbine whine to it."

Project LiveWire was unveiled in June of 2014 at an invitation-only event in New York. The prototypes go from zero to 60 miles per hour in less than four seconds. They get about 53 miles per charge, and take roughly 3 1/2 hours to recharge.

A scene from "Avengers: Age of Ultron"
Source: Marvel
A scene from "Avengers: Age of Ultron"

Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow character in the next installment of the "Avengers" franchise, "Age of Ultron," rides a LiveWire, while Captain America will be sticking with his Harley Street 750.

Ahead of its U.S. debut on Friday, "Age of Ultron" has made $201.2 million across 44 countries, outpacing its predecessor's opening weekend take.

Ironically, Levatich officially takes over as CEO at Harley on the same day as the new "Avengers" domestic opening. He's getting to the promotion from chief operating officer, a position he's held since May 2009.

Levatich is succeeding retiring chairman and CEO Keith Wandell.

Many credit Wandell with steering a resurgence of the brand. Since taking over as CEO in 2009, the company's stock has seen a nearly 180 percent increase to $57 and change per share as of Friday's close.

During Wandell's time at the helm, Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based Harley generated more than $300 million in annual savings and grew international markets, the company said in a February press release.

Richard Beattie, formerly independent lead director, is assuming the chairmanship, following this past weekend's annual shareholder meeting, which was held at the Harley-Davidson Museum in the company's hometown.

Getty Images

Last week, Harley reported first-quarter earnings of $1.27 per share, which beat estimates by 2 cents. But the company lowered its sales forecast for 2015, citing aggressive price discounting by its competitors.

Harley-Davidson's worldwide retail sales fell to 56,661 motorcycles in the latest quarter from 57,415 in the year-ago peroid. Sales in its key U.S. market fell to 35,488 from 35,730 units.

"We have an outstanding strategy [in place], which is based on diversifying the customer base here in the United States as well as globally through international growth," said Levatich.

"We've made tremendous progress, but we have a lot more to go," he continued. "We've build a lot of capabilities internally in the company to help us get there: product development, manufacturing and increasingly retail."

The company repurchased 2.9 million shares in the first quarter, or $182.5 million worth.

Shares of Harley-Davidson were 13 percent lower so far this year as of Friday's close, and off 20 percent in the past 12 months.

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