Harley chasing new audiences even as sales recover

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Category: 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

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