LAPD Report Calls Harley Davidsons Lemons
For nearly 30 years, LAPD purchased bikes from Kawasaki and found the relationship with the manufacturer to be "very rewarding in terms of technical support, low maintenance cost, vehicle reliability and officer safety."
In 2003 the Department became aware of a BMW model with anti-lock brakes. They tested several of the bikes but ultimately rejected the Bavarian cycles due to the company's unwillingness to allow the department to do in-house warranty work, saving the City time and money.
Shortly thereafter Kawasaki got out of the police bike business, leaving the LAPD with only two choices of manufacturers, Harley and Honda. Honda did not produce a bike with anti-lock brakes and BMW's bid was about $1500 per bike more than Harley, so the legendary American bike producer got the job.
However, according to the 25 page report filed and delivered to the Police Commission and our favorite ex-motorcycle cop turned City Clowncilman Denny Zine's Public Safety Committee, the Harleys may be lemons.
The report cites that the Department has experienced "an abnormal number of repairs due to design deficiencies and poor workmanship in the initial assembly" of the Harley moto-cop bikes. The report further notes the situation was so bad that in 2007 that all of the Harleys had to be taken out of service for a time for inspection and repairs "to ensure officer safety." One of the chief problems are the brake lines on the bike. According to the LAPD, the brake lines were not secured properly to the motorcycle causing them to move, vibrate and rub up against one another or other parts of the bike. Harley's supplier network was not able to provide replacement parts quickly enough, eventually leading to several meetings between the LAPD and Harley Davidson. The LAPD claims that Harley has yet to develop a "permanent solution" to the problem.
A laundry list of other maintenance issues with the bikes include premature starter failure, breaking shift linkages, exhaust pipes falling off and assorted electrical problems.
The Department reports that even when Harley had addressed specific problems, the fix or the parts were slow in coming, leading to excessive downtime for much of the fleet. The Department says in the report that Harley blamed some engine failures on LAPD using the wrong type of motor oil; yet Harley did not recommend what type of oil should be used.
The report summarizes the various causes for downtime for LAPD motorcycle units as well as the increases in repair costs due to the alleged Harley deficiencies.
The next step will be up to the Police Commission and the City Council. Let's hope they give it the full attention it needs.