The uninitiated can be forgiven when they think that Willie G. is the name of a top-selling country singer. However, for motorcycle enthusiasts, especially those who are fans of American cruisers, the name Willie G. is synonymous Harley-Davidson’s success over the past several decades.
The grandson of a Harley-Davidson founder and the son the company’s second president, Willie G. became the company’s first head of styling in 1963. Responsible for the visual appearance of every Harley-Davidson motorcycle, it was Willie G’s styling studio that produced many of Harley-Davidson’s iconic designs, which included the Super Glide, Low Rider, Heritage Softail Classic, Fat Boy, V-Rod and Street Glide models. In 1981 Willie G. was also one of the 13 Harley-Davidson executives who saw the importance of purchasing the company from AMF Inc.
On April 30, 2012, after nearly 50 years of service, 78 year-old Willie G. Davidson will officially retire from his position as the Senior Vice-President and Chief Styling Officer of Harley-Davidson. “Throughout my life, I have been truly fortunate to have the opportunity to marry my passion for design with my love for this amazing brand that runs so deeply in my veins,” Willie G. recently commented. “What’s most rewarding has been to see the impact our motorcycles have on the lives of our customers. Everything we do in styling is based on the notion that form follows function, but both report to emotion.”
Further reflecting on his successful career with Harley-Davidson, Willie G. added “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.”
Keith Wandell, Harley-Davidson’s Chairman, President and CEO added “few individuals have the kind of impact on an organization, a brand and a lifestyle that Willie G. has had. 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.”
With such strong ties to the Motor Company, no one expected that Willie G. would ride off into the sunset never to be heard from again. Harley-Davidson confirmed that their famous stylist would continue to be involved in special design projects and act as a public ambassador for the company. “I look forward to spending time with riders at rallies and to my involvement in special design projects,” Willie G. concluded.