Harley chasing new audiences even as sales recover

Dailies -



Today, Harley-Davidson is announcing year-on-year third quarter sales are up 5.1 percent worldwide and 5.4 percent in North America, beating the 3.7 percent growth for heavyweight street bikes industry wide. But, even as the company begins to recover from the recession, it’s looking for ways to pursue a new audience. “We can’t survive on our core customers alone,” stated CEO Keith Wandell, going on to announce a new effort to reach young and beginner riders.

Photo: Loomis Dean

Net income for the quarter, compared to Q3, 2010 is up 106 percent to $183.6 million and sales revenue is up 13.4 percent. All that must sound like a hugh sigh of relief in Milwaukee, total shipments for 2011 are expected to be at least 228,000 units, returning the company to 2002 levels. Harley peaked with 273,212 domestic shipments in 2006 before collapsing to just 143,391 last year. That decrease in sales was massively compounded by losses from Harley-Davidson Financial Services, which saw customers default on many sub-prime loans. In Q3, 2010, HDFS is up from $50.9 to $60.2 million in net income.

“2008 changed the landscape of the economy in this country forever, and anybody who believes for one minute that it’s ever going to be the same as it was before 2008, it’s not going to happen,” continued Wandell.

In 2010, HFL exclusively broke news that Harley is developing an entry level/learner bike to replace the Buell Blast. A bike that will likely have many of its parts manufactured in India.

“We train (first-timers) how to ride, but most will buy their first motorcycle from our competitors – and that breaks our heart,” said noted Harley dealer Bob Althoff. “If we bring out products that make them say, ‘Wow,’ then they’ll know we’re still investing in them.”

Harley also plans to decrease its dealer presence in North America, a market Wandell describes as “overdeveloped.” 60 to 70 dealerships have already been closed, with a further 30 expected in the near future.

Sources: Harley-Davidson, Dealer News, Forbes

  • Aienan

    They will have to make something interesting if they want it to be bought by those not enamored by Harley culture.

    That and more technology from the 21st century would help.

  • http://mansgottado.tumblr.com/ gregorbean

    This link was in my inbox this morning: http://www.pbkeyclub.com/keyclub/ Harley is teaming up with Playboy, and they actually have some links from the Key Club facebook page to their rider training site. They’re definitely marketing…

  • Stacey

    If they could make the XR1200X 100 pounds lighter, I’d be all over it. I don’t understand why that bike weighs 573 pounds.

    I don’t really expect much via this announcement. I think they’ll come up with the ‘answer’ to the Honda Rebel and call it good.

    • Kirill

      Some 20 pounds of that is thanks to the boat anchor exhaust, a good chunk of the rest is the vintage frame and swingarm construction. I think the motor is slightly heavier than the average I-4 as well.

      I have an XR1200X and honestly don’t care about the weight. A much more considerable downside is the lack of a 6th gear.

      • http://worldof2.com/ jpenney

        6th gear and some weight loss. Even with those bad points, it’s still the best Harley I’ve ridden.

        • Richard

          Which is honestly sad IMO. I’m sure the dead horse has been beaten thoroughly on this topic but its f-ing tragic that an American motorcycle manufacturer cant get with it and produce a decent sporting motorcycle. Thats produced in mass quantities. That appeals to the masses.

          • Kirill

            Who says they can’t? Maybe they don’t see a reason to spend millions in R&D on something they’ll sell a few thousand of a year with a thousand dollar profit margin at best. And its totally the sort of thing they’d try in the middle of a depression, since it makes so much financial sense.

            Its basically the same reason Toyota hasn’t made an “exciting” car in almost a decade – they cost a lot of money, don’t make you a lot of money, and are subject to the fickle whims of a small subset of the populace. Meanwhile, they’re selling over 300,000 boring-ass Camrys a year without even trying.

            Harley is quietly moving towards appealing towards younger buyers. They’re rolling out cheaper models and they’re not dousing them all in chrome. Yeah, they’re not high tech or super-modern, but they’re cheap to make and most of the costs have already been amortized, so they’re also quite profitable. If I’m on the H-D board of directors and the CEO says “we’re going to make sportbikes and go toe-to-toe with the Japanese 4,” I’m calling for his head cause he’s out of his god damn mind and is about to set fire to millions of dollars for no good reason whatsoever.

            • motronic

              BMW added other engine types to their line up in the 80′s. Customers took to them, now 30 years later they have a superbike to take on the J4 . . . , and they’re are leaving air behind as a cooling medium as they did pushrods in the valve train. Maybe Hardly Doingshit will gradually move into modern era, gradually . . .

          • Elizabeth Keitz

            They did with Buell, but once they got an replacement for the ’20′s pushrod motor they killed it to focus on thier “CORE” historic business and donating MILLIONS to the castalionis for MV Agusta. Now they’re competing against those companies and no longer have the capacity they had with aremacchi.

    • http://www.cdavisdesigns.com Chris Davis

      The answer is sitting there in front of their faces: XR750.

    • muckluck

      I think they should go to a combined engine transmission setup, that would save weight, and make the chassis much shorter.

      • John

        Sportsters have been unit construction since 1957. Between the years of 1998-2000 the twin cam motor made its way to all models. The transmission bolts directly to the engine cases on all twin cam motors.

      • zato1414


  • Kirill

    I think you broke the news about the Buell Blast replacement in 2010, not 2012

  • slowestGSXRever

    Make me a light weight, indestructible 400cc-600cc twin with EFI + belt/shaft drive and I’ll be all over it like stink on shit.

    • Tony T.

      Sounds an awful lot like a Buell XB9S. Oops!

  • super20

    Hmmm. Can’t survive on your core customers alone, huh? Maybe, just maybe, you could branch out into the Adventure Bike market, with something to compete against the GS and Tiger? Or maybe sport bikes and street fighters, like say oh, I don’t know, the Buell 1125/1190 bikes?
    Friggin’ brilliant. He jettisoned Buell and now two years later is whining about how they need to attract young and beginner riders and can’t do it with the current products?

    • FZR 1000 Alex

      ^ This. I hope they rot for their sins. EBR will flourish and Harley will go the way of the Indian.

      • John

        By way of the Indian, do you mean sold at the Polaris dealership or systematically exterminated and forced to live in designated areas?

  • Brian

    Knowing how obscene the CEO is about rewarding himself, how they float along on antiquated bikes that encourage pirate costumes, and how they killed manufacturing of beautiful bikes (Buells), my time and energy will be spent preaching against those douches.

  • Kerry

    Can’t survive on core customers alone . . . are those the young ones who choose to finance a Sportster for 5+ years at 20% PA?

  • Thom

    Well this looks like as good a place as any to put up my observations from being ‘ On the Road ” this last June – September .

    A lot of us here ( me included ) like to say Cruisers are for Poseurs , they’re not ridden but towed etc etc .

    So while ‘On the Road ‘ I decided to keep track of the numbers of Cruisers vs other styles of M/C’s

    My travels took me on the Interstates , Blue Highways , Rocky Mountains , Great Plains , Small Towns and major Cities etc so quite a mix of roads

    And for the record during the weeks before and after Sturgis I didn’t keep track assuming Sturgis would skew the numbers

    And here’s , after analyzing them , the numbers I found ;

    Cruisers ( all brands ) 65%

    Adventure M/C’s – 15%

    Sport Tourers – 10 %

    Sport M/C’s – 1%

    All others ( classics , naked etc ) 9%

    So I’ve finally had to conclude that as much as any of us might disdain the genre , its the Cruisers that are getting used for trips , vacations etc the most . With Adventure M/C’s a distant second and Sport M/C’s not even in the mix .

    I was surprised that more Adventure M/C’s and Sport Tourers weren’t in the mix with all the time I spent in the Rockies , but there you have it .

    Cruisers were being used . So where the Hell was everyone else ? Waiting for the perfect weekend , on the perfect road in perfect conditions ?

    Seems like it .

    So here’s the question I do believe the above answers quite well thank you

    Who are the the Poseurs and who really are the Riders in the US M/C scene ?

    • Mr.Furious

      How does that correlate with sales? That would give you the real answer.

      • Thom

        Mr Furious

        The point was NOT how many are being Sold

        The POINT is How Many are Being RIDDEN .

        • Mr.Furious

          Understood. What I mean is this: are 50% of cruisers bought being ridden? What is the ratio of bikes ridden to bikes bought for each bike type? Not really relevant, but it would be interesting to see.

    • JT Nesbitt

      Your anecdotal evidence does not take into account the untold numbers of American youth who are not riding a motorcycle at all because it is now seen as a pastime for greybeards. a More appropriate study would certainly be to factor in the age of those riders on cruisers, account for the sheer accessibility of the ubiquitous Harley dealership, and the current glut in the marketplace for “cruiser” styled motorcycles.
      While the aging uninformed masses may currently hold the statistical record for sheer numbers, it is in fact unsustainable, and the CEO of Harley Davidson is finally acknowledging this reality. This thread is about the future, not the present. – JT

      • Thom

        JT – I was just reporting what I’ve been observing there mate

        Anecdotal as it may seem , thats what’s roaming the Highways and Byways of the Greater US . As far as the future is concerned , perhaps a bit more needs to be learned about the past ( especially the mistakes both the M/C Industry as well as the M/C Press have made ) in order to make any strides into the future

        Got to be honest here as well JT

        As much as I’ve appreciated your prose and opinions ( and agreed with them as well if you remember ) its not like you’ve personally done much to help matters for the future what with the multi $$$$$$$ motorcycles you’ve been responsible for

        Just who the hell do you think could buy those ? Teenagers straight outta High School ?

        • http://www.brammofan.com Brammofan

          I’ve been driving the same roads as you, Thom, and I would have to concur. Maybe even a bit more cruisers, but the largest amount of my excursions have been on roads in Kansas, Colorado and Missouri.

        • JT Nesbitt

          Again- This thread is not about the past, mine or Harley’s, it is about the future, but since you seem determined to go there…
          Everyone posting seem to be hung up on their version of what Harley they would want, not what the next generation of riders wants, and the baby/bathwater relationship with Buell. At the end of the day The failure of Buell was twofold:
          Lack of education at the dealer level – Harley dealers did not understand the product, and were not forced by Corporate to make the investment in sales training to deliver accurate information to perspective new clients, and…
          Lack of investment in the brand – saddling sport motorcycles with compromises like antiquated air cooled motors, and belt drives that relegated it to niche status because the fear of technological advancement cannibalizing sales of core product, ie: If liquid cooled chain driven motorcycles were touted as factually superior, it might scare off Softail buyers, therefore Buell was always held back.
          My anecdotal evidence is as follows: I have never spoken with a salesman in a Harley showroom who knew anything about motorcycles. Conversely, I have never spoken to a salesman in a Ducati showroom who didn’t know a lot about motorcycles.
          The elevation of the Objective and restraint of the Subjective is a concept that spells trouble for the business model that Harley Davidson is married to, and the younger riders are smart enough to see it. Unfortunately Harley’s predominance is causing collateral damage to all segments of the motorcycle business.
          The solution? Product, yes of course, but also more painfully for HD, education. They must be prepared to embrace science in lieu of religion to move the ball down the field. — JT

          • http://worldof2.com/ jpenney

            ” Conversely, I have never spoken to a salesman in a Ducati showroom who didn’t know a lot about motorcycles.”

            This is the truth! H-D dealers don’t even know the competition. When I bought a Sportster in 2009 the two salesmen I worked with didn’t know Triumph still made the Bonneville. Sad, sad, sad.

            The Buell dealer, meaning the Harley dealer with some Buells shoved in a corner, made the Buells seem dangerous. I heard them tell countless people that they would flip over real easy from all the torque. Nice way to NOT sell a motorcycle.

          • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben Incarnate

            My anecdotal evidence agrees. I recall two trips to go look at Buells at separate HD dealerships. In both cases, the sales reps who spoke to me had no idea what bike I looked at beyond that it said “Buell” on it. Both conversations were so painful that I left without a bike. All I could think was, “Dear god, what if I were to bring it in for service?”

      • Brian

        I laugh every time someone remarks on how expensive motorcycles are, only basing their knowledge on Harley costs. Then I jump on one of my bikes from my large motorcycle stable that consists of varied reliable & fun $1-3,000 bikes.

        Harley has done a good job fleecing the American population and tricking them into thinking they only need one (expensive) bike at a time.

        • muckluck

          the costs are so high to the relation of labor and how the ratio of how much they have to charge the customer. I’ve seen data like that from the Big Three auto makers but I wonder what it is for Harley.

          • Kirill

            GM can profitably sell a subcompact made in the USA. What’s that about labor costs again?

    • jason McCrash

      Dirt bikes probably outsell all of the street bikes here. So unless you take that into account you can’t compare. Riding is riding, not just street. Most kids get their first bike experience today on a dirt bike i would guess.

      • pplassm

        That happens less now that it did 35 years ago, unfortunately. Riding areas are shrinking, and, bopping around on a Z50 will likely get your kid arrested, these days.

        • jason McCrash

          Maybe where you live, but in western NY every kid with a farm or that lives near one (most of NY is rural, not NYC) has a dirt bike or quad. Riding on your own land is 100% legal once you get away from the 3 big cities (Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse) in this part of the state and it is a 20 minute drive to be in the farm areas.

    • http://cynic13th.livejournal.com/ cynic

      Not too surprising that while Cruising around the US, you saw a lot of cruisers…
      It’s where those bike are being ridden.

      Go to to The rock store on a Saturday, and surprise! you’ll find sport bikes, same with Alice’s etc.
      If you go to a Track day.. look at that.. Track bikes!

      Just because I tour on my Ducati, doesn’t make the guy who doesn’t tour on it a Poseur…

    • jonoabq

      A couple years ago a friend and I did a cross country m-cycle trip, we counted one harley on the road for every seven we saw on trailers. just sayin’

  • JT Nesbitt

    The real question is “when will Harley Davidson transition from a marketing driven company to a product driven company?” And is it already too late to steer the leviathan that it has become? To compete in the post-boomer marketplace they will have to do something that they have not done in the last 40 years, install real motorcyclists in decision making roles. It is a company dominated by accountants, unbalanced in it’s approach, and mired in its own hegemony. Shareholder interests are trumping long term strategic plans, and forcing complete reliance on tactical, short term marketing gimmicks. Such has been the way of HD since the 1978 XLCH, which by the way, was the fastest motorcycle in the quarter mile at the beginning of that year (later trumped by the Norton Commando, then the Honda 750). Think about that for a moment…the Sportster was in fact living up to it’s name, and going toe to toe with the fastest from Europe and Japan! What went wrong? Why has the most profitable motorcycle company in the world decided not to invest in it’s own future, and retreated into it’s very lonely, degenerative niche? A cracking good advertising campaign is not the panacea in the 21st century, where factual information is becoming more and more accessible. — JT

    • jason McCrash

      JT, I have been saying the same thing for years. I my mind Willie G was the absolute worst thing to ever happen to the MoCo. He did see the “chopper” market in the late 60′s, but the leadership (bah!) that he has provided has been to follow that chopper path only. HD used to be what I can “The Honda of American Bike Makers” in that they offered everything from the big bikes, to hill climbers to the Topper scooter to the rebadged Italian bikes. A full lineup that Willie G did everything he could to kill off. My first bike was a 87 Yamaha Fazer that was sized down to 700cc so HD couldn’t impose the tariff on it for being….. the same size!!! …..as a Sporter. I know the AMF years sucked, but the 70 years leading up to it were just tossed away when WG took over. Unless of course it was the fringe and leather history, then it was held up as THE HD culture. Maybe they should just go look at the 100+ years of advertising they have produced and see where they went wrong. it all started with the fugly boat tail WG designed.

      I forgot to add that they (HD) ruined every cool outdoor concert by older rock bands by turning them into HD fests. I would love to see the Doobies or one of the great Southern Rock bands but I have no desire to do so surrounded by bandanas, tats with no meaning and chubby broads in way too tight clothing. Fuckin ruiners.

      • Thom

        Sorry to have to tell you this jason McCrash , but those bands you’re mentioning , while I have no love of H-D sponsoring their concerts , would be as bad if not worse without H-D’s money

        Simple fact is those ‘Bands ‘ have been well past their Sell By since the 80′s .

        So the only one ‘Ruining ” those concerts for you was the Bands themselves . Some people should learn when to call it quits or if not practice their asses off to get back into shape rather than torture their audiences with skills they lost years ago

        e.g. They SUCK because they no longer give a damn . They’re just raking in every last dime while they’re still standing and at your expense . Believe me . This I know !

        • jason McCrash

          Thom, I didn’t mean to say that they were the greatest bands ever, I mean that whenever you have any type of 70′s rock band playing a free outdoor concert like our city sponsors during the summer the HD crowd shows up in major force taking over. Don’t dare ride a Jap bike there and sure as shit don’t bump into a guys fat ass old lady or it’s go time. The pathetic thing is that most of the guys I know who dress like pirates and go to these shows are too young to have been around during the 70′s. So no Willie G ruining HD=no d bags ruining a good show in my book. Had nothing to do with sponsorship of the show.

          • Richard

            Really? People still fight over that kind of stuff? Where do you live?

            • jason McCrash

              Rochester NY, and you bet your sweet bippie they do. This is one of the most violent cities in the US per capita. We usually have more murders than say Boston which has 3 times as many people. Angels and their subordinate clubs run the 3 patch scene, drug lords run neighborhood gangs and the graduation rate is below 50%. Good old rust belt America.

              • Richard

                Holy shit, I’ve been on the left coast too long. Its all sunshine and roses over here.

                • jason McCrash

                  And I’ve been counting down to my move back out west for 16 years. 2 1/2 more to go…….

              • Brian

                And little wonder, Rochester’s Harley-Davidson dealership is one of the worst stealerships that I’ve encountered. Douches broke two of my Ninjas.

                Indeed, I’m also counting down to my move out West from here.

      • Ray

        Willie also designed the first-ever US cafe racer, modified from the fastest bike of its time, as you mention. Nobody bought it. It wasn’t what customers wanted. Are all H-D riders just sheep being led to slaughter, or does H-D answer a less tangible, but valid functionalism? Should H-D abandon its time-tested design or chase consumer trends? Don’t people vote with their wallets?

        Buell worked on the Nova project, an H-D platform featuring a V-4 motor, in 1983, which was obviated by the Honda Interceptor, and abandoned. Elements of the design were imported into the FXRT, but nobody bought the more functional design elements. If you wanted a Beemer, you bought a Beemer. If you wanted a H-D, you bought an H-D.

        There is a majority of people in motorcycling who appreciate functional vectors other than ground clearance, top speed, lightness, etc. And who can argue with their popularity and overwhelming customer satisfaction and loyalty? H-Ds are all around utility bikes, designed for riding long distances comfortably; seems to me that you all are forgetting that half of H-D’s business is making touring bikes. They are user serviceable, American standards, easily modified and with readily available parts. What differentiates them functionally from Urals or airhead Beemers other than image? Not all H-D riders are necessarily seduced by marketing come-ons. Maybe you’re missing part of the point. People buy them and ride them to the ends of the earth.

        • Steven

          haha, I own metric tools.

    • Richard

      Yes, its too late.

  • Thom

    Harley Davidson built in India = Treason and an Oxymoron

    Nuff said about that subject !

    • Dennis

      But Brazil is A-OK?

      Brazilians we like. Indians? Not so much. Picky picky…


    every time Harley rebadges foreign made bikes the result doesn’t last.

    that said, what exactly does appeal to young beginners besides 600/1000cc sportbikes and motocross?

    • Frosty_spl


      • jason McCrash

        They used to sell them. The HD Topper. Was even available in powder blue. HD used to sell a full line of bikes from scooters to enduros to the full size “Electra Glide in Blue” cop bikes.

    • http://pics.zenerves.net/index.php?gallery=vehicules tropical ice cube

      The Forty-Eight; best ever-sold Harley in Europe. Audience: 25-35yo. Current record: shoved Harley 22.5% year-on-year growth in France. Source: Moto Revue issue 15877, Oct 2011, a lengthy interview with G. Staedelin, DG of HD France on page 8.

    • Brian

      Lightweight V-twin standards.

    • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben Incarnate

      Most folks I know who aren’t already into motorcycling like classic-looking bikes. CBs, Bonnies, Sportsters, etc. Simple motorcycles with a prominent engine, minimal bodywork, and round headlight.

  • Mr.Furious

    I think a lot of people would be excited about something akin to the XR750. Simplicity, light weight, classic looks, and modern reliability in an American-made package? Why do I suspect we won’t see that?

    • troy rank

      Does it have anything to do with the fact that Hardley hasn’t innovated anything in 40 years? How about small Harley XR350 Cafe style? If I was learning again, I’d want it.

    • jason McCrash

      Yup, Storz has been offering the conversion parts forever. But a factory one? No….. that might be a fun bike.


    • Thom

      Harley Davidson did that one already last year . The XR1200 . Sales ?
      They sucked ! Result . Well tell me just how many have you seen on the road of late ?

      • Mr.Furious

        The XR1200 has little in common with the XR750 other than a cosmetic resemblance.

        • jason McCrash

          And a Storz or other aftermarket company XR is a better looker I think. The XR1200 needs a wire wheel option and different bodywork to have the dirt look. The passenger seat is barely there, offer a better looking solo tail HD. I have a friend with one and he likes it, but he likes it for what it is, an HD. He said he still regrets selling his Speed Triple, but the XR is the closest thing to a sport bike he can own in his club. Once again, fashion over function is more important…… to him and his club.

          • Frosty_spl

            Who would want to be in a club full of guys who haven’t seen their dicks in 25 years?

            • jason McCrash

              I have always said ‘any club that will have me as a member isn’t one I want to join!’

              • David

                Thanks Groucho.

                • jason McCrash

                  Never liked him. More of a Stooges and Laurel/Hardy guy.

  • http://twitter.com/metabomber Jesse

    If HD made a xr750 derived Scrambler, I’d be knocking on the door come spring.

  • randry

    I always thought Harley should build a 450-500cc dirt bike to support amateur racing and compete head to head with jap bikes. At the same time preserving their racing heritage. I was told they were developing a motor at one time(Rotax/Bombardier?) in R&D, but it got shelved. To make it they will have to step out of their little box.

    • pplassm

      I believe that was a Buell initiative.

      • randry

        I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a Buell, it was a water cooled motor.

    • John

      You mean like a C&J framed 500cc thumper?

      Like this?


  • http://www.smartcycleshopper.com/author/doug-dalsing/ DougD

    Along with a more obvious XR-750-influenced street model, H-D should make some new motorcycles reminiscent of Kelly Leak’s from the Bad News Bears (too lazy to look up the model name, whatever it was). A bike like that was cool, and it had the barrier to entry comparable to a scooter.

    On a personal note, seeing a 12 year old ride a Harley in that movie definitely got me hooked at a young age, and it’s something we don’t see anymore in pop culture … probably because H-D no longer offers any motorcycle anywhere close to it in size and styling.

    • http://www.smartcycleshopper.com/author/doug-dalsing/ DougD
      • John

        John Connors ride through LA on an XR100 in Terminator 2 left a lasting impression in my young mind.

        • Frosty_spl

          The 2 stoke sound pissed me off as a 10 year old.

      • pplassm

        That’s an Aermacchi 90!

  • je

    “We can’t survive on our core customers alone,” stated CEO Keith Wandell

    FUUUUUUC YOU Keith.. Your a douche bag and if you would have realized this a couple years ago by allowing buell to attack the street bike market with the 1190rs, create a 350-550cc engine for the lightning and then get your dealerships to show a little love you would already be a good way into the younger riders.

    Factor in buell was testing a dirt bike to get the even younger youth and wow just think where you would probably be. This is your failure.

    I will continue to fly my Anti-HD flag as long your at the helm.

    • douglas

      Yes indeed D.B. Wandell said when they shuttered Buell that they had to concentrate on there core customers,and now he says we can’t rely on core customers alone go back to johnson controls Wandell you are an a- hole

  • kidchampion

    Producing some smaller displacement bikes, that might not sell as well as a 1200CC hawwwwggg might be a valuable loss leader for Harley. The demand for a scrambler might not be large but the value could be in the proper cultural placement of the bikes. Placement in skate and surf magazines, outdoor magazines and men’s lifestyle/fashion magazines and blogs. Or they can market Hogs, Doo-rags, Orange County Choppers and steroids.

  • Dennis

    If only H-D had a subsidiary or two that had the technology to build the kind of bikes that young people want.

    • super20

      Maybe they could acquire a small company to build “non-core” motorcycles and act as a “skunk works” development facility at the same time?
      Nah, that’d never work.

      • http://twitter.com/metabomber Jesse

        Nah, they’d ruin the small company. The small, bespoke (see what I did there?) motorcycle company would do much better w/out the corporate stupidity.

        • super20

          Yeah, you’re probably right. Seems a shame because I’m sure the HD Dealer network is probably eager to see some fresh faces and innovative new product in their showrooms.

  • http://rider49er.blogspot.com Mark D

    Encouraging, but HD shouldn’t have gotten on this 10 years ago. Time to shit or get off the pot, fellas.

    • slowtire

      That’s a fact.

  • Stacey

    I think the thing that kills me about this is that Wandell said he was looking for “a new audience,” not “new customers.”

    My attitude towards HD has softened a bit (even though I ride Buell) and I’d like to see them succeed.

    Polaris’ sales are up 77%, so somebody out there has cash.

    So why not do something cool? The economy is no longer an excuse. I was just in my local dealership and I thought, “Too bad there’s nothing here I want.”

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Polaris sales are up 26% and remember that those sales are very small relative to Harley.

      Be skeptical of any sales claims you see represented only in percentages with no historical comparison. How do Q3 2011 Polaris sales compare to Q3 2006, for example? Without context, a percentage is meaningless.

      • http://www.amarokconsultants.com michael uhlarik

        The industry, in context… I couldn’t have said it better myself.

      • Stacey

        Fair enough. The point is, they’re selling motorcycles. I got 77% as YTD. Triumph and BMW are doing still making some gains, even if they don’t represent as large a market share as HD.

        And wasn’t Harley’s deal with ATK supposed to fill this supposed gap in their product line? What happened to that?

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          The point is they’re selling very few motorcycles compared to Harley, so the 26 percent is more of a statistical blip than it is a marked improvement.

          It took Victory 10 years to sell 50,000 bikes. Harley’s worst year in the last decade was over 140,000 bikes.

          Polaris’s performance does nothing to indicate the size or health of the audience for total motorcycle sales.

          • pplassm

            They’re also selling a lot of Kwads.

            • jason McCrash

              And have huge military contracts for said Kwads.

  • Frosty_spl

    I really like the Fourty Eight. But I can’t justify the price, when it costs nearly the same as a Monster 1100 evo.

  • Richard

    The big problem with H-D and their recent ventures into “smaller” bikes is that they only see them as a means to an end. Not a stand-alone product. At the dealership level, the mindset was to get a customer on a Blast or XB in the hope that in a year or two, said customer will come back wanting a “big twin”. Since the dealerships suckle at the tit that is Harley Corporate, I can only imagine that this is the mindset in Milwaukee too. Obviously not something that will have a whole lot of success. A classic example of not understanding the customer.

    Like JT said, it all comes down to education and motivation. HD sales personnel were never educated or motivated to sell or support the little bikes. Why would they? The money is much better on the big twins and used bikes.

    If Harley really wants to reach outside of their current demographic, its going to take a TON of work. Try convincing a dealer that just gladly got rid of the Buell burden to bring in another “small” bike line. Especially if its made overseas. If customers bitch about the fact their chrome “aint made in the US of A” (and they do that, a lot) I cant imagine how they react to a bike from India. Like it or not, many of these customers-I mean HOG members are like that.

    In my opinion, if HD wants to reach that customer, they need to set up a separate dealership network. Keep the product lines entirely separated. That way, if a dealership wants to support the line, they need to invest in it. Not just put up some extra signage and shove the new bikes in a corner. Cuz that aint gonna work.

    Just my two cents. Ahhhhh, I feel so much better now.

  • Adrian

    Well, if they get produced in India, will that make the quality improve? I know the HD thing I had was a constant rolling POS. I don’t miss it. Plus, I don’t make a good Harley Pirate, as I insist on being ATGATT. Definitely a no-no in that crowd.
    If they can produce a good quality low cost entry bike that calls to a younger rider, I wish them all the best. (I won’t be holding my breath, however.)

    Love my Tiger. Would really love to add a Multistrada (despite the chicken beak). HD are not in my future.

  • M

    i think the big determining factor will be price. why would i buy a down-tuned/cheapened sportster (which i would definitely presume to be harley’s most likely product type in this range) made in india for, what, $5500 over, say, a cleveland misfit or ace primarily manufactured in china for ~$3500? my guess would be that the power/weight ratio would be very close and with the cleveland i wouldn’t have the disgusting feeling that i’m still lining the pockets of the assholes who niche-marketed american motorcycling into a moribund joke.

    • philn

      I was just thinking this while reading the article. HD wants to get the youngsters? Steal from cleveland and make an out-of-the-box cafe racer or rigid.

      And make some collaboration with a skateboard clothing brand.

      HD Insta-Hipster.

      • philn

        Ooooh …. And host demo days at Urban Outfitters, too!

        • Richard

          Or Zumies

      • http://www.facebook.com/cheese302 Cheese302

        well actually the sad part is, this could work. Bring out a nice little cafe joint, market it to true young cyclists, and show the positives of motorcycling in cities, and make gear that appeals to them. why not, i mean it could introduce new squids, but i was one at one point too.

  • jason McCrash

    Oh yeah, my local HD dealer started carrying Triumph (next nearest Triumph dealer is 30 miles away) and Royal Enfield (no idea where else you can buy one locally). Both within the last year.

    • M

      this. one of the two in my city started selling bmws and vespas. from the looks of it, they’re selling, better, too. started out with a begrudging sign in the parking lot and a couple adventure bikes visible in the showroom. now, they’ve got huge bmw and vespa signs on the building and a big tent sale every weekend where the roll out tons of bimmers and sooters. even scoped a used piaggio mp3 up on a pedestal. the times: they are a-chaingin’.

      • jason McCrash

        Sadly the parts and service depts aren’t. The HD place sells Kawi and Honda too, but don’t ask about parts for them unless you went online and found the part number yourself. Actually the other local dealer (Honda, Kawi & Yamaha) suck in that area too.

  • rohorn

    Suddenly I get a creepy feeling we’ll see orchestrated “Occupy Harley Dealer” scenes protesting against the 1%ers (Oooh, the irony)…just in time to roll out, well, heck if I know or care.

    • Archer

      With protesters throwing themselves under the rear wheels of Softails and screaming like little girls…

      • Brian

        And the 1% being labeled the dirty, unwashed folk. Oh this irony is beautiful.

  • http://www.faster-faster.com fasterfaster

    The whole industry has bounced since so many customers put off a planned purchase over the last two years. Harley has bounced less than the industry… I would be careful to claim this as a sign of company health if I were them.

  • chaz

    We need new younger customers….. yes…. make sure to get rid of that pesky MV Agusta, and Buell…..we should have the guy designing the Heritage come up with something…that should do it…

    • Kirill

      You could make the argument that the new leadership saw the MV Agusta aquisition as a bad move by the previous regime and that the best long-term move was to divest ASAP. I can certainly see the business case being there for that.

      As for Buell, they made a total of 137k over a quater of a century. Granted, some 37k of that was in the last 3 years of existence, but that’s still a pretty negligible amount of bikes (lifetime average, 5300/year; 12.3k/year for the last 3). Even at the higher rate, the business case for having a niche sub-brand that may or may not be profitable is shaky when its balls-to-the-wall time. Hell, I’m surprised the V-Rod made it out of 2009.

      Maybe they should have sold it instead of killing it – or maybe there was no way Buell would have survived without hefty support from H-D and they knew that. Hell, given the state of things back then, they probably couldn’t have found a buyer even if they wanted to.

      Either way, at this point, its like bitching about GM killing Pontiac.

      • another Nik

        Couldn’t have found a buyer even if they wanted to? BRP made offers! HD declined and instead chose to spend more money firing Americans and prematurely ending contracts with suppliers.

        But now Erik is free.

  • Erik

    Ha ha, with all respect, what do HFL readers know about what is going to attract new ie, not yet bike enthusiasts? Neither do I, but I think HD is on the right track with some of their more recent sportster variants like the 48. Pretty sure it won’t be bleeding edge sport bikes like MV or Buell. Harley should have known better and never gotten involved with them in the first place, Buell MV and HD would have been better off if they hadn’t.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      No one person likely has the answer, but it’s a discussion worth having. Which is why we value these threads so much.

    • http://www.smartcycleshopper.com/author/doug-dalsing/ DougD

      I visited the H-D museum recently, and it served as a reminder of the variety the company has produced over the years. Today, an absence of variety is painfully obvious in its product line, and even the CEO is publicly admitting the company needs to diversify its customer base. The way a manufacturer attracts new customers is by releasing new products and, while I agree H-D is making good with the Sportster line recently, I don’t really think it’s enough. They need new demographics, and the demographic that responds to cruiser motorcycles is pretty well tapped out; not much progress remains there. So I say they need motorcycles in different genres, including sport and off-road.

      Look at a company like Triumph. Out of all the OEMs, I would say they’re the hardest to pigeonhole. It doesn’t just make cruisers, or sportbikes, or nakeds, adventure bikes, or modern-vintages—it makes all of them, and it does a great job of it. So do a lot of the Japanese companies but, then again, all four of them are a bit indistinguishable in the overall market, and they seriously rip off H-D in the cruiser arena, to boot.

      So, yeah, H-D needs some new bikes, Erik. Besides, who doesn’t like being a critic and telling others what they should do?

      • Erik

        I totally agree they need new bikes and more of em – just sayin that they need to look outside the established enthusiast market if they want to bring in new blood. If you are old enough to remember ‘you meet the nicest people on a honda’, that little slogan brought a huge number of new riders into what was then a small, balkanized and stagnant market.

        Having said that, HD also needs to stick with what they do best, conservative engineering, solid value, and maintaining the linkage with their heritage. I see collectors are paying fairly big bucks for HD hummers, which for its day was a pretty good entry level made in USA bike targeted at high school age riders. Why not a HD moped? Many jurisdictions still allow 14 year olds with learner permits to ride mopeds. A Harley moped or small ‘genuine’ harley might also sell well in the developing parts of the world where two wheel transport is mainstream and there is a class of riders who want something better than the usual Chinese fare.

        • John

          Honda made a Japan only bike that was built very much in the same aesthetic as the DKW/Bantam/Hummer, it was called a Honda Solo. If fact HFL had a feature about them;


          There is just something that is so cool and intriguing about this bike. It has the same practicality as a Spree, Razz, Jog, Metropolitan or any other scooter but with classic looks that one doesn’t associate with a scooter. I look at the solo and I want to ride it, I dont feel that way about any of the scooters I mentioned.

          I think Harley desperately needs a hit right now, and a small practical urban tool like a scooter could be what they need to win the hearts and minds of the motorcycle buying public.

  • Zach

    These Harley threads are SO much better to read since the paywall went up. Respectful disagreements, distinguishing between anecdotes and data, thought out responses. Awesome.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cheese302 Cheese302

    though to bring a different tone here. one of the unfortunate pieces of this puzzle is seeing the recent change in behavior in harley manufacturing. The building of the plant in india is what might be able to allow harley to supply this cheaper entry level bike. By shipping some of the manufacturing overseas, harley is able to make parts and possibly whole bikes much cheaper and import them. so although this new bike/bikes are going to hopefully grow harleys business, it is at the expense in some ways of american workers. Though in my personal opinion, the somewhat rediculous labor union costs are to blame since it makes an american worker TRULY that much more expensive. To think, making these parts, shipping them on wateer and dealing with importing them THEN sending them to the american factory to be assembled, is cheaper than just making the parts at the plant where assembled.

    reminds me of the fact that GE no longer produces light bulbs in america, you know since the guy who now creates jobs in america shipped it all over sees.

  • Elizabeth Keitz

    Watch out HD…
    http://www.clevelandcyclewerks.com/ Somebody is moving on a smaller American style bike and it’s not a clone vtwin either. Bet ya all wish Harley could make one like this at this price range.