Harley-Davidson Q1 2017 Sales Down 4.2% Worldwide

04/18/2017 @ 1:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler36 COMMENTS

Though a couple brands are showing gains, 2017 looks like it will be a tough year for the motorcycle industry – a statement supported by Harley-Davidson’s Q1 2017 sales figures, which are down 4.2% compared to last year, with 70,831 motorcycles sold to consumers.

That figure gets worse when you zero-in on Harley-Davidson’s domestic numbers, with the brand’s motorcycle sales in the United States down 5.7% for Q1 2017. Still, it is important to note that Harley-Davidson maintains a 51.3% marketshare figure in the 601cc-plus category, in the USA.

Compare that to Harley-Davidson’s progress abroad, where on its face things don’t seem to be going too poorly, with sales down only 1.2%.

However, it should be noted that shipments abroad are down considerably, 14.7% to be exact, a sign that bikes aren’t moving as quickly as expected in markets outside of the United States.

While the overall US motorcycle industry is likely to blame for Harley-Davidson’s worrying Q1 drop, abroad the results depend more market-to-market. Sales in the Asia Pacific, Europe, and Canada were down, while sales in Latin America were up:

  • United States: 33,316 (-5.7%)
  • Canada: 2,361 (-4.4%)
  • Latin America: 2,342 (+24.2%)
  • Europe/Middle East/Africa (EMEA): 10,167 (-0.4%)
  • Asia-Pacific: 6,863 (-9.3 %)

Harley-Davidson has a list of reasons why its sales are lagging, though of course its main culprit is the stalled nature of the US motorcycle industry.

Drilling into the topic further though, Harley-Davidson has reduced deliveries of its 2017 models to dealers, hoping to unload a backlog of 2016 models that are still sitting on showroom floors.

In response, the iconic American motorcycle company has outlined five goals that will drive the brand for the next 10 years:

  • Build two million new Harley-Davidson riders in the USA
  • Grow international business to 50 percent of annual volume
  • Launch 100 new, high-impact motorcycles
  • Deliver superior return on invested capital for Harley-Davidson Motor Company (S&P 500 top 25%)
  • Grow the business without growing its environmental impact

Looking down the road, towards the end of the year, Harley-Davidson expects 2017 sales figures to be inline with those we saw in 2016, if not taking a minor dip.

Source: Harley-Davidson

  • Aaron Mezger

    “And by ‘high-impact’, we mean basically window dressing the same basic concept and calling it a new model.” I hate to say it, but I think their short-sighted chickens are finally coming home to roost. I’m 46 y/o & right in their target demographic. Except I’m not. So until they build a legitimate CONTEMPORARY motorbike, as much as I’d actually to buy a Harley, unless I hit the lottery I’ll keep buying something else.

  • Brett Lewis

    I believe they can build something contemporary, but will they? They need to start making bigger steps in that direction, stop playing “safe”, hire some people away from Yamaha, Ducati, etc. that have designed such bikes. And whatever division or subsidiary it is, don’t give ’em the ol’ Buell treatment.

  • Fivespeed302

    Thanks, I couldn’t have said it any better, except if I win the lottery, I’d get a Motus, not some bagger.

  • Aaron Mezger

    I’ve ridden the Motus & it has one of the worst transmissions I’ve ever experienced. Lottery or no, I’m not dropping that kind of coin until they improve it.

  • Fivespeed302

    Wow, first I’ve read about a bad transmission. I’d love to test ride one just to say I rode it.

  • Fivespeed302

    I just found this quote from Gabe Ets-Hokin, “It does have flaws and drawbacks. The transmission is pretty rough, hard to find neutral, and clunky and agricultural to shift.”

    Sounds like he was trying his best to be truthful without being harsh.

  • coreyvwc

    It’s funny, when you read about HD’s financial woes as reported by other other news outlets frequented by their traditional customer base you get a completely different opinion about why the company is struggling. The normal customer base seem to think that HD needs to double down on the big vintage styled cruisers and stop “wasting time” with entry level machines built for kids and girls. Cognitive dissonance I suppose?

  • paulus

    Would the home market sales be so strong if a USD 9000, 883 sportster was over USD 20,000? Here in Asia HD is sold as a premium brand…. there is only so much a buyer will pay for heritage… and there are only so many buyers at that level. The price of entry is just too high to penetrate the markets. The Indian built ‘Street’ models are not the answer. Yes, they are cheaper but still highly over priced (USD 14,000) when considering comparative performance and the perception that they are not ‘real Harley’s’. To expand sales needs the real deal models (regardless of production location) sold at more competitive/US comparative market prices. Then HD would see the sales boom they are looking for.

  • Christopher Leigh

    You state that a couple brands are showing gains, but the hyperlink is only to a BMW article. What’s the second brand? Thanks.

  • Scenic Highways

    Sure, making pre-war styled bikes has to eventually wane in popularity. But let’s not forget that they finally have legitimate competition in that same wheelhouse. Victory sales were so insignificant that Polaris wouldn’t even publish the figures. A couple of years ago I took a three-week summer road trip through many cruiser Meccas, and I saw a grand-total of two Victories. New Indians, though, are well represented in the places where cruisers congregate. I saw about ten last weekend in Jerome, AZ. My cousin has only owned Harleys for about 20 years while loudly drinking and promoting the punch. Uh, he traded for a new Indian in March.

    I mockingly applaud H-D’s nebulous, BS machine, goals for growth. I think it’s highly likely, though, that their corporate zenith is just going to get more tiny in their shaky rear view mirrors. Yielding a bigger proportion of a shrinking pie seems to be in H-D’s foreseeable future. They could become creative, innovative, and competitive in new market segments. That’s not impossible, but I don’t think we need to start worrying about what gauge of shotgun is appropriate for wingshooting pigs.

  • Sayyed Bashir

    HD will have new models but they will be distinctly HD, not a copycat of some Japanese bike. Just like the electric LiveWire which blew the socks off motorcycle magazines and gave Zero the jitters while Brammo yielded to Polaris. HD will never compete on price. HD is a premium brand and will stay that way. They are not looking for explosive growth. They are using technology for the sake of the rider, not just for the sake of technology. You can find the latest technology on HDs, especially on touring bikes. The Milwaukee Eight is an excellent example. They held back the sales of the M8 to clear out the 2016 inventory first, which affected the Q1 sales. People waiting for HD’s demise will have to wait for a long time. There will always be a demand for this segment. They still have 51.3% of the over 600cc market in the U.S. and the Japanese have never been able to break that. Indian is taking some market share but it is not significant. Let’s see if Polaris has the staying power to go for the long haul.

  • Barry Rothwell Taylor

    For most of the world motorbikes / scooters are , first and foremost , a means of transport . They are not just toys for the affluent , week-end warriors , born-again-bikers etc
    Is there any American company that targets commuters for example ?
    I love that companies like Ferrari exist , but they only survive because they are part of Fiat – and Fiat makes an awful lot of small cars for everyday use . Bugatti make the Veyron but Volkswagen pick up the tab , upping the cost of Golf’s , Polo’s in the process .
    How long can these elite brands survive only making expensive paperweights that just get used occasionally on high days and holidays without an industrial sugar daddy to bail them out all the time . There’s a good reason Japanese superbike and supersport models don’t get updated very often – and it’s not because they’re so perfect either – it’s because it makes no financial sense to spend big bucks for a niche market .
    I want there to be H D’s in the world but don’t expect me , or anybody like me , to buy one .

  • Wayne Thomas

    Indian is showing more initiative in being a full line motorcycle company. People called for the demise of H-D for some time. They did the same for Packard. It can happen. Ask Sears.

  • Michael Uhlarik

    You are 100% right, India is the future of global motorcycle sales and H-D’s pricing strategy is not winning them market share. Considering what a low technology (ergo, inexpensive) motorcycle the Street 500 and 750 are, it is downright insulting to be charging South Asian customers that much.

  • motobyte


  • Spurdog1

    How are the Indian sales? They must be making a dent! If Indian do eventually bring out a neat looking road going dirt track style bike it will do really well in Europe. Harley have had decades to do that and failed miserably. Putting some new bars on an 883 isnt really a new model is it?

  • Spurdog1

    Or Triumph

  • awwshucks

    The guys I commute with ride a BMW 1200GS, Ducati Multistrada, and a Suzuki SV650.Suzuki aside, these just happen to be the brands that are selling well. I think you’re right that financial security lies in commuter bikes/valid transportation.

  • Jimbo Yokel

    I’m not sure that moving from 2 valves per cylinder to 4 qualifies as “the latest technology”.

  • Adam Creer

    Not to nitpick but Ferrari doesn’t survive only because it is part of Fiat. In recent years Ferrari has been outperforming the rest of FCA and has basically separated itself from the rest of the group. While Bugatti is seen as a huge monetary loss for VAG, the engineering from that project trickles down to the rest of the group. How much trickling actually happens though is anybody’s guess, just like how race car technology only sometimes makes it’s way to road cars. Staying within the VAG, Porsche is a much better comparison with Ferrari and FCA. Porsche is consistently one of the most profitable automotive companies in the world after fixing their 90’s woes. Do I think Harley can do the same thing as Porsche? No. But I do think there will continue to be a place for high end luxury and performance motorcycles. The market is changing but Harley is stuck in, and stuck with the “nostalgic heritage” that it has created for itself.

  • Bruce Steever

    You don’t need much Google-fu to find out… Hint, their bikes are often orange.

  • Eddie Smith

    How can they double down any further on that concept?

  • Jason

    The 2016 Polaris Annual report does not show sales volume only dollars. In 2016, Polaris sold $708 million in motorcycles (Indian, Victory, and Slingshot).

    They don’t break down the brands but they do include this: “Polaris North American unit retail sales to consumers increased approximately ten percent, driven primarily by strong retail sales for Indian motorcycles. ” and this “Sales of motorcycles to customers outside of North America increased approximately eight percent in 2016 compared to 2015 “

  • bluemoco

    Bear in mind that Porsche (from your example above) has dramatically altered their product portfolio to become more profitable.

    A quick Google search reveals: “Of the 225,000 cars Porsche sold in 2015, 80,000 were Macans while 73,000 were Cayennes.” Years ago, Porsche was primarily a sports-car company that dabbled in luxury SUVs. In its current state, Porsche is a luxury SUV company that also sells some sports cars.

    Can H-D make a similarly dramatic change to its product portfolio? I don’t think so…

  • Adam Creer

    The best motorcycle comparison I can come up with for Porsche is Ducati. Both of them realized they needed to sell more than just high-performance sports models and now they are both doing well compared to their competitors (ignoring the scrambler sales flat-line).

    Ferrari and Harley have the heritage/lifestyle thing mastered. Ferrari automobiles are doing well because their products are well engineered (finally) and they figured out how to simultaneously sell volume in developing markets and keep the brand exclusive. Harley’s are not examples of cutting edge engineering, they aren’t selling like they’d hoped in developing markets, and they can’t claim the exclusivity of somebody like Ferrari.

    All the marketing in the world isn’t enough to save Harley from the fact that they are selling a bike with vintage engineering. Lipstick on a pig… Or should I say lipstick on a HOG…

  • Fivespeed302

    Bagger hardtail? Bobber bagger? How bout a Springer Bobber Bagger Hardtail Screaming Eagle? They’ve got a million ways to do the Harley version of “Bold New Graphics”!

  • coreyvwc

    I don’t think they can go any further into the past, I’m just saying that Harley owners can’t seem understand the problem the company is having.

  • halfkidding

    What’s this ” superior return on invested capital”? Amazon has arguably made a few dollars in cash flow profits. Tesla will surely never make a dime in and they are worth $426Bn and $49Bn respectively.

    Oh, I am mistaking return on invested capital for profits. Sorry. The idea of a motorcycle manufacturer making big profits is silly. Decent profits sometimes, sure. I am a quasi anti Harley sort but I appreciate that they have a viable business that employs many people. Hats off to them. As to their ‘investors’, the hell with them.

  • Sayyed Bashir

    It is not just 2 valves to 4 valves. There are a lot of other improvements in power, vibration, heat and emissions. Harleys are Euro 4 compliant, unlike Victory. As I said, Harley uses technology that is applicable to how the bikes are going to be used, not just for the sake of technology.

  • Sayyed Bashir


  • Barry Rothwell Taylor

    But Ducati is , like Lamborghini , owned by Audi / Volkswagen .

    To build a new model / product requires funding – Norton just got an extra loan of 2 million from Santander but how far will that go if there are unplanned issues ? You can only borrow money if you have credit and what small company has that in abundance ?

  • Spurdog1

    Thanks Jason. Sounds like healthy competition for Harley to me. I love the new Indians, the frame design incorporating the radiator is great engineering. Roll on some lightweight back road blasters!

  • Jimbo Yokel

    Still none of which can really be considered “the latest technology”. I’d say they’re inching closer to the 21st century though. Victory not being Euro 4 is pretty irrelevant at this point. I’m not sure what Euro 4 actually entails though, besides adding catalytic converters.

  • Bruce Steever

    Euro4 is cat, vapor recovery, PAIR, tuning – it’s a pretty big conversion for any OEM to make.

  • Jimbo Yokel

    So not trivial, but also not cutting edge. Cars had to meet Euro4 over 10 years ago and motorcycle manufacturers have had a decade to develop their emissions systems.

  • Barry Rothwell Taylor

    Very positive review of the H-D 750 street rod , a step in the right direction ?
    http://www.motorcyclenews.com/news/first-rides-tests/2017/april/harley-davidson-street-rod-five-things-we-like perhaps the most important m/c press outlet in the UK .