April 18 2012 by Jason Fogelson
The man who has led the direction of Harley-Davidson's styling for the past 49 years is retiring on April 30, 2012. Willie G. Davidson, the dashing 78 year-old Senior Vice President and Chief Styling Officer for the Motor Company, will segue to a lesser role as Chief Styling Officer Emeritus, and will remain involved with Harley-Davidson as a Brand Ambassador.
Davidson, known to the motorcycle world as "Willie G.," is a third-generation fixture at Harley-Davidson. His grandfather, William A. Davidson, was one of the founders of the company, and his father, William H. Davidson, was its second President. Willie G. joined H-D in 1963 as its first head of styling. He was one of the 13 executives who purchased Harley-Davidson from AMF, Inc. in 1981, and has been a visible symbol of the companies resurgence and success ever since with his signature beret and biker style.
Some of the famous bikes that emerged from the factory under his watch included the Super Glide, the Low Rider, the Heritage Softail Classic, the Fat Boy, the V-Rod and the Street Glide. The 1977-79 XLCR Café Racer was a rare misstep that turned out to be a classic, and one of the most belatedly influential bikes Harley ever produced.
"Few individuals have the kind of impact on an organization, a brand and a lifestyle that Willie G. has had," said Keith Wandell, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Harley-Davidson, Inc. "Everyone with a love for motorcycles owes a great deal to his vision and talent, and all of us have been blessed by his presence. His legacy will continue to grow, thanks to the talent he has nurtured in the Harley-Davidson styling studio."
Never at a loss for words, Willie G. had a few of his own. "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," Willie G. said. "I look forward to spending time with riders at rallies and to my involvement in special design projects."