2020 Harley-Davidson Sportsters

The California Air Resources Board has released executive orders certifying a number of returning 2020 Harley-Davidson Sportster and Street models, but it’s the models that were not included that has caught our attention.

At the moment, the only 883cc Sportster certified for 2020 is the Iron 883, meaning the Superlow (pictured above) is missing. As for the 1200cc models, the Roadster, Iron 1200 and Forty-Eight are returning for 2020, but the 1200 Custom and Forty-Eight Special are also absent. While this may change, as Harley-Davidson may yet certify these missing models later, their omission from these initial filings raises some flags.

As it stands, the Iron 883 is the only 883cc Sportster certified by CARB for 2020.

When companies get their vehicles certified by CARB and other agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, they typically lump models that share the same engines and emissions equipment in the same filing. In Harley-Davidson’s case, this typically means it receives one executive order for its 883cc Sportsters, another for the 1200cc Sportsters, separate orders for the 500 and 750 Street models, plus other executive orders for its big Twins.

For engine families like the Sportster lineup that don’t change very often, it’s usually a simple matter of re-certifying the previous year’s models with similar emissions levels. That’s what makes the omissions (emissions omissions?) intriguing. Sure, Harley-Davidson can re-submit and add the absent models next week and none of this may mean anything, but why would Harley-Davidson do this? That would just create additional paperwork and filing fees for what should be a quick rubber-stamp process. We’ve gone through Harley-Davidson’s CARB filings going back to the 1982 model year and the only times the company re-submitted documentation for its Sportsters, it was to add brand new models, not to restore returning models it had previously left out.

The Forty-Eight Special and Iron 1200 were introduced last February. While Harley-Davidson has recertified the Iron 1200, the Forty-Eight Special was left out.

A more likely theory is that the absent models are being discontinued, with Harley-Davidson streamlining its Sportster offerings. We know from Harley-Davidson’s recent second quarter 2019 filings that Sportster and Street models make up about 22% of the company’s shipments, but it’s possible the missing models weren’t performing as well as the others.

We also know Harley-Davidson is preparing a new range of potential Sportster replacements with a new liquid-cooled middleweight platform, displacing from 500cc to 1250cc. About this time last year, Harley-Davidson presented the Custom 1250 prototype, which looked to be a future Sportster replacement. Harley-Davidson has repeatedly said the Custom 1250 is “planned for 2021”, so we’re expecting at least another year before we see the production model. Unless the timeline has moved up, 2020 looks to be a transition year for the Sportster lineup.

The 1250 Custom prototype unveiled last year provides a clue to what future Sportsters will look like.

As for the Street models, only the Street 500 has received its CARB executive order. The Street 750 and the Street Rod each had individual executive orders for 2019, and they may still receive them for 2020. Until they do, however, the future of the 749cc models is unclear.

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