Harley fumbles response to NY Times criticism

Dailies -


Harley_NY_Times.jpgThe advertisement above is scheduled to run in tomorrow’s edition of
The New York Times in response to a business feature from last Sunday
that revealed an increasingly desperate financial situation at
Harley-Davidson. Rather than addressing the concerns raised by The
, this ad instead attempts to create some bizarre riposte centered
around patriotism, anti-establishment rebellion, class solidarity and
plain old optimism; culminating in an appeal for readers to buy the
company’s motorcycles. If this is the best Harley can do to reassure
employees, dealers, investors and customers in the face of financial
disaster, then we’re very worried. >

Jim Ziemer, Harley’s president and CEO, revealed the ad in the following email to employees:

Dear fellow employees,

As you may know, The New York Times wrote a decidedly one-sided and naïve story on the state of our business this past Sunday. Unsurprisingly, Harley-Davidson employees, dealers and customers disagreed.  So, we decided to show how we all feel about this story and created an ad that we are running this Sunday in the same business section of The New York Times.

You can see the ad below.  It reminds me of how proud I am to work with such a passionate and dedicated group of people. There’s no question that 2009 will be a challenging year for our business.  But, there’s also no question that Harley-Davidson is addressing the challenges. We have the right strategy, the right dealers, the right employees and the right attitude and spirit to emerge from the recession stronger than ever.

Thank you for all you do to support one of the world’s most respected and strongest brands, Harley-Davidson.

Let’s Ride.

Ziemer plans to retire later this year.

The article Ziemer refers to, “Harley, You’re Not Getting Any Younger,” describes the two-pronged impact on the motorcycle maker caused by the Financiapocalypse; not only are sales down, but Harley’s sub-prime loan practice has left it nearly devoid of operating capital.

According to The Times, Harley needs $1 billion just to continue to give customers loans through the end of this year. To this date, it’s only managed to raise $600 million by borrowing two equal-sized sums from Warren Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway and Davis Selected Advisers. Harley is paying 15 percent interest on both loans. If it’s unable to continue offering loans to its customers, sales are expected to decrease at an even more rapid rate than they already are.

The Times goes on to describe Harley’s focus on making products for and marketing to Baby Boomers over a younger audience as “backfiring.” The company was banking on Boomers providing a valuable market for at least the next 15 years, but as 401Ks and other investments have dried up, so has that age group’s ability and willingness to purchases new motorcycles. The average age of Harley customers has increased from 42 to 49 years old in the last five years. Even though it makes 50 percent of all heavyweight motorcycles sold in the US, Harley faces much stiffer competition for sales from foreign brands — which have done a significantly better, if still somewhat questionable, job of appealing to younger people — among the Boomer’s offspring.

“We’re encouraging our designers to think out of the box,” Ziemer told The Times. “We have to be quicker, more responsive to what our customers want. And we will.”

The paper goes on to identify a decrease in customer loyalty as Harleys flood the marketplace and an inability to offload bad loans as further problems facing the company. Stock in Harley-Davidson has fallen 70 percent since last September, comparing unfavorably to a 36 percent decline during the same time for the S&P 500 index.

The story also contains anecdotal evidence of Harley dealers struggling to survive in this climate.

Neither tomorrow’s ad nor Ziemer’s email does much to address the issues raised in this “decidedly one-sided and naïve story.” Instead, it relies on the same marketing and attitude that the article says isn’t working to make an irrational case for sales. If we were an employee, dealer, investor or customer, we’d want Ziemer to provide clear and direct answers to the following questions:

What steps is Harley-Davidson taking to design motorcycles for and market to a new audience?

How does it plan to address the shortfall between current investments and the need for more capital to continue current loan practices in the short term?

What long-term sales models is it developing to replace the current practice of financing customer purchases?

Ziemer mentions “out of the box” and “more responsive” designs. What are the details of those? When can we expect them?

If market conditions worsen, which it looks like they will, how does Harley plan to repay Berkshire Hathaway and Davis Selected Advisers?

How does Harley intend to support dealers saddled with bikes they can’t sell?

Thanks for the tip, Hermit. Have info or material you want to see published on Hell For Leather? Send an email to tips@hellforleathermagazine.com

  • DoctorNine

    Harley isn’t going anywhere. I’d be more concerned about the NY Times than HD. The quality of their ‘news’ just keeps getting worse and worse. The market appears to be in the bottom of the trough, if you look at the numbers, indicating a high statistical likelihood that the long ride back up is about to begin. Pissant New York reporters notwithstanding.

  • Tomahawk

    Don’t worry about Harley’s future, MV Agusta will save them. :)

  • Doug

    Shame to see new ads appearing on this site. Ruins the aesthetic virtue that made HFL so unique to begin with — though we all have to eat, I suppose.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

      I’d rather have every ad made bespoke by HFL for HFL, Doug, or at least have veto rights. Sadly, internet advertising tends to be managed by incompetent “Executive Assistant Brand Manager” monkeys.

      I can still dream that when the fallout is over, companies that want to advertise their wares understand the power of the relationship between smart design and nuanced, honest and aspirational messaging that lets the product speak for itself.

      I can also dream that I am Master of the Universe.

  • Patrick

    Notwithstanding the empty rhetoric of harley’s cliche riddled ad-fantasy, the phrase ending with “pink collars, or no collar at all” seems to indicate some rather progressive perspectives about their clientele. Heterosexist concession, or genuine inclusiveness? Are they really so ‘up against the ropes’ that they would acknowledge, however tangentially, that some of their riders are, indeed, gay? If so, then why the ridiculous posturing, and not a more coherent response, as demanded by this blog?

    Harley, likely, have no idea about how to return their bikes to the curbs and oil stained back-alley carports of the kids who ride this-century revolutionary machines, motards and streetfightered sportbikes.

    • kawalser


    • RA Wright

      I’ll resist the urge to reply to Patrick by using terms like”dummy”. Not gonna do it.Instead I’ll simply share my initial thought when I read the line “pink collar”. GIRLS! Harley has sucessfully cultivated a strong customer base(as well as employee base) amongst our fairer sex.Gee-ckeckout the color of many of the garments in the Womens section of the Motorclothes catalog. Betchya you’ll find a lot of……you guessed it……..PINK. Now-if yer little brain registered sumpin else over “pink collar”………

      • Patrick

        Case in point, maybe. I might have been referring to motorcycle culture’s 50s era quaintness when it comes to gendering riders (note, for instance, your immediate compulsion to infantilize both homosexuality and femininity). I might also have been pointing out that, regardless of gender politics, Harley spews idiotic americana in an attempt to reinflate its flaccid, as it were, stock price, cultural cachet, and desirability.

        (what is this doing on a blog anyway? next!)

    • Jim

      Idiot, they are referring to women, not gays.

      • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

        Hey, there’s nothing wrong with wishful thinking, but there is something wrong with bigotry, so let’s play nice.

    • Hawky

      I took pink collar to mean women.

  • harrison pendergrass

    Screw you & screw the NY Times. Harley Davidson’s response is a great response. I’m a firm believer in their product and the variety of model choices available, and also believe in the dreams behind the foundation that drives a rider to them. You are welcome to feel otherwise. If you don’t feel it, then you will never understand it, and I don’t need to waist much time to help you get there. You most likely don’t have any Berkshire Hathaway in your pocket, you’re just a broke ass writer. Warren Buffitt and the holders of his interest certainly get it, as does he. Its called “Hanging In” for the “Long Haul” and keeping your dreams alive.

    • kawalser


    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      If you actually read what this broke-ass writer wrote, you’ll see that we’re actually rooting for Harley’s future here.

  • harrison pendergrass

    kawalser, Thank you for the spell check (waste-waist). I’m venting like a Old Dog and Shooting from the hip (waist) here. I’m Okay Now. I’ll get back on the porch and lick my balls and quit barking. I still remember the days when my Shovel Head would chase me. I agree to disagree.

  • http://cohobot.blogspot.com/ coho

    “Seize the throttle and give it a fearless twist forward?”

    • dwight-675

      Apparently they can afford copywriters (who don’t ride?), but not proofreaders.

      Also, memo to Harley brass: Newspapers’ primary source of revenue is ad sales. There’s no less effective way to show your displeasure at what they wrote than to give them gobs of YOUR money. Especially when the money’s costing you 15%.

      • http://suspectsunlimited.com Cru Jones

        I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. However, I’d argue that you need to change the “YOUR” to “OUR.” ;)

    • SpecialEd

      Yeah, WTF? I guess the non-moto public wouldn’t understand that a twist backwards makes the bike go forwards… Lame as always, Hogly Fergeson

  • http://www.piaggiousa.com/ Enthusiast

    Nobody buys new bikes anymore, nobody gives loans for new bikes. People are buying used, because that’s what they can afford. I thought motorcycle prices would go down with the economy but they have gone up, considerably. Every single manufacture is hurting right now, nobody is doing stellar sales.

    Explain to me how a long-winded response by Harley Davidson would impress their customers into going out and buying a motorcycle. If you can strike a nerve and evoke a primal response out of a person, you have them sold. Remember how much American flag merchandise was sold after 9/11, it is the perfect example.

    You are not HD target customer Wes. Nor am I, but I understand it.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Have you read the NY Time article? They’re in a bad way, think GM and Chrysler. If you were an investor would this ad reassure you? If you were a dealer, would you feel comfortable in your future? Maybe the fact that you and I aren’t their target customer is one of the problems here.

  • Ben

    Reading the responses here are pretty interesting, as they tend to be in most any mixed motorcycling community around any remotely anti-genre discussion comes up. Unfortunately, we may not have the luxury of class wars if all of this keeps up.

    Wes raises a fantastic point. This ad is a miserable “response” to the monumental problems that are facing Harley. As damning as the NYT article may have been, there are tons of questions in there that many of us in the community are wondering about. Were this ad in conjunction with some kind of appropriate response, I’d actually enjoy it. That’s just not the case here.

    I’m not a Harley rider, nor a cruiser rider, nor do I ever intend to be. I am a motorcyclist, proud to be a part of a community and lifestyle that I love, and I sincerely hope that Harley has a better answer than a bailout cry.

  • Mike

    Interesting that HD has to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars to stay afloat, after spending what, 120 million on MV? What’s wrong with this picture? More bad loans on Italian bikes?

    • Hoggdoc

      As a former Harley Tech and Salesman I can tell you this problem with HD has been brewing far longer than the economic downturn.

      This new ad reveals what is endemic in the Motor Company’s approach to business. Basically they have been for years flooding the market with more bikes than the market could absorb. Then there is their push towards the BAD BOY image in their ads.

      Their belief that anything they brought to market would sell just because of the HD logo on the tank has been proven time after time to be wrong. Also their MACHO approach to advertising is not only wrong, but sends the wrong idea of what it means to ride a HD.

      The Motor Company’s focus on the BAD BOY image, instead of encouraging people to buy and ride their product for the love of riding has bitten them in the ass more than once. Many cities have cracked down on the offensively loud bikes that so many HD riders believe they need to be safe.

      For example Myrtle Beach South Carolina had been the host to an early spring East Coast rally for years. That all stopped this year when the city decided that they now longer wanted the rowdy bunch in their town. Keep in mind this was done fully knowing that the revenue produced by the city businesses during the rally amounted to a hugh portion of their annual income.

      Harley dealers were forced, pushed and sometimes threatened into investing millions without HD’s help. The reward for doing well based on HD’s customer satisfaction surveys was getting more units to sell. This arrogance on the part of the Motor Company appears to be their down-fall. I for one had suggested to the CEO to reduce product in order to maintain the demand and urgency to buy for the product.

      The Motor Company was slow to respond to the dealers request to reduce product and as a result left the dealers resorting to deep discounts to move product. This along with the reduced demand for the HD high priced spread has caused a collapse of the new and used HD market.

      I personally believe that HD will be gone by the end of this year along with 700 plus dealers stuck with hugh inventories and hugh debt.

  • http://www.bikeexif.com Chris Hunter

    There’s a cheesy old phrase: “Innovate or die”. But the last time Harley innovated was when the V-Rod launched, which must be almost a decade ago now.

    If the company is built entirely on tradition, it’ll go the way of tradition. Or it’ll end up as a niche maker trading on former glories, like Enfield. (Or a clothing manufacturer making retro leather jackets for urban wannabes after that edgy Hell’s Angels vibe.)

    Wheeling out the flag was the worst thing to do in these circumstances – and a dumb, retaliatory error of judgement from Harley’s marketing department. (Or was it a knee-jerk response driven by a panicky C-suite exec?)

    Whatever the circumstances, the ad is a cheap trick. And it won’t translate into much-needed dollars. There will be a big cheer from one section of the Harley audience, but they won’t be the ones going to the dealership tomorrow with money in their pockets for a new V-Rod or Iron 883.

    Right now, Harley needs the support of the press more than ever. And although the New York Times’ star might be on the wane, Harley sure needs the NYT on its side.

    If I was a major Harley shareholder, I’d be screaming for blood. After the marketing stagnation of the last decade, the past year has caught Harley offside worse than most. The company needs new directors with a fresh vision – and quickly.

    One of the biggest potential tragedies here is MV Agusta, which is now owned by Harley. Hopefully the Italian company will not be derailed by Harley’s troubles.

    Right now, Harley’s management needs to take a long, hard look at Triumph’s business model. Note the successful split between the ‘heritage’ and ‘modern’ approaches? (Ducati and Moto Guzzi have done the same, albeit on a smaller scale.)

    And if Erik Buell can make a living from selling modern takes on the classic American V-Twin, surely Harley can do it better? Buell’s products are not perfect, but they’re cannibalising income that Harley should claim as its own.

    Unless a huge taxpayer’s loan appears, Harley needs to rediscover the spirit of innovation – fast. Otherwise, the company will wither away, and eventually die.

    • Hoggdoc


      Buell was purchased by Harley a number of years when it’s founder could not make a profit selling his over-priced under performance sport bikes.

      Read my response to Mike for some insight from a former insider what HD’s problem is caused by.

  • Spencer

    HD is just a business like any other – the fact that they have managed to sell such lo-tech bikes for so long and still have everyone think they are ‘All-American’ is a remarkable feat envied by all their competitors I would imagine.

    HD bikes are all about emotion and image – not tech, not quality, value for money or even the best ride.

    That’s why they’re still in business and why they responded the way they did.

    Sadly, the American Eagle will not swoop down from the brooding heavens to wrench HD’s still beating heart from the clamour of evil creditors: buyers with cash will save them.

    If I had $20K cash to spend on a bike it wouldn’t be on a “Dark Custom’. meh! how out of touch can you be?

  • TeeJay

    Not if I had any common with Mr. Barger, but I have to quote him in case: “Fuck Harley!”.

    HD is rather a legend than a fine motorcycle. I understand that in the US a high-torque low rev bike is better to use on a long journey, there is the bad boy attitude of HD, but please, HD it’s an overpriced obsolete vintage type, less reliable than any Jap.

    I have to agree with Chris Hunter’s comment above…

  • DougF

    I’ve had the good fortune to have owned many motorcycles in my life. I’ve liked all of them, Harleys included. I hope any motorcycle manufacturer can survive this economic crisis. Man, I do get tired of the bickering. The New York Times is merely raising discussion points, and Harley is probably quite aware. As someone who’s owned a Harley, I do think their price point is quite an issue these days. Oh, yeah the reliability comments on the Harleys are not my personal experience. I’ve ridden across Canada on an evo engine, and not one problem. No oil leaks, no problems period. Road it for 5 years, and sold it for more than I paid for it. Only vehicle I’ve every owned that happened with. I was riding a NSR 400 Honda next. The Honda’s been sold as well. I love motorcycles.

  • Phoghat

    When I was 16 (a long time ago) I bought a Harley at auction. It was a pig but I loved it (didn;t know any better). Had a bunch of Honda bikes in between and decided I wanted a 2005 Fat Boy Anniversary Model.
    I thought “Hell it’s been a long time. They’re improved. The keep their value.” BS.
    It rode the same as that Harley I’d had so long ago: lousy brakes, clunky tranny, and it weighed a gazillion pounds. Tried to sell it, it keeps its value right? Right I took a $7,000 hit.
    Now I have a 2008 M109 Suzuki. Faster, Better mileage, more power.
    Face it the only people “buying” Harleys are middle aged poseurs like I almost became.

  • JJ

    As a motorcycle rider, not part of a community or lifestyle as someone mentioned above, HD always gave me the creeps. It’s not because it’s American (I’m Portuguese but I’m in Love of the USA since I was a youngster, fascinated by the 70′s and beyond lifestyle and life quality of the middle class american) but because HD transcends in the worst way the emotional disarrangement of a product. If you buy a HD motorcycle you don’t buy a motorcycle, you buy a lifestyle. That message for me is dead wrong. You should buy something that pleasures you for it’s quality, it’s performance, and because you love the way it looks, not to be accepted or to make a stand in the community. I constantly find people buying HD’s spending an enormous amount of money in a HD leather jacket, HD leather boots, etc, just because of the looks and to be part of something. As I read once somewhere “Harley Davidson’s motorbikes are the most efficient way to transform gasoline into noise without the harmful side-effect of horsepower”. And even that truthful description is dead wrong in an environmental crisis as we’re in, with the minds changing regarding pollution (CO2 and noise). I ride a Triumph, and I can truly say that I have a preety unique lower noise bike(I wish it was even lower), plenty horsepower (+130bhp) with HUGE torque (three cylinders bike) that satisfies my speeding needs, and with an electronic injection and a Catalysator (the best environmental solution IMHO while electrical powered bikes doesn’t hit the market at moderate prices). This to say that a company like HD, with this kind of messages, will continue to sell less and less bikes as the new generation, environmentally more acquainted and without having to feel part of a bike community/lifestyle to be happy, comes in. HD in a near future won’t be missed.
    PS: Thank’s to HFL, Wes and Grant, for broadening my horizons (past and future) regarding motorbikes.

  • v

    i would like to add another question,What will be the future of the buell and the cagiva group?here in europe the brutale is such an aspirational model for a lot of bikers,probably the best of the nakeds and it would be a shame for it to be sent to the history books,same goes for the f4 but i have really taken a liking to the 1078 brute after a brief test ride organised by a dealer on a local track,and i was not alone

  • Generic1776

    HD and HD Riders are dinosaurs. After 50 years of refusing to evolve they have some how grown to be the top of the food chain. Now they are aging, with a customer base slowly dying off from old age, poor credit and rising standards.

    Yet HD’s vocabulary has yet to include the words “smarter, better, faster and cheaper”; while the competition not only has been doing more with less, they have also grabbed the younger market, raising expectations for performance, price and reliability. Up to and including doing a HD better than HD.

    HD may not fail, but they will not survive in their traditional path. They’ll lose thousands of employees and dealerships along the way to extinction, while leaving vast bone yards of vehicles and small shops patching and mending together bikes until gasoline is no longer available.

    HD won’t go away, in fact if it did technically “fold”, nobody would notice, since the only thing that will stop is the non-existent “yearly improvements”, rereleasing the same shitty technology that they have for the past 50 years with the latest in paint schemes and “anniversary badges”.

    How am I affected? Not at all. I’ll continue to ride 80+ miles a day on my UJM, working in the city and living in the hills. I’ll still wave at the dinosaurs, expecting everyday to be their last. In an odd way, I’ll probably miss them when they are gone.

  • Oscar

    All I want to know is; what happens to Buell if Harley has to sell to raise capital? Would Polaris, for example, buy? Who else might be interested?

  • Dyna

    The posts here from the guys who think Harley going to fold are a$$. Do you think a company that has 30% of the motorcycle market in the US is going to go under?? Screw the Times!!!

  • thomashenny


    Nothing is impossible. AIG was the world’s biggest insurer and we all know what happened with that. Even before the HD layoffs and this NYT article, I always knew there’ll be a day when they will go under and this is the beginning. I can understand why HD riders have buyers’ regret; no one wants to be on a losing team.

  • Dyna

    I have no regrets Thomas. Harley makes a great product. I’m sure every motorcycle manufacture would kill to have 30% of the US market. I see that this site is mostly geared to sports bikes and that’s why there is so much negative comments about Harley on here. There will always be more Harleys on the road then all the sport bike from every manufacture combined. I’m sure thats why there are so many jealous people on here. Guess they don’t want to be on the losing team.

  • Dyna

    One more thing Thomas, Harley didn’t lose money in 2008, they made money (profit). The only part that did have a loss was there credit corp but they still made a PROFIT!! I don’t think Harley is going under anytime soon.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

      I’m afraid that profit from 2008 has been wiped clean by a 600 million dollar debt at %15 interest, Dyna. The payoff of which is dependent on a demographic recently stripped of its credit liquidity, sending it into a shock of widespread consumer stasis.

      This isn’t brand-hating, Dyna. Sadly, its business dictated by market pressures and years of corporate culture ripe with poor decision making and even poorer marketing practices.

      Strangling innovation at Buell for years with fears of brand diversion and dilution is one of Harley’s greatest sins. The other being the lack of developing a truly capable V-Rod platform with multiple offerings as a long-term investment for band and market-share growth.

      We don’t want Harley to go away. We just want them to get their act together.

  • Dyna

    Gee Grant, sounds like there are a lot of people here that want Harley to go away. Thomas said and I quote “i always knew there’ll be a day when they will go under”. Maybe you should read some of the posts on here.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

      My apologies for not being clear, Dyna. I mean HFL when using the pronoun “we.”

      As for the other readers’ comments, I always read them all.

  • Jack

    (There will always be more Harleys on the road)

    Yes there will, the rest made it home.
    Like Jesse James said,Pay up sucker.

  • Ken

    From marketing genius to GM’s cellmate in just a few months. I suspect, as many of the posters here have stated, HD’s problems are more internal than external.

    Yet no one’s mentioned BMW. They used to make pensionable steam bicycles, just like HD. Unlike HD they saw the wall writing and invested massive amounts in exciting new products that appeal to younger riders. Consequently, we don’t hear them whining about the credit crunch.

    I suspect the problem is Willie G and his ilk. I bet there are people at HD who’d jump at the chance to make a flat-tracker or a motard or a V4 sports bike. Let ‘em.

  • sam

    that ad turned my stomach it was so cliche. weve already had our patriotic feelings raped 8 years ago, to drag us blindly into war.

    Dyna, there arent HD haters here, theyre just realists, saying “i always knew there’ll be a day when they will go under” just means that he realizes that HD’s policies for the past decade have been self destructive. they were loose in good times and now they suffer. Maybe you should READ some of the posts on here.

  • geonerd

    this story wins for most commented on, i’d bet. anyway, “Screw it” seems like exactly the right attitude to have in this economy. screw innovation. screw employees. screw customers. that’ll get them out of the red.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Actually, I think the depressingly mediocre Triumph Thunderbird 1600 still wins that fight.

      And just for the record: we’re not the kind of publication that exclusively focuses on sportsbikes or dirt bikes or adventure tourers. We like all kinds of bikes, we just like those bikes to be good. We look forward to the day when we ride a good Harley.

  • Dyna

    Please Wes, everyone here can see 90% of the write ups on here are geared to sport bikes. I would have not even come on this page if I wasn’t directed from a better web page about motorcycles that has better and a non bias writing style. All you are doing with your bias writing is losing readers Wes. You should try and stay neutral in your writing. I know I won’t be back here anymore and I won’t be suprised if 30% of the US market who buys motorcycles isn’t back either.

    • thomashenny

      I have never owned a sportbike; it’s more like a sports-tourer. I also don’t hate HD, especially not the shaft-driven models from 1942 and these, http://www.hidemo.net/eng/

      Lastly, I don’t ever want to wish failure for anyone; that’s just bad karma. That comment of mine came from a strong feeling I had in my gut. Like Sam said, I was just being a realist.

    • JJ

      I don’t like sport bikes. I ride a naked bike.
      And this is my favorite motorcycle website.

      Exactly because of the fact that it’s not biased and has an intelligent and rare way(in the way that affiliates technology and design) of promoting the love for motorcycles.

      It’s called evolution, Dyna, and you should consider yourself lucky in having this kind of content available to you.

      Maybe you’ll learn something, if you’re able to read and think a little beyond what’s happening in your “backyard”.

      In the meantime “seize the throttle and give it a fearless twist forward”, just be sure that you’re not in front of a cliff when you do it.
      Otherwise you won’t be able to see the good things that are coming our way.

    • Cynic

      I doubt with your last post you’ll ever see this. Regardless I wanted to point out that one of the reasons that “90%” of the posts on HFL are sportbike related is because those are the companies doing something NEW and INNOVATING, which is what HFL posts about. I really hope HD doesn’t go away, I’d like to own one someday, but they still need to do something about the hole they’re in.

  • http://www.cerberusmotorcycles.com dave

    People- “pink collar” means REDNECK.

    “Gay”… Hahaha.. whatever.

    I don’t believe that HFL’s writing is ‘biased’ towrds sportbikes… It’s biased towards practical motorcycles. True, Wes may not be a ‘Harley-guy’ and I know Grant isn’t. BUT saying that thier writing is ‘biased’ against H-D is absurd. If that was truly the case, you wouldn’t see anything at all said about the Motor Company.

    The ad above is juvenile. It’s a very low-brow attempt at ‘getting the lifestyle’ that really only applies to the morons who ‘live the H-D life’ and treat H-D branded products like Gucci. Harley’s demographic is dying off. The younger generation doesn’t want 800lb road-couches. Admittedly, H-D is ‘trying’ to offset this by offering more ‘customs’ that fit the current bikes that you actually see real people riding, but it’s not enough… They may make some headway, but the ‘loyalists’ will balk at anything new and innovative. Look at the V-Rod: “hardcore” H-D riders HATED it. “That’s not a Harley” they said… Sales suffered, and the bikes languished past the initial ‘Gotta have one’ buyers… It’s now starting to come around, only 8+ years after the fact… Any other company would have dropped that albatross. Nothing new with Harley, though.

    They need to change the ads, it’s offensive to the rest of us, and quite embarassing.

  • Generic1776


    Do you believe HD is making the right business decisions to shape the buyers perspective in order to attract the young people to buy their motorcycles?

    Except for offering sub-prime loans, what changes do you think are necessary to improve business by at least 3%?

  • geonerd

    HD is completely dodging the question. the NYT article brings up some serious questions that need to be answered. The possibility of HD going bankrupt this year is a very real possibility. I hope the NYT doesn’t let Harley off on this one. It’s too important.

    Their response? “Screw it” “Head-in-the-sand” “Stay the course”.

    It’s sad and it’s unacceptable. Now is the time for innovation. Not 15 years from now when all the baby boomers start keeling over.

    I’m 31 years old, and I love America. Build me a bike, a good, reliable technologically sound bike, and I’m yours for the next 30 years.

  • Botswana Meat Commission FC

    Harley guys are funny. Any bike that doesn’t have the orange shield on its tank automatically gets tagged as “sportbike.” It seems like so many of them have no idea what’s going on in the wider motorcycle community.

    I honestly think a lot of H-D people really are just naive about the sheer performance advantage of the other bike brands nowadays. It’s like they’re stuck in a 1972 time-warp bubble, when the Dyna Glide or whatever was pretty much in the same ballpark as Triumph/Norton/Honda/etc.

  • http://ridethetorquecurve.blogspot.com hoyt

    Imagine if GM put out an ad equivalent to the HD ad above…

    Somehow, the damage HD is receiving from this ad is much Less than the would-be damage GM would receive. That points to other problems with our country…

    Accountability is close to zero in everything we do.

    HD will survive, but how much of that survival will be from the help of the American masses who know nothing about HD except for its “mystique” and that it “oughta-be” saved ’cause its as ‘Merican as apple pie?

    The ad above is hypocritical. It suggests some individual tenacity in business that will see them through. What individual choices towards innovation to meet changing markets has HD made in order to be around for the next 105 years? “Screw it. Let’s Ride” suggests you haven’t thought about it, yet.

    Continue to build the Road King, but build other models now if you want to be around in the next 105 years.

    “fearless twist forward” – the gaffe says it all. HD tried to be a badass and they screwed that up.

  • NR

    Advertising isn’t about answering questions.

    This isn’t Consumer Reports.

    Selling attitude is what they do.

    That is their particular slice of the bullshit pie.

    • http://ridethetorquecurve.blogspot.com hoyt

      “selling attitude is what they do”

      really? then what are they doing to meet the changing attitudes?

      In 25+ years will they just expect “the attitude” to buy into an electric bike with Road King styling?

  • nick

    i think that was a pretty bad ass FU NY Times! from HD.
    I dont know of many companies that have the balls to go on a periodical like the NY times and tell them to “shove it where the sun dont shine”, i admire that.

    specially since the NY Times will be out of circulation much sooner than HD at the rate newspapers are loosing subscribers. Even without taking the economy into account the NY Times is living in borrowed time while HD is suffering from the economy and will rebound with it no problem….as long as they survive….NY Times will cease regardless of the economy, killed by mobile devices and internet.

  • http://www.damiengaudet.com blankfocus

    HD Deathwatch series coming?
    I for one don’t know that much about Harleys because they never interested me very much. Not really due to the bikes…but more so because of the culture that surrounds the bikes. Leather chaps, vests, tassles on the bars, everything possible with logo slapped on it, and annoyingly loud pipes.

  • http://bikerintexas.wordpress.com/ FM

    I don’t understand how the foreign brands can do a job that is “significantly better”, but “still somewhat questionable”.

    I’m not a particular fan of H-D or the so-called “Lifestyle” that (blankfocus) refers to but I’d hate to see more Americans unemployed. Company heads seem convince that the s.o.s. will rescue them, though. Iaccoca told us, years ago, that “Heartbeat of America sentiment” wasn’t enough in a competitive market.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      It’s pretty simple. The Japanese and European brands do a terrible job marketing themselves to anyone under the age of 47, Harley does an even worse job.

  • Clarke Johnston

    Harley still has an image problem and a price problem. Image: All the bad boys (Hells Angels, Mongols, etc) still identify only with the big twin (Usually stolen, or needing repairs) Despite the infusion of Doctors & Lawyers who suddenly decided to become “bikers”, many Harley riders are just a-holes who wouldn’t stop and help another rider unless they too are on a Harley. It’s a form of bigotry, really. I see them all the time with their stupid Nazi helmets and straight pipes putting out over 100 decibels of racket, terrifying the car-bound regular folks. Is that really necessary? Scaring ordinary folks? Secondly, price: However ugly with all the plastic, a Suzuki M109R smokes every Harley except the V-Rod, and even then with a significant savings. While the various Sportsers come in a reasonable price points, a Road King is too pricey by the time you factor in pipes, intake and others mods. There are some of us who maintain cars for ourselves and our wives, too, and spending over $20K on a bagger is a bit too much. Sadly, owning a Harley has become very ordinary, commonplace, and yes, conventional. Signs of hope: The new Fat Bob with twin headlights and dual discs-a step in the right direction. Now, just juice it up and get her into a 12-second quarter mile time, include a passenger seat into the base price, and we’re going to get some younger riders, for a change.

  • luckyguy19

    A few years ago I rode into a Harley dealer with my dad (My bike 02 GSX-R 1000, Dad’s HD Duce). He needed to pick up an oil filter.

    They were having a tent sale, all the new Harley’s and Buells out front.

    I walked up to a Buell and was checking it out. A salesman comes over, the first thing he says; “When are you going to trade that Suzuki for a real bike.” To which I reply “What do you mean?” He starts telling me about how fast a Buell is stop light to stop light, and how great they are on the track. I’m an avid track day rider. I invited him out to the next track day to show me. Of course he never did. We all know the performance of a GSX-R1000 compared to an air cooled Buell. After some back and forth discussion, I walked away.

    It’s this mentality that is killing Harley. All bikes have their place. Harley is certainly not the be-all, end-all of motorcycles. My first bike was a Harley, I even like some of the new blacked out Sportsters. I want a bike that go’s, stops, and turns, without making excuses. That is just not the type of bike Harley makes. My dad will probably never buy another bike, so all Harley has left for a potential customer is me. But I honestly can’t see myself on a Harley anytime soon.

    Interestingly enough, I ended up buying two Ducatis at the same time from that salesman a couple years later. He didn’t like the direction the local Harley dealer was going and started working at the Ducati dealer. True story, I don’t hold a grudge.

  • Cactus

    It is not a big surprise that bad loans are dragging Harley down. When I was in college a couple years ago, I went into the dealership and got a loan for a Buell that cost double what I made that year.(Shows how little I made) They knew how much I made and had no problem with it…

  • worker

    Wes, did you happen to contact Harley-Davidson to inquire about their reason for this ad? From my understanding, Harley went to great lengths to ensure that the freelance reporter had all the facts about Harley before she wrote her article, since this was her first article about anything in the motorcycle industry. She used minimal information provided by Harley, some of the information she did use she used out of context. I just think that people should do a little more research before they say that a company is destined for doom. But that’s just my opinion, not trying to down-talk anyone.

  • Skadoo

    I came late to this discussion, but I just have to put in my two bits. Late May, stuck on a 3-foot wide breakdown lane on the side of I-40 in North Carolina with a blown rear tire on my Yamaha FJR1300A. Trucks flying by at 80 MPH. Two HD riders, mid-50s, pass on the OTHER side of the highway. Next thing I know, the two of them have pulled up in front of me and spent the next 3 hours doing all they could to help plug the tire, and then waiting with me ’til help came from a local dealer. Wouldn’t take any money, just asked me to “pass it on.” They wasted 3 sweaty hours of their lives helping a guy with a “jap” bike that they didn’t know from a hole in the wall. I’ve gotta say that it changed my perception of the typical HD rider. If they were all like that, the legend would still be living strong.

  • Lafitte

    Having lost my BMW (purchased new in 02) to Hurricane Ike in 2008 , I replaced it this year with a Harley Davidson (not my first). It is a used model from our local Craiglist. It has outstanding fit and finish , is stone reliable, has a ready source of inexpensive parts. I am happy to have and ride it. BMW has gotten their last American dollar from me. As far as the ad in question goes……. Atta boy Harley, The NYT needs a good kick in the pants.

  • smithbrl

    All you kids out there, keep riding your sport bikes, crotch rockets, etc-that’s what kids are supposed to do-have fun and enjoy it. When you grow up and mature HD will still be there waiting for you-they’re not going anywhere.

    In 20 yrs you’ll be typing this same message to the “kids”. That’s just the way it is. Riders get older and they move up to HD because they can afford them, they have time to tour, the bikes are reliable and our idea of “COOL” changes as we age.

    As we “babyboomers” go away you WILL step up and take our place. It’s been happening like that for years-106 of ‘em and counting.

    HD is slow moving when it comes to change but change they will, and they will continue to improve technology to be competitive and retain their customer base.

  • Tom


    Your fantasy is so cute! Its like seeing a 4 year old talk about Santa Claus. Kids who grew up with Japanese and European bikes will stick with Japanese and Euro bikes when we get older because those companies actually provide a full range of well built and well priced options. H-D will be lucky to survive about year in its economic condition. But that’s what happens when a company commits suicide.

  • tepiddeath

    Ya’ know, it’s just my opinion, but if I were in a situation like Eric Buell, it would feel like a real slap in the face for Harley to as him to join back up with them after they see him doing well on his own. I really lost a lot of respect for the Harley Davidson company because of the way that they had no problem cutting loose the entire Buell line, when times are tight, when they should have become more creative and aggressive with their marketing, and if any bikes should have gone it should have been the v-rod line, those don’t sell at all. And the company wouldn’t be in this position in the first place had they not pushed and later forced the dealers to build the big ass super-showrooms. If Harley Davidson would have stuck to their founding principles and had some integrity about them instead of allowing themselves to become enslaved by money and greed, then we would not even be having this conversation right now!!!! And that goes for a lot of other businesses in this country, that’s why our financial status, as a nation, is the way it is right now!

    Oh yeah, and I almost fell out of my chair with laughter after reading that very first ad! Are the corporate big wigs over there so f-ing stupid, wait, what am I saying, they did just shut down Buell. Which I guess means that ad is about par for the course.

    As for this letter from Jim Ziemer, how in the f*ck exactly does Harley plan on coming up with new designs to cater to the younger crowd? They got rid of their best hope of that when they shut down the Buell line. For christ’s sakes, all they have to do to save the company is drop the price and put people in the stores that actually care about the customers- STOP HIRING AND OL’ DOUCHE NOSEL WHO WALKS IN THE DOOR!


  • Woody

    Pink collars? Now that just sounds gay, and I ain’t no faggot.

    Revs $25k custom choppah out of thread

  • No harley for me

    I would think that people are tired of wasting there money on a harley. The technology is old and the company does not seem to change. Harley stick with its “Lifestyle” bullshit. They sell a lifestyle not a motorcycle. The motorcycle is just a small piece of the pie. HD makes lots of money selling belt buckles, ash trays, clocks. dog collars, dog dishes, do rags and t-shirts. Plus they sell you a bike with only 65 HP then you have to buy extra parts from them to get up to something near 70 to 75 HP and that costs thousands. When the current baby boomer bunch are too old to buy a bike harley will be in serious trouble. Younger buyers will not pay that ridiculous price for that out of date crap. I see lots of harleys beached in front of bars. You can buy them used for half price. Why would anyone consider a harley dresser for $25,000 when they can buy a Honda Goldwing that is light years ahead of any harley. Of course you would look pretty funny dressed up like a pirate on a
    Goldwing and I do not think that straight pipes are available for Goldwings either.

  • d p

    i’ve read alote of the comment about harley-davidson, looks to me that most of the back-stabbing that is going on in these comment’s , must be for people that have never rode on ,or have riden a harley in there life, aka honda, yamaha, suzuki, or some other brands, possibly maybe a custom built one, i’ve rode honda’s and also harley- davidson’s. I had a custom chopper
    made for my-self 2 yrs ago. i’ve only one question for everyone they are easy to park and do not use much fuel and the are a blast to ride.

  • dp

    by the way, people if you want to ride a honda, remember the old saying, back in the early 1970′s. you meet the nice’st people on a honda, i’ve seen many individual riding there bike’s with no protection, exp. coat helmet, gloves. get road rash ever? ps. some like it quiet, some like it loud! to each there own. keep her in the middle of the road, and the rubber down!if you want to ride harley’s it harley’s for life till ya die!

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  • Tom Quinn

    You would have to ride a Harley to understand how they have perfected the way to travel across America. I ride a Suzuki Hayabusa, but have always had Harleys.

    I hope they survive and prosper. I love my Busa but I also love my Harleys…