Harley-Davidson Q3 2021 Sales Are Up, But Not Really

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“Harley-Davidson delivered a solid third quarter and we have seen many of our Hardwire strategic initiatives perform well, providing encouraging initial proof points of our five-year strategy,” said Jochen Zeitz, chairman, president and CEO, Harley-Davidson.

That is how the Bar & Shield brand’s press release about its Q3 2021 sales starts out. The company goes on to acclaim its sales progress for this year, citing relevant metrics back to this time period in 2020.

From that perspective, Harley-Davidson is doing rather well. So far this year, sales in the United States are up 25% compared to last year, while the third-quarter saw a more modest boost of 2% compared to Q3 2021.

Worldwide though, things are not quite as rosy, with the Q3 2021 down 6% actually, though for the first nine months combines, Harley-Davidson is still posting a healthy 9% gain in its total sales.

All of this can be seen below, in the table that Harley-Davidson provided:

Motorcycles (thousands)  3rd Quarter 9 Months
2021 2020 Change 2021 2020 Change
North America 33.9 33.2 2% 114.8 92.0 25%
EMEA 9.4 11.2 -16% 24.6 29.9 -18%
Asia Pacific  6.5 7.6 -15% 18.3 20.3 -10%
Latin America 1.0 1.8 -41% 2.6 4.8 -45%
Worldwide Total 50.8 53.8 -6% 160.3 147.0 9%


There is a different story here though, and if you look past the Harley-Davidson spin machine, it gives a very different outlook.

We all know the doom and gloom that were motorcycle sales during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, especially during the first-half of that year (at least, for street bike models), which makes comparing sales to 2020 a bit of a misnomer.

Global pandemic aside, how is Harley-Davidson faring compared to its pre-pandemic numbers? The answer is mostly not one that motorcyclists want to hear.

In the North American market, Harley-Davidson is still showing a tough third-quarter (-9.5% compared to Q3 2019), but its 2021 is actually fairly strong overall, with a nearly 9% gain in sales compared to before the pandemic.

Outside of the United States is a different story entirely, unfortunately.

In Europe, 2021 sales are down 33% compared to the first nine-months of 2019, and worldwide sales overall are down 11% for the same time period. The Asian markets are also struggling.

Motorcycles (thousands)  3rd Quarter 9 Months
2021 2019 Change 2021 2019 Change
North America 33.9 37.4 -9.5% 114.8 105.8 8.5%
EMEA 9.4 10.5 -10% 24.6 36.9 -33%
Asia Pacific  6.5 8.1 -15% 18.3 21.8 -16%
Latin America 1.0 2.6 -62% 2.6 7.3 -64%
Worldwide Total 50.8 58.5 -13% 160.3 179.5 -11%


Keep in mind, 2019 was already another year of shrinking sales for Harley-Davidson, both in the USA and abroad, during a market where total motorcycle sales in the USA were flat.

However, I would argue that comparisons back to 2019 are a better measurement of how Harley-Davidson, or any brand, is doing in relation to their sales in 2021.

There are still plenty of asterisks that can be put on figures from this year, but as a whole the motorcycle industry has been thriving in a post-lockdown world. Growth seems only to be tempered by supply chains.

Where is the trend heading for Harley-Davidson is perhaps the great debate, and depends on your perspective of the brand. Globally, the Bar & Shield brand has been in a tailspin for years, and 2021 looks to be no different.

In the domestic market though, Harley-Davidson’s prospects look a bit better, though continue to under-perform the industry as a whole.

The spin machine from the Bar & Shield brand certainly can’t be believed right now, but the company’s sales figures do show some signs of hope, if you squint hard enough.

Is new Harley-Davidson Chairman, President, and CEO Jochen Zeitz righting the ship? Or does the foundering continue? Only time can tell.

Source: Harley-Davidson