MILWAUKEE (AP) Harley-Davidson motorcycles may light up the roads, but the company extinguished an attempt to put the bike's logo on cigarettes for fear of getting burned by anti-tobacco lawsuits.
Lorillard Tobacco Co., Harley's estranged partner in the cigarette deal, quietly pulled its Harley-Davidson brand off shelves. Last year, Lorillard replaced it with a brand called Maverick, “by the makers of Harley-Davidson cigarettes."
The Harley brand, a marketing effort to expand the motorcycle's name, gained some fans among smokers in the few short years the cigarettes were on the shelves.
Among them was Lorraine Pachi, 67, of Cudahy, a member of the Harley Owners Group, a biker club. Though Harley cigarettes weren't marketed in Wisconsin, Pachi had a trucker friend pick some up for her now and then from out of state, and she still keeps some packs with a gold and black Harley logo as collector's items.
“When I smoked them among the other HOG members, it looked cool," said Pachi, known as “Ma" in the club. “They'd say, `Wow, where did you get the Harley cigarettes?' "
While Harley butts were a hit with some smokers, the Milwaukee-based motorcycle maker came to regret its foray into the cigarette business. Court documents recently released on the Internet from tobacco lawsuits shed light on how the deal went up in smoke.
Lorillard and Harley wound up suing and countersuing. The feud ended with a settlement that allowed Lorillard to sell cigarettes under the Harley name until September 2001, though the tobacco company decided to drop the brand early and substitute Maverick cigarettes.
Harley spokesman Chris Romoser would not comment on the case, and Lorillard did not return telephone messages.
Harley and Lorillard signed a licensing agreement in 1986. Industry analyst Jay Van Cleave of Robert W. Baird & Co. in Milwaukee said Harley-Davidson was beginning to pull itself out of financial hard times, and it was licensing its name to be used on a variety of products, including cigarettes and pool cues.
A 1985 study done for Lorillard showed that people had a favorable image of Harley bikes, but a negative, “Hell's Angels" image of the people that ride them.
However, a study done three years later concluded that although imagery associated with the product has some negative aspects, a “`good biker' image appears to be surfacing as the dominant image."
The marriage between Lorillard and Harley soured in the early 1990s when Harley-Davidson began to fear that Lorillard's cigarette advertisements would appeal to minors and the motorcycle company would get sucked into tobacco litigation