35 motorcycles, 7 model lines, 4 chassis, 3 motor families, & 1 market segment, that’s Harley-Davidson’s product line by the numbers. Where many large production motorcycle companies might have 30 or so motorcycles that span the entire gamut of motorcycling’s different sub-markets, Harley-Davidson has put all of its eggs in the heavy cruiser market. This singular pursuit of one market segment has not only been the cause for Harley’s success, but also a significant contributing factor to the company’s recent downfall, which has led to a recently rumored leveraged buyout.

As the old idiom goes, one should not put all their eggs in one basket, which is exactly the faux pas being committed here by Harley-Davidson in its product offering. Businesses, especially public ones, should always have an eye on sustained long-term growth, and a key element to that goal is a well-diversified position in their appropriate industry. Taking this lens and applying it to Harley-Davidson, one can immediately see a portfolio that has been extensively mismanaged by focusing on only one segment of the total motorcycle industry: the heavy cruiser market.

What this has effectively created is a motorcycle company that looks like Alfred Hitchcock’s take on Baskin Robins: 31 flavors, but they’re all Rocky Road.

In the first part of my series on “How to Save Harley-Davidson” I argued that the first step in saving Harley-Davidson was to reposition and redefine the Harley-Davidson brand. In order to move forward Harley-Davidson needs to continue to incorporate experiential components into its image while refraining from going back to the pigeonhole brand identities that have been overplayed in the company’s media communications as of late.

Taking these philosophies to heart here in Step 2, we are going to focus on what can be done with the Harley-Davidson product lineup once a rebranding effort has begun implementation. In particular we want to look at what can be accomplished with the Harley-Davidson brand itself once it has been repositioned. This is an important distinction from Harley-Davidson, Inc. the company behind Harley-Davidson the brand. We’ll get to what needs to be done with Harley-Davidson, Inc. in Step 3 of this series.

Product Development Should Come From Marketers Not Accountants

Harley-Davidson’s product line is perhaps the motorcycle industry’s take on one of the oldest feuds in business. Typically one can file a businessman/businesswoman into one of two groups: soft-skills oriented talent (Marketing, Communications, Advertising, etc) or hard-skills oriented talent (Finance, Supply-Chain, Accounting, etc). Harley is better known for its strength in the soft-skills category, but a close look at the company’s core products and you see the thought processes of a hard-nosed supply chain manager and financial guru at work. In the 35 or so motorcycles that make up Harley-Davidson’s lineup there is essentially only a few actual motorcycles that one can separate themselves with distinction from the rest of the group. The remaining motorcycles incorporate various changes and design elements found from these five or so core motorcycles.

Make no mistake, this business decision has smart advantages, and can also be seen in other companies, albeit to a lesser extent, in the motorcycle industry (Ducati being one of the better examples). Having a product line that consists of a series of motorcycles with a large common parts bin is the precursor to a formal modular motorcycle construction format. These large common parts bins allow manufacturers to assemble bikes in a manner that creates product differentiation, and helps to reel in costs on creating new models and product extensions. In plain English, it allows companies to lower production costs directly, while indirectly lowering costs by more effectively managing product inventory.

These factors, coupled with a large array of segment products, allow Harley-Davidson to offer a wide variety of products that better suit the diverse tastes of consumers, all while keeping production lines centralized and manufacturing costs low. For my hard-skills oriented professional colleagues, this reasoning sounds like a winning strategy. However when rolled out on a large scale in a single market segment, we get what I lovingly refer to as “The Rocky Road Effect”.

A lot of people like rocky road ice cream, it’s like chocolate only better. But you can only go through so many variations of nuts and marshmallows in chocolate ice cream before the flavors start overlapping, or in the case of Harley-Davidson you can only have so many Dyna Wide Super Glide Fat King Bob’s before the product line begins to feel too familiar.

Motorcycles are about identity and expression. Riders express themselves through their choice to ride a motorcycle in the first place, and further refine their image through what motorcycle they choose to ride on. To its credit, the marketing department at Harley-Davidson has gone to great lengths to try and differentiate these seemingly similar motorcycles with sub-brands in the form of motorcycle family and model names. This has however created about as many individual brands as there are motorcycles at Harley-Davidson, for instance the Softail family group consists of the following ambiguously named brands: Softail Custom, Fat Boy, Softail Deluxe, Heritage Softail Classic, Rocker C, Cross Bones, Fat Boy Lo.

To the Harley initiated, the differences in these products might consist of meaningful changes, but to those who are new to the brand (like a new rider), these motorcycles look like seven shades of different seats, wheels, and headlights that create a motorcycle that harkens back to the hard tail cruiser segment of old. When models begin to lose their own personal identity, they also begin to lose resonance with the rider. This is an intangible distinction that isn’t found on balance sheets and common parts bins. It takes the soft skill set of a marketer to truly understand how a product like a motorcycle connects with a rider, as such the product development must come from these kind of people, not the corporate bean counters.

Pare Down Cruiser Segments to Core Products with Meaningful Distinctions

Going hand-in-hand with Harley-Davidson’s needed brand restructuring is the need to eliminate these derivative motorcycles, whose overall aesthetic and market position could just as easily be achieved through aftermarket kits and parts. It should be noted that while each of these models likely brings profit to Harley-Davidson’s bottom line, the overarching structure of having a cruiser model to meet every whim of the customer is a part of the problem that is pigeonholing the Harley-Davidson brand to the heavy cruiser market.

Instead of trying to offer every iteration of cruiser under the sun, Harley-Davidson should take the Jack Welch approach to product lineups, and focus on the top-selling and strategic models in its lineup, supplementing the rest of the market through aftermarket options. For those not familiar with the strategy that made GE the industrial juggernaut that it is, this philosophy means taking a close look at your products. If they are not the #1 or #2 model in their model segment, serious questions need to be addressed as to why they remain in the product line up.

This strategy allows for two things to happen. First, the cruiser lineup can easily be reduced to 1/2 to 1/3 of its current size, allowing for individual model brands to have more meaning and recognition in the riding community (as well as on the showroom floor). Secondly, it allows for there to be room in the Harley-Davidson lineup for models that exist outside of the heavy cruiser segment, which can then be used to bring in new types of customers into motorcycling, and Harley-Davidson itself.

Expand Harley-Davidson Models to Include Bikes Outside of the Heavy Cruiser Segment, i.e. Build Café Racer and Scrambler Models

What we see currently in Harley-Davidson’s product lineup is the result of a hard-skills leaning perspective in the product development office. Instead of creating diverse and innovative product lineups, Harley-Davidson has found a way to make money by constantly reiterating products in the heavy cruiser market segment (e.g. the “all new” 2010 model lineup that featured the 2009 models with more chrome and different accessories). Through cost-saving measures and masterful supply chain management, the company has carved out a nice profitable (until recently) niche in this space; but with each “new” product the product-line itself shows its stagnation.

The core problem with this strategy is the fact that motorcycles have far more emotional baggage than your typical product, and in this realm, activity based costing approaches to product development are a sure ticket to long-term business declines. To truly sell motorcycles well, it takes more than just knowing how to build a line of motorcycles cheaply. Certainly that is a major concern, but for a company like Harley-Davidson more attention must be given to creating motorcycles that engage the rider (there is room for debate that Harley achieves this goal with its current customers, but the real failure is shown in the company’s inability to generate the same feeling with new customers), and it also means creating motorcycles that cater to a multifaceted array of riders (an item that Harley-Davidson is almost universally accepted as currently being unable to do).

This important yet missing component is required because tastes differ by generation, and more importantly there is a strong psychological motivation that sees generations attempting to differentiate themselves from previous generations in their identity related purchases (case in point: the choice of family people-haulers in the US through the generations). In the case of motorcycling, where individuals often use their motorcycle and motorcycling lifestyle choice as a means of social distinction, this last fact proves to be an ever more salient element in motorcycle purchases, and cannot be ignored by manufacturers.

Simply put, generations by in large as a group do not want to ride their father’s or grandfather’s motorcycle. Each generation defines how it wants to succeed and set itself apart from the generation before it. This phenomenon exists in all manners of life, but since we’re talking about motorcycles, the big take home message is that Harley-Davidson has essentially created its own death clock through the successful sole-marketing of the heavy-cruiser to the baby boomer generation with no other product roadmaps for other generations in the works. The Nintendo generation simply has no interest in setting itself apart from the status quo by imitating its fathers. The more the company succeeds in selling to the baby boomers, the further down the hill it places itself in its uphill struggle to engage generation X, and in an even greater extent, generation Y.

With a reduced product line of heavy cruisers, Harley-Davidson can begin to offer this generation a motorcycle model that truly meets its needs, and desire to set itself apart. Coupled with the necessary brand retooling, Harley-Davidson could easily engage younger riders with a café racer and/or scrambler series of motorcycle, and begin to shift its core demographic to include not only more youthful riders, but also new riders who can be the next generation of Harley-Davidson loyalists.

These models would need to be entirely new products, designed from the ground up and focused on the key performance and styling dimensions that are prevalent in these sub-segments of motorcycling. Café racers and scramblers are ideal fits in the Harley-Davidson product line, as they already play upon the existing heritage/vintage vein of motorcycling that is finding an increasing foothold in the 20-something hipster social group. These sentiments are already rampant in the Harley-Davidson brandscape, making theses models a bridge into new segments farther down the line, and the first necessary steps to shifting Harley-Davidson to meaning something other than a “Hog.”

Café racers and scramblers would likely serve as a second stepping-stone to the Harley-Davidson brand both in model segment and price. This adds another dimension to Harley-Davidson entry point, a position that once reserved solely for the Sportster line, which requires that interested purchasers already have a heavy-cruiser in mind for their first purchase. By easing the waters more thoroughly for new Harley-Davidson riders, the brand can ensure a wider audience appeal while still maintaining engrained image and brand perceptions that should remain with the Harley-Davidson name.

Closing Thoughts

True product development comes from those who can put themselves in the minds of the consumer, identify their needs, and build an affordable product to meet those needs. This sort of mindset should take lead in the development process, but should also be complimented with core skills in finance, supply chain management, and other hard-skill assets. By paring down Harley-Davidson’s cruiser offering to a smaller group of distinct and strong brands, and supplementing there brands with differentiated products, it allows Harley-Davidson to redefine itself as a brand capable of being more than a heavy cruiser producer.

This product line shift allows Harley to bring new models, like a scrambler or café racer, into the model lineup, which will in turn attract new riders that previously would have ignored the Harley-Davidson brand altogether. These models already fit into the Harley brandscape, and with the brand image retooling that I’ve already set out in Part 1 of this series, these products could effectively breathe new life into a brand that has hung its hat on staying the same over time. These types of vintage motorcycle segments play to the strengths already present in the Harley-Davidson brand, and lay the foundation for the brand to continue extending itself as it continues to redefine its value for a new generation of rider.

By offering an option that still plays to the vintage motif, but also allows a generation of motorcyclist to ride a Harley-Davidson motorcycle that is different from the generation before it, Harley can play to its strengths while expanding its business stability through its product line. The end result is a leaner and more effective cruiser line-up that has more value to the customers that purchase these motorcycles, and brand whose value extends beyond just one segment of the motorcycle industry.

You can read Part 1 of the How to Save Harley-Davidson series here.

  • John Morrow

    You can see HD has already taken one tiny step outside of the heavy cruiser market with the xr1200. Now if only it had a decent powerplant that didn’t redline 6500.

    I like the wikipedia excerpt
    In 1969, American Machinery and Foundry (AMF) bought the company, streamlined production, and slashed the workforce. This tactic resulted in a labor strike and a lower quality of bikes. The bikes were expensive and inferior in performance, handling, and quality to Japanese motorcycles. Sales declined, quality plummeted, and the company almost went bankrupt. The “Harley-Davidson” name was mocked as “Hardly Ableson”, “Hardly Driveable,” and “Hogly Ferguson”, and the nickname “Hog” became pejorative.

    In 1977, Harley-Davidson produced what has become one of its most controversial models, the Confederate Edition. The bike was essentially a stock Harley with Confederate-specific paint and details.

    Sounds way too familiar…

    Great Article

  • I find it sort of odd that a few short years ago H-D was being touted as one of America’s best run companies. They were making unheard of profits, were a cash company and looked to have the bull by the horns. But, then life happened and over priced $20,000.00 motorcycles were the first non-essential item to be cut from family budgets. I am 40 years old and personally have never owned a H-D, but have long admired the loyalty the brand enjoys. It’s rarely seen with any manufacturer other than Ducati and I suspect even Ducati doesn’t compare when looking at shear numbers. I actually got a little excited when I first looked at the XR1200 because it was the first H-D that has ever remotely appealed to me. But, in the end it is still too…. I guess H-D for me. I agree in that I think they should pull the reigns back on the 30 or so re-badged bikes, but at the same time expand to attract new buyers, like myself, by producing scramblers or a cafe’ racer. I”m assuming they’re afraid to lose the hard core H-D fans, but the winds of change are blowing and blowing quite hard. I personally would consider a H-D cafe’ racer if it didn’t look like anything else they’ve produced and had a ‘reasonable’ price tag. Just like the Big Three in Detroit H-D has relied too much on “what was” and not “what is going to be” and it has caught up to them.

    Looking forward to the 3rd installment-

  • Ceolwulf

    Porsche made the Cayenne in order to survive, and Ducati made the Multistrada and Hypermotard. So why couldn’t Harley make a cafe racer?

    Simple: the customers Porsche and Ducati got with these products already liked those brands and desired their products, but weren’t comfortable with a sports car or superbike. The customers Harley would be chasing not only have no interest in Harley, but in most cases have an active dislike of the brand. And since Harley has deliberately antagonized everyone but the “faithful” for the entire lifetime of these customers, the cause is completely lost. It’s like Ted Nugent selling tofu.

    Harley is as doomed as Hummer.

  • What kind of name is “Dyna Wide Super Glide Fat King Bob” in the first place?!? Well that, that sounds like a redneck spaceship… I like “Streetfighter” better. Yeah – “Streetfighter…Ducati Streetfighter”. Has a nice ring to it. I still don’t know what a “Super Glide…Dyna…Bob-Whatever” is though, nor can I say it without gagging.

  • Oh, and if I was riding on a rocky road, I’d do it with a KTM 690…Which, by the way, also sounds a lot better than a “Dyna Fat Boy Cross Bones Super…Crapper-on-two-wheels”…

  • joe

    The cafe model already happened, perhaps ahead of its time, but so watered down it wouldn’t work today in the same guise. The scrambler, cafe segment is so natural it’s baffling why it isn’t already being pursued. Even the most unaware of the harley crowd could accept them. That said, it is unlikely those would save the brand. They still rely on vintage appeal, not performance or practicality. If we are to look at their past forays in performance, well, a lot needs to change. Marketing is important, but so is an interest in engineering r&d. They seem to put their head in the sand, or some place smellier when its time to produce bikes that stop, accelerate, turn, jump, or win races. Please don’t mention flat track, or I’ll say honda rs 750. If the xr1200 was anywhere near an actual race bike they’d have a lot of new harley buyers. This is just my opinion, but I don’t think they can change under their current management. Eventual failure seems likely, too much greed, too much fear of the unknown.

  • I visited the Harley Davidson Assembly plant in Kansas City last month and, unfortunately, could not take the tour because my 8-year-old daughter was with me. We got to see a 10 minute movie about the history of the company, during which I kept thinking, “I wish Jensen could see this.” After the movie, we wandered around the “museum,” which was a display of certain of the bikes in various steps of their assembly. Toward the end, there were several models on which you could sit. They all seemed absolutely huge to me, except for the XR1200. I hope to be able to go on the tour next time I visit. If you happen to be in KC, Jensen, let’s head over there.

  • I just wonder home much of a change would need to be made to the engineering and marketing units at HD if the company decided to pursue a product line that included more sport/performance offerings.

  • I have to assume since they just shut down Buell that everything is still in place for a sportier offering and wouldn’t take much of a make over to get it going (again). But, then again we are talking about H-D changing and we know how much they love change. I don’t think H-D has any business in the sport bike market. I feel they would be better going the route mentioned in #2 and that being a Scrambler or Cafe’ type machine. They don’t need to rake the front end and make it a mini chopper either. I’m thinking Evel Knievel type machinery or the Deuce Special in the photo above. Get rid of the belt drive, fix the transmissions and design something that’s cool and one that’s easy to ride. There’s not a ‘fun’ thought in jumping on a 1000# scooter and running down the store or riding it to work.

  • joe

    The outsourcing of motors for both Buell and the v-rod indicate it would be a change they have never been willing to make on their own. Possibly, never even considered in house. This from an alleged “motor company”. I don’t know how they handle design, but I get the feeling it too would have to be outsourced, as they seem completely out of touch with the motorcycling public. I look forward to part 3.

  • Fred N

    Harley Davidson likes the confederate or outlaw image and that is why you see the stupid names. Every year it seems HD comes up with some new name or new idea for an old name. This year they renamed the sportster the “48” – whatever that means. Maybe 48 horsepower? Harley is mired in the past and refuses to step into the 21st century. There client base is aging fast and will be out of cycling in a few years. It seems that HD spends more time and money on new outlandish names and new clothes and chrome parts than they do trying to design a new bike. The V-Rod was a waste as the Harley riders consider it to be a girls bike because they do not like the way it sounds. Harley buyers do not care about new technology as they only buy the bike for its sound. They like to buy a Harley and put straight pipes on it and ride around and show off and the morons at HD promote this stupid behavior. I do not see HD as a viable company in the future. They owe Warren Buffet 600 or 650 million dollars at 15% interest from there failed HD financial services division. They took a 125 million loss dumping Buell and there sales are flat and falling. There bikes are overpriced. I will not pay to days prices for yesterdays technology.

  • Bjorn

    Should HD decide to make a cafe racer it would need to handle and stop convincingly with no excuses about “soul” or tradition. They could get away with using an air cooled Sportster motor as long as it was reasonably tuned. Look to the retro styled offerings from Triumph for confirmation that people will be satisfied with “enough” power. People would forgive it being only 80 or 90 bhp if it did the business in the bends and had a broad spread of power.

    I remember a friend who was a B grade road racer looking to sell his Ducati 851 road bike and purchase something more streetable for road excursions. He test rode an 883 or 1200 sportster. Having a good relationship with the retailers, he was allowed to take the bike for the day. After a day of riding in the hills, the bike was returned to the dealer with the comment that it had enough power to get you into strife but not enough handling or brakes to get you out of it.

    To produce a motorcycle that people who enjoy going around corners would buy will require the MoFos at the MoCo to accept that they need help with chassis, suspension and brakes. I’m sure there are reasons why, but I’ll be buggered if I can see them, they didn’t ask Erik Buell to design them a pirate bike that handled. Next generation riders don’t all want 200 bhp, some want a balanced package that will flatter their skills.

    As an aside, there was a story doing the rounds a few years ago that HD had tried to patent the “potatoe, potatoe, potatoe” sound of their engines. The courts wisely told them to piss up a rope.

  • W

    They tried to patent the sound as used in toys

  • Bjorn

    @W I was wrong on two counts it was a trademark not a patent and it was 12 years ago not a few, however I stand by the original substance of my post.


    And this
    From http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/law/st_org/iptf/articles/content/1998101101.html

  • 90 horsepower would be fine if the handling is on point. The Ducati Monster and Hypermotard both have 100 hp and are loved by riders.

  • Fred N

    I was sure that Harley did patent there precious “sound”. Didn’t Harley sue Honda or another Japanese manufacture because there bikes sounded too much like a Harley? It has been posted that HD spent 4 million dollars on a “sound lab” where they invite the public in to listen to various Harley motor sounds and they vote on the sound they like the best. This is an example of Harley engineering. I was in a Harley dealership 2 weeks ago and there was a new XR1200 on the floor. I asked the salesman about the bike and he said he really did not know much about it as it is a new model and it was not very popular. He wanted to show me a Fat Bob or something like that. I only stopped in because I had an hour to waste between appointments. But it is a typical example of a Harley salesman. They do not like the sportsters, XR1200’s or V-Rods as they do not consider them to be a “real harley”. It has been posted here that HD needs something that would handle on the twisty’s. That is true but it would take a whole new bike and a new motor. A typical Harley is very dangerous on a twisty road and can lead to serious accidents with novice riders. They do not understand that a Harley is basically a underpowered 4 lane cruiser or a very good paint shaker if you own a hardware store.

  • Maas

    How to Save Harley-Davidson – Step 3: You can’t.

  • Jobie

    One of the best things that H-D “could” have done is shift more funds into Buell insted of selling it off. This was one way of expanding the market share. But once again the short sightedness of the brass at H-D could not observe the brand that was finally starting to bloom into America’s sports bike…. Let em’ sink! Heck do what they did to Buell, trow them an anchor.

  • Alfredo

    Great article. Pointless company creating pointless bikes. Let it die.

  • Pointless Bikes

    In the sixties I had a Honda and I wanted a Harley. Now I am in my sixties and I would never buy a Harley. I feel that every other motorcycle manufacture has passed Harley and are superior in every facet of the motorcycle. The only thing Harley has updated is there clothing line and aftermarket stuff like decals, clocks, belt buckles etc. Harley is so pig headed that they think they can sell the same old bike every year and people will flock to there dealerships and buy them. HD just wants to sell a motorcycle as a lead in to the clothing line, belt buckles and performance parts that should be on the bike stock. Harley sells you a bike with a 60 or 70 hp motor and them hopes you will buy there performance parts. Harleys are worthless and dangerous motorcycles.

  • Doug

    The XR1200 and V-Rod are the only bikes that stands out in the product lineup. Everything else may as well be a Fatboy with more or fewer aftermarket parts. Not coincidentally, the XR1200 and V-Rod are the only two H-Ds I would ever give a second thought to purchasing.

  • I like the V-Rod but the seating position is weird for a performance oriented bike.

  • Fred N

    Who wants a so called performance bike like the V-Rod and ride with your feet stuck out in front of you? The V-Rod is no performance bike and neither is the XR1200. I would not mind the XR1200 if it had the Rotax engine that Buell was going to use. HD spent a mint developing the V-Rod but the Harley crowd will not buy it because they do not like the way it sounds. All Harley buyers base the bike on the way it sounds with a aftermarket muffler or no muffler at all.

    Not to digress but the police in my city are now starting a major crack down on loud motorcycles. You must have the factory muffler installed and with the catalytic converter. I am sure all the Harley boys will go nuts and scream bloody hell but the public is just plain tired of listening to them. This is sure to have an impact on Harley sales here because every Harley here has no muffler or a aftermarket muffler that is loud. I firmly believe that they will not ride the bike now that they can’t make all the noise and show off anymore. There will be a lot of Harley’s for sale here cheap…….

  • Willie

    My friend Eric loves to make a lot of noise too. He’s 4 years old.

    On a related item:

    I once sat at a stop light with my elderly mother having just come from a clinic appointment.
    In the next lane a “brother” was throttle whipping his exceedingly loud 2 wheeled tractor.
    After enduring several minutes of this, at a welcome pause in the noise she remarked, “I suppose that’s about all he has control over”.

    Isn’t it long past time the free market was allowed to exercise its natural selection function ?

  • 305ed

    Considering the overwhelming response to this series, perhaps you should bash Harley on a regular basis. No one seems to really care about any of the other op-ed’s you write…

    You’re premise that HD needs to enter other segments is flawed. The heavy cruiser market is the single largest segment in the United States. Harley makes no bones about catering to that target demographic and has been extraordinarily successful in doing so. What other imitator (let’s be honest, the Japanese Big 4 flat out copied Harley’s product) can claim the level of market penetration and brand loyalty the HD enjoys? Harley’s sales numbers are down (27%) due to economic conditions, not due to their lack of “diversification”. Honda’s numbers are off by 41%, so I imagine that your next series will describe how Honda can be “saved”? Perhaps you should rerun this series once the economy has rebounded, to see how accurate your dire predictions are.

    While other motorcycle companies have “30 or so models which span the entire gamut of motorcycling’s different sub-markets”, those 30 or so models (with rare exceptions) are disposable commodities which hold little residual value and are almost devoid of aftermarket support (except, of course, for loud exhaust pipes). You correctly state that motorcycling is about identity and expression. Most of that is achieved by the rider modifying his motorcycle to suit his expression of self. NO other brand is able to offer the limitless options available to a Harley owner. None. The reason the aftermarket can support this level of options are platform stability. Harley may “parts-bin engineer” their base model lines for differentiation on the showroom floor, but the fact is very few of those bikes ever remains stock.

    The thought that Harley needs to produce a cafe-racer or scrambler (or heaven forbid – a sport bike) to diversify it’s demographic profile is opinioneering at its’ best. The customers that would buy such a bike(s) are such a miniscule number that designing an entirely new product would no make business sense.

    Your readership is primarily composed of Harley-bashers, so the comments posted about “loud-pipes” and “t-shirts” are entirely predictable. This fact remains: the Harley Corporation is run by people who have very accurately and successfully marketed their product within their desired geographic and demographic targets.

    The Motor Company will continue to be successful for a long, long time.

  • No HD

    Boy these Harley guys like just do not get it do they. They are mired in the past and content with a inferior product and happy with all there Harley t-shirts and do rags. That is what is wrong with the whole picture. Harley Davidson can continue to produce the poor quality and aging motorcycle line. Like it has been posted before – a typical Harley buyer does not care about modern technology. They buy a Harley because they like the sound it makes and they can put there 3 foot tall handle bars with tassels, dress up like a pirate and they are happy. They are happy with there outdated, slow and heavy motorcycle.

  • joe

    To me the thought of motorcycling being about identity and expression is horse shit. Motorcycles are about fun, does that enjoyment come from the sense of speed and ability, or does it come from the way you think you look/ who you are associated with? If you associate it with an image, it’s an image of someone who truly enjoys the sense of speed and of being in the outdoors instead of passing through it. I don’t think Harley themselves understand motorcycling, if they did, they would enjoy cruisers, dirtbikes, and sportbikes, all bikes. And they would produce them as well. Ichiro got it, why don’t they? Customizing your bike is only a small part of they joys of motorcycling, and frankly it’s way cooler when it’s a vintage bike or a performance bike. All the idiots with stretched swingarms, or f lame paintjobs can stand in a paking lot on a sunny day together with the assless chaps crowd. The rest of us will be out riding.

  • Bjorn

    @305ed you say, “The heavy cruiser market is the single largest segment in the United States. Harley makes no bones about catering to that target demographic and has been extraordinarily successful in doing so.” I think you are missing the thrust of Jensen’s article; the target demographic is ageing. The fact it is currently the largest means nothing if it falls off the edge of the world within ten years as the target demo move into powered scooters and walking frames. By all means object, but give reasons why you think the demographic is sustainable.

    As to all the people using this as an opportunity to slag off the “lifestyle” riders, I’d rather see a bunch of ageing blokes and women dressed as cowboys/pirates/Village People riding motorcycles than playing golf. It’s not for most of us, but it is still bums on seats. I think the more motorcyclists there are in the world, the better off we are.

    All those who are slagging off sports bike riders for betraying the U.S.A. by sending money overseas (comments on part 1) need to accept that until there is a competitive U.S. sports bike, it’s going to happen. Riders will buy the bike that suits their needs regardless of where it comes from. As an Australian, I’m less invested in the idea of a true American sports bike, but I’d be pleased just like I was when Triumph came back from the dead with good basic bikes, followed by great street bikes.

    Let us keep it on an adult level. (I’m guilty of a the odd low blow, but I try not to.)

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  • 305ed

    @Bjorn – The entire motorcycling demographic is aging, not just HD’s. JD Power & Associates reports that the average age of motorcycle owners has gone from 40 to 47 since 2001. Sustaining the current level of sales is untenable by any of the large manufacturers (Big 4, HD) due to the decline of the boomer generation. Jensen’s article singles out HD as being in a death spiral due to the lack of product diversification and failure to attract “younger” riders, when in fact ALL manufactures are struggling with the same issue. Building a 180 HP, 300 pound repli-racer with all the technological accoutrements that engineer’s can heap upon it, has not created a single up-tick in the Big 4 sales. BMW will see some miniscule increase in sales with their 1000RR but it will be at the expense of Japan, Inc., not as part of an overall increase in the sportbike segment.

    Harley understands that the boomers are on their way out, albeit slowly, and that the next generation is not taking up the sport in numbers equal to maintain past sales figures. But no manufacturer has the depth of market penetration, and rider support, that HD has to draw from.

    As stated before, the Motor Company may be despised and their customers mocked by a few of A&R’s readership, but that wouldn’t preclude me from betting on its’ long-term viability.

  • Harley – Get Real

    If a Harley rider truly cared about the quality, technology and safety of the motorcycle they ride they would not be riding a Harley. The “Heavy Cruiser Market” has been mentioned. If a motorcycle buyer wanted a big heavy cruiser/tourer style motorcycle then the Honda Gold Wing would be a sensible choice. It is light years ahead of any Harley built today. A Harley rider choosing a Harley over a bike like the Gold Wing clearly illustrates there need for the Harley bad boy image or lifestyle. Clearly a Harley is certainly an aging motorcycle line that is behind every other motorcycle manufacture in technology and safety. It stands to reason that the only reason a person would then buy a Harley is they want the pirate image or the lifestyle, otherwise why would a person even consider an out of date motorcycle like a Harley? A Harley buyer likes the decal in there rear window and the the t-shirts, do rags and the rest of the crap because it gives them a sense of belonging to something. It is apparent that most Harley riders are insecure people and need the Harley lifestyle as a crutch. This made in America is a bunch of BS and so is the oldest motorcycle brand a bunch of BS. The Royal Enfield in the oldest motorcycle brand probably followed by Indian, who Harley copied. It is very true that the Harley demographic is aging and will soon be out of motorcycle buying. This will pose the death knoll for HD as the typical or average American motorcycle buyer does nor or will not consider an aging Harley as a potential purchase and the majority also do not want to be associated with the Harley image. Harley shot themselves in the foot when they killed Buell. Buell was just dumped the boat anchor Harley motor in favor of the Rotax and Harley did not accept the Canadian offer for Buell for fear of major embarrassment when they would have made a success with the Buell line. Buell’s major weak points were the Harley motor and the Harley dealerships. A Buell buyer did not want to put up with the Harley dealers BS and Harley dealers hated the Buell motorcycle. A Harley dealer’s main interest is selling the aftermarket Harley junk. Look at a Harley dealership. 80% of the floor space is dedicated to the shirts, window decals, jock straps, ash trays, clocks and other crap the a Harley buyer will sucker for. It is very evident that the aftermarket crap is the main focus of Harley Davidson and there dealers. Harley Davidson’s R&D money must be spent on this crap because they sure are not spending it on improving there aging line of bikes. A “new” Harley means last years bike with a “new” paint job or more chrome or another stupid name like Fat Bob or Night Train or something just as meaningless or stupid. They call one of there bikes a “Sportster” which is surly false advertising as that bike is the furthest thing from a sport bike that is imaginable.

  • 305ed

    Buell represented 1.1% of Harley sales. If HD shot themselves in the foot by discontinuing Buell, they did it with a BB gun. The “shirts, window decals, jock straps, ash trays, clocks and other crap” represent a whopping 6.6% of sales. It’s the bikes, like it or not, that matter. Want ABS? Harley. Brembo brakes? Harley. Unlimited aftermarket support? Harley. Get it? Want horsepower that you don’t have the talent or ability to use in the real world? Head on down to your local Big 4/Ducati dealership and dress up like your favorite racer and assume the begging dog position.

    In the mean time Harley will continue to outsell the crotch rockets 2 to 1. Forever…

  • Harley Lover?

    Yes, I really think that I would want some horsepower Mr. 305ed. I would like some horsepower so I could at least pass a car with out needing a mile long straight stretch to “get a run at it”. Many HD riders are killed buy trying to pass and realizing too late that the power is not there. A 70 hp motor on a 800 or 900 lb bike just does not cut it. I think I will stick with the so called Big 4. At least I will get a safe motorcycle that is up to date with today’s technology not yesterdays. Enjoy your rolling antique but be careful out on the highways or better yet stick to riding up and down your local main street showing off your loud exhaust and your handle bar tassels which is what a Harley is best suited for. I have never had a Harley pass me and I always pass them as I do not like the exhaust smell as all Harley burn oil. Stick to riding slowly in town with your HD assless chaps, HD fingerless nose picker gloves, HD t-shirt, Do Rag and don’t for get to changer your HD panties after you shit your self trying to pass a car or for a real joke another motorcycle. My neighbor has a Yamaha Majesty scooter that he lovers to blow the Harley’s off with.

  • Willard G.

    There is a lot of sniping going on but everybody seems to be missing the point that Harley Davidson is in trouble with no real avenue to escape to. There line of motorcycles are aging and they are powered by an old out of date air cooled motor. If I was in the market for a so called heavy cruiser I would look to Yamaha, Honda or Kawasaki and Triumph. Harley Davidson should look to Triumph for help. Triumph was in the same shape Harley is in now but Triumph modernized and expanded there line of bikes. Harley Davidson has done nothing except the bare minimum. They have made a few modern enhancements to there bikes like ABS but even that is not enough. There bikes are heavy and underpowered. Harley needs a new lighter frame and a possibly a V4 water cooled motor. The current air cooled motor should be put in a museum and the V-Rod motor could be used in all there heavy cruisers. Every body who has a motorcycle is loyal to what ever they ride and the Harley riders are all loyal to there brand. When it comes to spending my hard earned money I will not sucker for a over priced Harley with yesterdays technology. For what a Harley cost I would expect the latest in todays tech.

  • joe

    Hey 305ed, i went and got a ducati, and took it to the track, and used all the power, and the monoblock brembos, and i commute on it, and i also tour on it. Hows your harley at the track, with its brembos? Hows that ground clearance? Did you really just claim harley has good dealer support for new owners? I would love to hear some hd owners weigh in on this one? $400 in labor to get your bars changed? What great support?

  • Bruce

    I hope the executives and Board of Directors of HD are following these articles. All passion aside about what motorcycles are best and which riding is best, it is about the business of business: do you have a product or service that people want in enough quantity to sustain and grow your business.

    Times change, desires change the ability to spend money changes. Great companies spend a lot of time looking at not only what they do and do best, but where taste and markekets, especially fringe markets are going. Great companies forcast trends and commit budgets to bring products or services to that emerging market. The history of business is littered with very good, solid companies that rested on their laurels, got comfortable with their market and rode them right in to the sunset.

    It is so important to remember that what got you to success will not guarantee your success in the future. Innovate or die!

    Jensen, these are great well thought out articles and worthy of a business book

  • It seems that many manufacturing companies in the U.S. are in dire straits. The cause all seems to be the same- lack of ability to not only meet current consumer needs, but also be designing and building what their market is going to want in the future.

  • joe

    Like chevy, and dodge getting fat on govt contracts, not seeing a need to improve, then asking us to bail them ou,t after we kept them alive with our tax dollars already. Hmm, seems like somebody else had their hand out too, for awhile?

  • @Brammofan: Absolutely, next time I’m in town it’s a road trip for sure.

    @Kevin: I doubt you’ll ever see the Harley brand pursue a sport/performance model, but HD, Inc. absolutely should have that in its repertoire. Part 3 will cover this.

    @joe: I’m going to just have to disagree with your point on identity and personal expression. If you were right, we’d all be riding Kawasaki EX500’s (apologies to the readers who ride the most vanilla motorcycle ever created).

    @Willard G.: Spot on. If the rumors of the KKR buyout are true (I have very good reason to believe they are), the first thing I’d expect to see is a phone call being made from Milwaukee to the office of Michael Lock at Ducati N.A. (former CEO of Triumph USA).

    @Bruce: I have been informally told I’m persona non grata in the State of Wisconsin, I do know others in the industry are reading this. Thanks for the compliments.

    Thanks to everyone else for the compliments and disagreements (I welcome both equally), and of course thanks to everyone for being a part of the conversation.

    ps. 305ed You’ll get your own reply, but not before I eat dinner. ;)

  • Willie

    Once again, I’ve missed the joke. This (motorcycling) is not about rational consumer behavior -value, performance. On the contrary. Its about romance, ego and “belonging” – brand community. As 305 notes, HD’s success was formidable (and imitation followed) but the cycle is losing momentum. Demand has been sated for the most part . . . IN THIS COUNTRY.
    What now ? I wouldn’t change a thing. And here’s where I’m starting to warm to the KKR story.
    Exports to developing countries are where the money is now. The HD brand and myth carries universal appeal. Men in Spain are just as stupid as here. Asia too. Everywhere. In fact with women wielding more and more power, the state ever more intrusive, corporate cultures favoring the metrosexual and traditional male dominance roles under assault across the world, this Harley escape to yesteryear thing will only gain more appeal.
    Jack it up ! Export it anywhere you can find someone to front a dealership and learn the local ropes as you go. Let the niche markets tell you what’s working and adjust on the fly.
    KKR will put nimble management in place willing to play fast with the global rollout. Willie G. and the boys are just an impediment at this point. What we need now is MOJO !

  • joe

    @Jenson, You’re wrong, but at least you’re polite.

  • @305ed – there are people that can handle the horsepower and handling of a superbike – I know because I’ve been passed on the interstate by Ducatis and Gixxers at speeds so fast that I felt like I was standing still going merely 75 in my sportscar…and you know what, it makes me lust after a Ducati 1098 even more…just like the first bike I ever fell in love with was a Ducati S4R, not a Harley Fat Slob cruiser!

  • @305ed: You bring up several interesting points I’d like to address, starting with your first post.

    I’m sorry, I don’t know how writing about how to save a company is considered bashing, and for the record my last series, “Tradition is not a Business Model”, had two posts that were ranked on the Topsy 1000 (Top 1000 articles read and discussed that day).

    Double-check your sales numbers, but I think the more relevant fact (to this article at least) is that Harley-Davidson has lost 87% of its revenue during this time period…100% would mean not a single bike was sold, FYI. Any company that’s seen itself lose that much money needs saving, and is not practicing a sustainable business model. I won’t debate Honda being a commodity, but they aren’t in the same boat as Harley is right now, and there’s a reason for that.

    You’re absolutely right that aftermarket part sales are a huge part of what a good manufacturing and brand strategy should involved. I’ve talked about this at length before (in one of my other “un-read” series in fact, search the site for “modular motorcycles” or just “modular”).

    Just one more thing I’d like to point-out that where you hit the nail on the head. You said, “This fact remains: the Harley Corporation is run by people who have very accurately and successfully marketed their product within their desired geographic and demographic targets.” Yes, absolutely…of course this demographic has seen their pension and retirements dry up, and will also being leaving the market in under a decade. What do you do then?

    In your second post you bring up the JD Powers assessment of the industry. The fully quoted analysis is as follows: “Since 2001, the average age of motorcycle owners has increased from 40 to 47 years old. This indicates that the current population of motorcycle buyers is aging, and a large proportion of these owners are likely to soon exit the market. Because first-time motorcycle buyers comprise 22%  of all new motorcycle purchases—a figure that has remained relatively flat since 2001—it is critical for manufacturers to focus on attracting first-time and younger buyers—primarily those in the Gen X and Y demographics—in order to ensure continued growth in this market.”

    Statistics are a funny thing, and need to be analyzed carefully as even the most skilled reader can misinterpret them. While the average age of motorcycle rider has gone up, the portion of new and young riders has remained the same. This suggests that we’re actually seeing a number of older riders entering the market, primarily fueled by the BMW GS series which was and is the best selling motorcycle during this time period.

    To it’s credit, Harley-Davidson is also in part responsible for this age shift. In the past 20 years, the median HD rider has aged 15 years (Harley’s numbers, independent sources peg the growth as larger, and the age older). To me this suggests that Harley has been chasing the same customer, following them as they get older through time. This is counter to how must brands work, which tend to focus on a specific market demographic (say 30-45) and stay fixed on that point. In these brands customers leave that demographic sweet spot as they get older, but new customers enter into the fold (sport bikes are a great example of this). Whereas with Harley the company has followed its targeted customer base as they continue to grow older. HD has in essence a constantly evolving demographic, despite the demographic consisting of the same actual people. There’s some value to this model, but again it is unsustainable without a plan to engage the subsequent generations.

  • 305ed

    @Jensen: You are correct in that statistics can be manipulated to support almost any position when viewed through a particular lens. Looking at it through the 2001 – 2009 prism, we see that while HD’s income may have dropped 68% from the 2006 peak, its’ actual motorcycle unit sales (and it is product that your article addresses) in 2009 are just slightly below the 2001 sales numbers (and 36% below the 2006 peak). The drop in income from 2006 – 2008 reflects and parallels the general state of the economy, with similar trending amongst volume manufacturers globally. The disproportionate drop in 2009 income is an anomaly primarily associated with the write-offs taken for the Buell dispositioning and the Financial Services division restructuring.

    While the first-time buyers’ percentage of motorcyclists has remained flat, the gross numbers are dwindling. HD is aware that the “boomers” are phasing through the purchasing cycle and is clearly going after a younger demographic with the “Dark” iteration of its’ current line up. Whether this approach is ultimately successful will be borne out as the economy improves, but making wholesale changes to the basic “identity components” of the brand doesn’t strike me as a prudent model for success.

    I’m baffled by your claim that the GS series was the best selling series during the time period, when the Sportster series sells more units than BMW USA in any given calendar year.

    BTW, my arguments have been on the merits your article posits. I didn’t realize that my personal choice of rides would become the target is such virulent spewing from your readers. My current rides include two Ducati (gasp!), a CBR1000RR (gasp!), a ZRX1200, a ST1300 and yeah, 3 Harleys.

  • 305ed

    @Jensen: PS – BMW GS series sold 24K units vs. Sportster 47K units. Both nubers are worldwide sales.

  • Skipper

    The 2010 Harley “Cross Bones” has the old style single piston caliper on the front and dual piston on the rear with 11″ disks. I would hardly call this modern braking system and I fact it is very dangerous. So here is a 63 horsepower bike with no ABS and a asking price of $17,000. There is not much of a decision to make when comparing this aging under powered, over priced and over weigh design the against the competition. BTW – you have to pay extra for a passenger seat…..

  • Willie

    There is a difference between Jensen the journalist, 305ed the analyst and Willie the insightful.
    While the first two are busy splitting hairs in the office, the other moves forward. Nothing will happen without dramatic upheaval. Pain yields growth. Or death. Your choice. Dither and die or take bold and yes, reasoned action, based on empirical evidence.

    BTW, an interesting read for both of you might be The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Ries and Trout.

    Don’t kid yourself. This is all about marketing. And fiddling around the margins hardly exemplifies the “Motor Company’s” long touted image does it.

    Drop the price. Roll it out everywhere. Play heavy on the imagery. The Sportster is the vehicle.

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  • Singletrack

    ‘Cafe Racer’ , ‘Scrambler’ ?? Just who would those models appeal to? The same 40+ year old (50+?) males that rode bikes in the 70’s.

    And how big is that market? Show us the numbers for Triumph, the primary maker that has ‘heritage’ models in those categories.

    How would a new 20 yr old rider identify with those segment names?

  • A 20 yr old (or 22 in my case but close nough) would identify with a Cafe Racer as it would be reinterpreted in a purely modern, edgy, brooding manner a la Ducati Streetfighter and MV Agusta Brutale…which of course Harley would never get close even if their life depended on it (which this article alludes that their life does) so, screw it.

  • Ken

    HD’s history in flat-tracking is a good entry point into the world of smaller, nimbler, naked motorcycles. There’s a big market around the world for that sort of thing, but it needs new engines. Enormous, inefficient air-cooled, pushrod twins are not going to cut it.

    When did America become so allergic to automotive innovation? After years of milking cash from ancient ladder-chassis platforms and pushrod V8s from the 1960s, the Big Three have been devastated. Ford has life saving new product but it’s all coming from Europe.

    People will certainly accept a badge-engineered lash-up from some boutique Italian operation as long as there’s enough Ohlins and Brembo involved. But HD is supposedly a proper motorcycle company and it ought to be big and ugly enough to engineer an entire bike without help from a grown-up. Why the hell don’t they get on with it?

  • Dawg

    It can be done. Check this beauty!


    Short wheelbase, Brembo brakes, Chain drive, Light weight, simple and fast. It’s not rocket science, it just takes practical thinking, a very skilled designer and builder and a desire to produce something exciting and fun.

    We don’t need traction control, ABS, fly-by-wire throttle and fancy plastic, just power and simplicity. NASA have put men on the moon using computers with less memory than modern cell phone, surely a decent, new Harley Davidson can’t be that difficult to come up with!

  • Yeah, but Harley seems to be from a time before even moonwalking (the NASA kind)…and besides, that streettracker still has the same pushrod v-twin as a regular sportster, so nothing really new at heart – Harley needs to do a hell of a lot more than just a compact custom frame and some sportsbike kit…

  • Skipper

    Harley has only one market- the heavy weight cruiser sold to bikers in there 50’s and 60’s. HD is so entrenched in this market that they let the world pass them by and they keep thinking that these outdated machines will just keep selling forever. All they have to do is keep thinking up stupid names like Fat Boy, Cross Bones, Fat Bob, Nightster and Night Train and people will flock to there dealers to buy one. The only thing new on a new Harley is the newest stupid name and the paint color as everything else is from the parts bin. I guess I will buy a Fat Bob with the American Thunder engine and the Screaming Eagle kit.

  • Sporter

    Why all the bickering over a dead horse. When the current Harley buyers are too old to ride Harley will either go out of business or be greatly downsized. I would guess downsizing would be the way to go. There will still be a few people who will want to ride a heavy outdated cruiser like a Harley and the ones too old to ride can still buy the t-shirts and crap and they can sell parts for the ones still on the road. Maybe 2 or 3 models and one factory. All Harley’s are pretty much the same anyway. One just has more or less chrome than the other or a different paint job or a different fender. Same old antique motor in all of them except the V-Rod. The V-Rod is not considered a Harley buy the Harley crowd because it does not sound cool with loud pipes. Most Harley dealers would not even stock the V-Rod unless HD made them.

  • Dawg

    I realise that the Mule tracker has a Sportster engine, that’s just the point. Harley are in trouble, they can’t afford to design and produce a new engine. They have to ‘make do and mend’.

    It would be a start on the right road. If you want fast, fancy sportsbikes and bikes with all the latest gadgets there are lots to choose from. Harley Davidson has built a reputation based on their old fashioned, classic V twins. I don’t have a problem with buying a simple machine, as long as it can perform well and is reliable. If you can work on it easily yourself, all the better. Service costs for modern machines are getting crazy and one of the reasons young people are not taking up motorcycling is the spiraling cost of keeping a bike on the road, cars are a cheaper option these days.

    Most of the people I see riding bikes these days, (and this is very different from when I started riding 30 years ago), are in their 40s and 50s. I think if I was a 20 year old guy now I would seriously struggle to afford to run a modern sportsbike unless I was earning a very good wage.
    I believe there is a move back to simple machinery now, I wouldn’t necessarily call it nostalgia, just a bit of a backlash against what I think a lot of people see as over complicating what should be a relatively simple mode of transport.

    Most people here seem quite happy to see Harley disappear. I think that would be a real shame, as it is to see any bike manufacturer go under. It was great to see Triumph get back on the road and I would love to see Harley Davidson carry on.

  • pvr

    Motorcyclists should buy what they want and what works for them. If that happens to be image, so be it. As a 50+ rider my first bike was a Buell and I would have stuck with Harley had they invested more in and developed Buell. Those designs are truly innovative and only hampered by the antique powerplant. After Buell’s demise I am no longer interested in HD for anything and I drive a Suzuki which is more than satisfactory in price, peformance, and economy. But whatever you are riding, I salute you just the same.

  • Random

    Hey Willie, you think HD’s saving is coming from abroad? Lemme tell you a little story – actually, send you a little data.
    According to some predictions, Brazil will be among the top 5 bike markets in the next 10 years. Lots of factories currently producing or importing bikes, and every year other ones come agressively into the market. HD is here for about 10 years.
    Harley Davidson sold 3565 bikes here in Brazil in 2009. Well, “it’s the crisis”, you can say. However, Honda sold in the same period 70% more than that number. In a single model. Not the ubiquous 125-150cc models – which sells in the multiple hundreds of thousands – but 6136 Honda Hornet (that’s the 599 in the US of A) units.
    The funny thing is, a Hornet bike ain’t cheap ’round here – particularly considering the national minimun wage. In fact, they cost about 25% more than HD Sportster 883R, and about the same as the 1600cc Dyna Super Glide. It’s just people LOVE them. I’m guilty, I love it too. Heck, even the insurance cost is much higher than custom bikes – which kind of proves robbers like it too.
    You could argue HD presence in Brazil is small compared to the big four. Okay, let’s compare models from the same factory. Honda’s Shadow (750cc) sold 1414 units in the same period – and it’s the biggest seller in the class. It costs about the same too.
    There are no known researchs about HD buyers ages. But I bet most of them are in the 40 to 50’s, dentist or lawyer weekend rebel. But even more people that age or younger go and buy a Honda. And no friend of mine who is in bikes (we are in the 30’s) seems to like HDs.
    And we are talking about bike enthusiasts. Do you know how many people here would rather drive a car than ride a small bike? Interviews of Indian (the country) bikers seem to point the case is about the same, many people willing to trade their Hero Honda’s for Tata’s Nanos if they get the chance.
    In short, I wouldn’t bet HD’s future in the emerging markets.

  • Cliff

    Harley had the perfect vehicle for catching the new generations through Buell, had they the least bit of interest. They’re terrified of changing anything more than the color. Current management doesn’t even understand their own customers (the closest Wandell got to riding before taking over was cruising around in a golf cart). To expect them to understand the need for a marketing shift would be asking too much, I think.

  • Franklin

    Cliff hit the nail right on the head. Harley is stuck in the past with a out of date under powered motor and over weight over priced motorcycles. There only “improvements seem to be a new color or another stupid name like Fat Bob or Cross Bones. There advertising is geared towards the typical outlaw felon biker. I can’t even imagine going into a Harley Davidson dealership. Even the typical Harley salesman has tattoos and a pony tail. Harley dealers are more interested in selling you a do-rag, t-shirt or belt buckle than a new bike. The V-Rod has a Porsche designed motor and is the only motor that is decent and the Harley crowd will not buy it because it does not “sound cool” without a muffler. If Harley is resting its future sales on how there motorcycles “sound” than I do not predict them to be around much longer. They have massive debt due to HDFS, shutting down Buell and the brand new Buell factory that was custom built for them that is sitting empty and HD must pay the lease or buy out the lease for many millions. I think How to Save Harley Davidson is a total restructure of the company and the elimination of at least 30 of there models and concentrate on building 5 or so modern motorcycles with the V-Rod motor, better brakes and less weight and lets not forget a new sport bike. Oh, I forgot HD closed Buell!!!!!

  • meybuz

    I think you know everything about harley davidson.
    I need to make a project about harley davidson.Is it possible to help me?


    They should have kept Buell open and should not hav sol MV Agusta. Those two divisions had the product and technology that H-D could have used to catapult H-D to the forefront of other moto segments. Harley was never really dedicated to gettin Buell truly off the ground. They have wasted so much money on their current product and it is all the same year in and year out. have they learned nothing from the big three in Detroite?


    They should have kept Buell open and should not hav sol MV Agusta. Those two divisions had the product and technology that H-D could have used to catapult H-D to the forefront of other moto segments. Harley was never really dedicated to gettin Buell truly off the ground. They have wasted so much money on their current product and it is all the same year in and year out. have they learned nothing from the big three in Detroite?

  • Donny

    Harley davidson should end half of all there cruisers and make sport bikes and sport touring bikes alone side there v-rod line,if they think generation x will ride a soft tail there nuts,we will die before we get that old,harley should stick with there v-rod there baggers there trikes and the buell 1125 sport bike and the buell xb12ss sport touring bike and thats it, If the harley davidson guys keep slapping each other on the back and keep up this were the best with out change,they will be the next indian motorcycle 30,000 dollars a peace and 5 people own one,(Most generation x follow the WW2 rule, the only cars trucks and motorcycles come from america and england),and most of my generation is eyeing up triumph and victory like an over weight boomer at a BBQ.(PS) VICTORY AND TRIUMPH DO NOT HAVE PRICE GOUGING.

  • OverHD

    I bought into the whole mystique hook line and sinker. I wanted to join that community and ride a big loud hunk of metal waiving the American flag that I fought for. I finally bought my big American cruiser and dropped about $20k chasing the dream. I went to the rallies and road in the parades. As I participated I noticed a curious thing. For a non-conformist lifestyle there sure were a lot of rules. Don’t wear a helmet, if you have to wear the one with the least protection. You need these kind of leathers not those kind. Don’t wear red its reserved for the HA’s. Yadda Yadda Yadda. Suddenly I felt like I was trapped in some alternate universe renaissance fair. Don’t break the illusion. What a crock. I was willing to overlook the stunning lack of usefulness of this genre of bike to begin with but the more I rode the more I found lacking. A buddy of mine who rides a Ducati suggested I try a sport bike. One ride and my grin grew from ear to ear. THIS IS WHAT A MOTORCYCLE IS SUPPOSED TO FEEL LIKE! I yelled at the top of my lungs as I flew down the road. It was a used Kawasaki ZZR600. I put my “Hog” up for sale the next day. I still have my chaps in case I want to dress like the Village People for Halloween but I got rid of the rest of the useless garb. I lost over 12K on the deal in the end but I learned to love motorcycles again. I sold my car and bought a BMW S1000RR, a BMW G450X and a Yamaha FJR. I bike for every occasion. I realized too late that the Harley legend is a lie that should be left to those who actually live it. The true “bikers” are the ones who wear read and patched up leather vests. Plenty of them are my friends and when they give me a hard time about my rice burner, or kraut burner. I just laugh and say “I made a deal with my buddies that one of us needed a reliable bike to ride to the Harley dealer to pick up parts.” or “I know you love HD but if they made a plane would you fly in it?” That usually shuts them up with a laugh. As for a manufacturer that exemplifies what your articles point out, one need look no further than BMW. They make a very wide range of bikes for premium prices and have a rabid following that covers every inch of the globe. Yet with all that success they still managed to take the sportbike world by storm with their S1000RR and increased their sales by 21% in the middle of the same recession that has seen so many other fall by the wayside. I think people forget that the reason that the Japanese, Italians, and Germans are so much better at making motorcycles is that they all had the snot bombed out of them and needed motorcycles as a basic form of transport and not a weekend toy. For every Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha or Kawasaki there were literally hundreds of other brands you never heard of because only the best survived and those four also make many other things from industrial machinery to musical instruments. Harley makes one thing and one thing poorly, they got lazy like so many other American manufacturer’s that had a captive audience and a great story to tell. They much like the Tea Party are in love with idolized America in the 50s that never really existed. They cling to Elivs, Applie Pie and Chevrolet. We a Americans have so much to be proud of that is modern, like the freaking Internet for example, but a waning, vocal, pseudo majority, typified by Harley Davidson cling to a rose colored vision of a past glory that will fade into memory as the keepers of that flame pass into senility. As the lilly white of our faces change to darker hues companies like HD who have not reached out to anyone but the palest among us will fade with away to small minority of people who actually live the lifestyle, the 1%. In the mean time I will be at the track burning as much fossil fuel as I can going in circles for as long as I can before everything is electric and silent. My Hoveround will have only two wheels!

  • MaryNO

    Howdy, Just saying hello to this forum.