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NAIAS 2005: Interview with Willie G
By: Mike Magda Posted: 01-11-05 18:56 PT
© 2005

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Ford introduced its seventh version of the Harley-Davidson F-150 at the North American International Auto Show. The SuperCab features many of the traditional styling cues that have graced the trucks since the first one appeared in 1999, but it also lures the buyer with a few new tricks.

As the truck’s signature showpiece, the 22-inch wheels are a little more contemporary and less blocky than the previous editions. There are also sleek, chrome-accented side tubes, billet grille, blacked-out headlamps and the iconic die-cast badges on the front fenders. The flame graphics are gone but designers came up with scallops that accent the dropped beltline. The interior gets the usual embossed leather and chrome trim treatment. Performance enhancements include a retuned exhaust and a sportier suspension setup. The package is now offered on both 4x2 and 4x4 models.

Following the truck’s introduction, PUTC’s Mike Magda sat down with Willie G. Davidson, the grandson of the motorcycle-maker’s founder William Davidson. Willie G is also vice president of styling at Harley and is an avid motorcycle rider. He’s been at the forefront of the Ford-Harley partnership since it began, and with the signing of a contract extension, should continue into the next decade. Review quickly the beginning of the relationship. Didn’t it coincide with planning for the 100-year anniversaries of both companies?

Willie G: We both began our businesses in 1903, which is really cool. So we shared that anniversary. It seemed like a logical marriage for the two companies and it’s worked very well. My design team and Ford’s design team have shared time in the studio. We’ve tried to customize the truck to give it a signature and I think it’s worked very well.

PUTC: This is the seventh model. Is it getting tougher to come up with ideas to differentiate the models?

Willie G: I’m blessed with a great team, and the leader of the Ford design team (Gordon Platto) has become a very good friend. He also has a lot of backup talent. When you get that level of enthusiasm together in a room with a truck, and the ideas are there. Actually, we met yesterday and we’re working on the ’08 and ’09 models, which I can’t tell you about.

PUTC: How does it make you feel to have two models at the same time: the new F-150 and the Super Duty edition?

Willie G: I guess that (production overlap and inventory) needs some creativity on the part of the dealers. At least the customer knows there’s a bunch of exciting stuff. But they’re different customers.

PUTC: Do you have any indication of how many H-D F-150 owners actually own Harleys?

Willie G: It’s a big percentage (50 percent later confirmed by Ford official). Because we try to instill the same kind of passion that our riders have regarding their motorcycles. A lot of people have a nice Harley in their garage and love to have a Harley-Davidson Ford pickup sitting next to it.

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