By on June 20, 2018

If you think car enthusiasts are a dying breed, you should take a look at motorcyclists. The two-wheeled industry is in serious trouble. A total failure in marketing occurred over the past decade. New riders aren’t coming in fast enough to replace the glut of Baby Boomers rapidly aging out of the market, and there’s a looming paranoia that self-driving vehicles could push bikes off the road entirely.

In 2017, U.S. motorcycle sales were down 11 percent, and no company was hit harder than Harley-Davidson. The brand has the oldest consumer base and has repeatedly failed at recruiting younger riders. While it builds a fine product, it’s not one that appeals to millennials. This generational cohort proved hesitant to engage in motorcycling as a pastime — a situation not helped by having less disposable income than Generation X or the Boomers did at the same stage in their lives. Young women are also poised to start out-earning young men, and few brands have successfully tapped into the female demographic. 

Harley attempted to solve this problem by offering some of the least expensive models in decades, but it wasn’t enough. Millennials just aren’t as interested in motorcycles, especially not high-end examples. So the company reverted to its roots and began building bicycles again.

While the brand has always emphasized its engines, there was a period shortly after World War I when the company also manufactured pedal-powered two-wheelers. However, the era wasn’t long or illustrious enough to make it an ardent part of its heritage. In fact, those bicycles only existed as a way to introduce new riders to the brand.

It was a marketing tactic, and it’s easy to see the new bikes as following a similar strategy. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the brand has begun producing hand-built tribute bicycles that match the Model 7-17 Standard manufactured in 1917. Displayed and sold at the Harley-Davidson Museum, they’ll run for roughly $4,200 apiece.

As a company, Harley remains largely obsessed with its past. The replica bicycles are no different in that respect, though they do offer an opportunity for Harley to reach out to the younger demographic the company needs to solidify its future. The first bicycle goes on display at the museum this Thursday and the Wisconsin Bike Fed has scheduled a group ride that afternoon. Anyone who shows up on the museum under pedal power will receive a discount on the museum entrance fee.

Harley-Davidson cut 800 jobs earlier this year and suffered a 12 percent sales loss in the first quarter of 2018, so this isn’t going to turn the tide. Still, it’s a start. Motorcycle manufacturers focused on their existing consumer base for far too long. They need fresh blood and oversized, expensive models aren’t going to bring those buyers in. Nobody starts riding at 40 and few adults under 23 can rationalize the purchase of a $9,000 (or higher) motorcycle anymore.

Japanese companies seem to understand this, and it’s reflected in the small, easily accessible models pouring out of that country. A decade ago, most companies had just one bike under 250cc for novice riders. The next step up was a big one and usually represented something that was twice the size and power — and a quite a bit more expensive.

Things are different now. Suzuki, for example, offers several models at or below 250cc and $4,500. They come in wide away of styles, too. There’s the retro-inspired TU250X, sporting GSX250R, dirt-friendly VanVan 200, and well-rounded GW250. Honda did the same by offering North America even smaller/cheaper models like the funky little Monkey, historic Super Cub, and microscopic Grom. But it has also added a few 300cc units to round out its new-rider program.

Yamaha and Kawasaki followed suit to varying degrees — and so has Harley-Davidson, only to a much lesser extent. HD’s smallest offering is a 500cc standard with an MSRP of $6,899.

However, a lot of the damage has been done. Motorcycle manufacturers spent over a decade chasing bigger bikes and older, more affluent customers. They aren’t going to be able to recoup the older millennials they lost along the way. This is a cautionary tale for automakers that are doing the same thing.

The average new car transaction price in the United States was above $35,000 last year. If you take the average price from 1970 and adjust for inflation, that number should be around $23,500. If you’re curious, the ATP of a new vehicle in 1980 would be about $22,800 in today’s dollars. But things start to get expensive after that, so why does it seem like we’re only feeling the pinch now?

Baby Boomers could more easily afford elevated auto prices because they earned so much. Millennials cannot. The median household incomes for the latter generation are 20 percent lower than Boomers at the same stages in life. It’s definitely a contributing factor to the industry’s current sales slump, and could be a sign of dire times ahead.

That is, of course, unless autonomous vehicles totally reshape the market. Automakers seem poised to dive into big data and self-driving taxi services as a replacement to traditional ownership. If that goes to plan, they’ll earn a sizable chunk of change from selling your personal information, advertising, and charging you per-trip transaction fees. You’ll be their slave, but at least they won’t have to account for selling cars young people couldn’t afford.

If the brave new world they’re promising takes longer than expected or doesn’t pan out, we just might see the industry kicking itself for alienating an entire generation of consumers — just like the motorcycle business is now.

[Images: Harley-Davidson; Honda]

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218 Comments on “Ailing Motorcycle Industry Could Be Canary in Coal Mine for Automakers...”


  • avatar
    thegamper

    I attribute Harley Davidson’s decline to the grueling expose` by South Park on Comedy Central. Its true that it was satire, but it is also so on the money that it hit home hard for many riders.

    If you have never seen the South Park episode dealing with Harley’s, you simply must! Im sure the episode is on Youtube somewhere. Comedy gold.

    • 0 avatar
      redgolf

      hilarious South Park episode on Harleys! rolling funny, I mean thunder! “nobody recognizes us, rum rum rum rum rum rum !!!!!” still laughing!

    • 0 avatar
      sgtjmack

      Where are all of the bikecurious people? They need to be out there buying all the bikes…

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        I had a motorcycle in my 20s. A Kawasaki EN500LTD. It was a beautiful metallic.l blue, but a little heavier and more powerful than I wanted.

        Now that I’m almost 40 and have three kids, so I can’t afford a $10k or $20k motorcycle — even if I miss riding now and then.

        I stopped by a Harley dealer to look at their wares once. When I asked where the small bikes we’re, the grandma behind the counter laughed and said that adding some small bikes to the lineup be a good idea for women. (I’m a man, and I prefer small bikes due to my height.) But, then again, Harley Davidson is really more of a clothing store than a motorcycle dealership, so what did I expect? I haven’t been back there since, LOL.

        Maybe a used Honda Rebel will present itself one day, for a price my wife can’t veto.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      They most certainly fostered Prius stereotypes that have endured. It never occurred to me that their satire on Harley riders might have had the same effect.

  • avatar
    James2

    The Honolulu Police Department couldn’t wait to dump its H-Ds, which were replaced with BMWs.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    HD should have died 30 years ago, but they lucked out and rode the nostalgia gravy train for a while. That’s finally running out, and they’re back to facing extinction again. If the younger generations are nostalgic for anything, it’s Japanese sport and dirt bikes.

    More generally, the transportation market for motorcycles has been largely taken up by Chinese mopeds. Aside from cost, they also have easier or no license and registration needs.

    • 0 avatar
      TwoBelugas

      licensing and plating for mopeds are coming to a state near you. CA along with 21 other states already closed that hole, you need an M license of some sort to drive say, a Honda Ruckus.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      bumpy,
      I’m surprised at the number of Can Hardly’s I’m seeing here in Germany.

      The EU are going to tax them now, so that will firther hit the company.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    HONDA is going to reboot the whole motorcycle industry in January by re-introducing the Honda Super Cub to the American market. Why is it a big deal that the Super Cub will be available here for the first time since 1974 ? Are they serious ? A 125cc semi step-through model in dark blue and white with a red single-passenger seat ?
    Maybe because the Cub is the most-produced motor vehicle OF ALL TIME with over ONE HUNDRED MILLION SOLD worldwide. List price for the 4-stroke small motorcycle (not a scooter) is expected to be $3599.
    The entire motorcycle industry is suffering from declining sales for several reasons, most notably a dearth of entry-level customers. I predict that the Super Cub will fix it all. I have already decided to buy one or two myself.

    • 0 avatar
      markf

      Unfortunately the first Super Cubs will be bought by folks who think they are future collectibles and it will drive the price sky-high at dealerships for the first year or too thus negating any entry level motorcyclists resurgence……

      • 0 avatar
        "scarey"

        I will be buying one to ride for fun and trips to the grocery store. And probably one for my GF. We also are looking to save gas money, as most of our shopping trips could be handled by a Cub. We are retired, and we must watch our pennies. This will be our first NEW vehicle in nearly ten years.

    • 0 avatar
      eggsalad

      The Super Cub was available in the US as the C70 Passport from ’78-82. They couldn’t call it s Super Cub, because piper Aircraft had rights to that name. But that’s what it was.

      • 0 avatar
        carve

        Trivia: because of that bike, they had a trademark on the “Passport” vehicle name, which is why they used on on their rebadged Isuzu SUV in the 90’s. They pulled the same trick with the Honda Odyssey, which was like an early single-seat UTV, sort of like an SAE Mini Baja

      • 0 avatar
        "scarey"

        @eggsalad–I did not know that. Thank you for the info.

      • 0 avatar
        HaveNissanWillTravel

        I had a baby blue ‘82 brand new that I rode all over San Diego county back in high school. 70cc 3-speed semi-automatic and it was just a wonderful scoot. I have an ‘18 Harley-Davidson Iron 883 now at 50 years old but the Super Cub might be in our garage soon.

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      If the employment rate for the 16-19 demographic was still 75% like it was in the 1970s, the Super Cub might make a big difference. However, the employment rate for that demo is hovering around 30%, and it was projected to continue dropping.

      For models like the Super Cub to work, you need a huge demographic who are willing to use them as legitimate transportation, not just fun novelties. I don’t see it happening.

    • 0 avatar
      sgtjmack

      No, it IS a Scooter, not a motorcycle.

    • 0 avatar
      shipping96

      Did Piper relinquish the “Super Cub” name?

  • avatar
    TwoBelugas

    The “average new car transaction price” being 35k is a bit of a over-used statistic lately. It is skewed by the ever more expensive high trims of everything utility sector that didn’t really exist in 1970.

    There has been no shortage of well made sedans, hatchbacks, or even sub-compact crossovers for 20k or less.

    What I noticed is with people relying more on advise from internet message boards, everyone eggs each other on to get more expensive options. On a forum I frequent, there was a discussion of what to get for a family hauler that *may* go off the pavement or tow a boat once in a while, and inevitably all the 4Runner and Tacoma fanatics swarm and makes it sound like you MUST have a 4WD 4Runner or TRDPro Tacoma to drive on dirt paths or tow a boat because everyone has had to use 4WD at least once and it’s worth the extra money. Makes you wonder how our fathers and grandfathers survived the 20th century on 2wd Silverados and F150s.

    The same can be said of any group, want a Jeep? you gotta have a Rubicon, they say. Want a Pickup? you have to buy the most expensive motor possible because only diesels are real truck motors. Want a sporty car? They will talk you out of an 86 because it doesn’t do 0-60 in 4 seconds. And so on.

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      Definitely some truth in what you say.

      The motorcycle industry was particularly affected by the internet phenomenon because motorcycles are nearly impossible to insure for collision. So in the early-mid 2000’s, when sales were booming, the internet was telling everyone that 600s were great learner bikes and 1000s were what motorcycle riders really needed. Obviously, people were chucking these things down the road by the thousands, and the economic fallout essentially destroyed the industry right as the Great Recession was hitting.

      Regarding cars, it’s a bit trickier, particularly offroaders. I’m one of the people who recommends buying the most offroad-worthy special edition, but mainly because they retain resale. The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon was introduced in 2003 with a starting MSRP of $24,000-something. The one I looked at was $26,000 OTD. I should have bought it. Low-mileage Rubicons from the TJ era will nearly fetch their MSRP. It’s insane.

      Perhaps this can’t continue forever, but the irrational preference for these vehicles means the operating costs can be quite low, if you get them for a good price, and keep them in good condition. Not sure whether or not this will continue, but most people recommend based upon prior experience.

      Regarding the truck crowd though, you’re right. Those don’t hold their value, and they probably won’t become increasingly rare, unlike 2-door Rubicons or TRD 4Runners.

      • 0 avatar
        pragmatic

        So the Rubicon of today is the Harley of 1998. I know several people who as soon as the purchased their Harley put deposits down on a new one. Delivery was a year down the road at which time they sold the old bike for more than they purchased it and repeated the process.

        This ended as Harley did make changes. Twin Cam came out. Engines got larger (88 then 96 then 103 then 110). Soon resale while good didn’t pay for the new bike. Next new plants opened and production increased. Soon the whole game stopped. The fact that most Harley buyers didn’t put a lot of miles on them (I have a friend with a 2003 Soft Tail who claims he rides his but it still has less than 10,000 miles) means there is no reason to buy a new one.

        • 0 avatar
          TW5

          @ pragmatic

          That is always a worry for resale conscious buyers; however, the used market for offroaders is protected by legislation. These things will become increasingly scarce, and without a huge jump in gasoline prices to make them unaffordable to operate, prices will continue to rise.

          It will be interesting to see what happens in the future, but without a major CAFE overhaul, or a manufacturer exploiting the kit car loophole, offroad vehicles will become increasingly rare.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            “It will be interesting to see what happens in the future, but without a major CAFE overhaul, or a manufacturer exploiting the kit car loophole, offroad vehicles will become increasingly rare.”

            They won’t. If anything they’ll continue to proliferate because it’s easy to add a limited edition super capable version of a regular SUV without hurting the average much. Keep in mind that automakers have been planning and desigining to CAFE 2025 for 7-8 years now, it’s 4WD friendly.

          • 0 avatar
            TW5

            @ danio3834

            They’ve been designing/selling under CAFE 2016 regulations for 7-8 years. Designing and selling under CAFE 2025 has just begun, and the 2025 regulations specifically target short wheelbase vehicles with mediocre fuel economy.

            If the hardcore 4wd vehicle proliferate, it will be because Toyota, Jeep, etc want to suppress volume, and raising prices to keep orders down will eventually lead to buyers demanding that virtually all offroaders are TRD Pro or Rubicon spec.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            CAFE 2025 has been in ink since then. Forward planning has been in place for a while now, yet here are even more off-road options on the horizon than ever. The real squeeze is on small footprint cars which are seeing any small margin they had evaporate.

            The footprint adjustment takes aim at smaller wheelbase off roaders, so the bulk of production has shifted to long wheelbase versions which transact higher anyway. The downward adjustment for “trucks” has pushed for nearly everything to become a pseudo-offroader with all wheels being driven, however. There will be PHEV offerings to offset as well.

            This paves the way for more hardcore niche models since the basic platforms will exist and be amortized through mainstream models. There will be more, not less.

          • 0 avatar
            TW5

            @danio3834

            CAFE is sales weighted. Even if they know the regulations, they have to properly forecast the sales mix. Needless to say, many of them missed the 2014 oil price correction, and the accelerated adoption of CUVs. They are just now releasing the vehicles that reflect sustained low oil prices and the rapid change in sales mix. Specifically they are focused on hybrid CUVs, which weren’t really worth their time previously because small cars can more easily be made to comply.

            Tahoe sales are half of what they were during the the halcyon days of the early 2000s. Ford Expedition is about 1/3. That is by design. It is only a matter of time before Jeep and Toyota start to tap the brakes on 4Runner and Wrangler due to CAFE issues. They are already raising transaction prices sharply, but not many customers have been scared away yet.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            Yes, I’m fully aware of how CAFE works. I’m coming from a standpoint of analysis from within an automaker that’s already decided what’s being done with this. Going into CAFE 2021, there will be more off-road focused models than pretty well any time in history. GM has returned headlong into midsize trucks with special off-raod versions, the Ranger is returning and will have a Raptor and other off-raod options, the Wrangler just received a new generation that will continue on into CAFE 2025 and there will even be a pickup version added shortly.

            Elsewhere in the market, Japanese and European brands are trying everything they can to expand into these segments. It’s not going to shrink any time soon.

        • 0 avatar
          jthorner

          Few Harley buyers put a lot of miles on them because they are physically punishing to ride long distances :).

          • 0 avatar
            pragmatic

            Well I don’t know about that. While the person I referenced above only rides 1000 miles a year, another friend has ridden as far as Washington State (from NJ) on his and regularly rides to NC and TN. The touring rigs do have good air management and passable suspension. While the Goldwings and BMWs maybe faster and might be more comfortable the margins are not that great on current models.

            I don’t tour but I think I’d take Harley’s belt drive over BMW’s shaft drive (though the GW’s shaft seems to last) and truthfully I’d check out the Concours or Ninja 1000 with hard bags if I was into touring.

      • 0 avatar
        TwoBelugas

        Good point on the Harley’s during the 2000s, I wasn’t paying attention to the scene then and didn’t know what you described was a thing. I just knew the “Dentists and Accounts in leather chaps” jokes started right around then.

        • 0 avatar
          geozinger

          @TwoBelugas: My brother lives in a wealthy subdivision. Many of his neighbors who are doctors, lawyers, etc., have/had Harleys rumbling through the neighborhood. He joked that these guys were playing “dress up” on their “two wheeled Buicks”…

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          @TwoBelugas – “I just knew the “Dentists and Accounts in leather chaps” jokes started right around then.”

          Those types are called “RUB’s” meaning “Rich Urban Bikers”.

          Harley Davidson shot themselves in the face by riding the nostalgia boom combined with machismo. Ask any Harley rider about 1200 cc or smaller bikes in the lineup and you’ll hear, “Woman’s bikes” or “Girly bikes”.

          Extremely high factory pricing with all too typical gouging from dealerships on more popular models adds to the problem.

          There also exists a herd(hog) mentality that stifles individuality. You have to wear a beanie helmet or none at all, you gotta have a black leather vest, leather chaps, an assortment of Harley black t-shirts, and fingerless gloves. You can do whatever you want to the bike as long as it fits the genre.

          Years ago my buddies were droning on about their rides and one fellow had dumped massive amounts of cash on his. He might as well built a “one off” custom. He was bragging about how fast it was and they all got pizzed off when I started to chuckle to myself. I owned a YZF1000 ThunderAce at the time. I pointed out that my sportbike was still faster in any measurable performance parameter. They all said in unison,” It isn’t the same!”. I said, “Correct. I still have the faster bike and still had the cash left over to buy a sport quad, 2 dirt bikes, a boat and a pickup.”

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      @TwoBelugas

      “Makes you wonder how our fathers and grandfathers survived the 20th century on 2wd Silverados and F150s.”

      No kidding. My late uncle, a rancher in East Texas, never had a 4WD pickup, and drove back in the woods and across the pastures (sandy soil) in a 2WD Ford with snow tires on the back (what everybody else did then). The first one I remember was a ’62 F-100 Flareside, six-cylinder with three-on-the-tree, no radio. It was eventually replaced by a ’73 F-100 Custom Styleside, 360 V8 with auto, a/c (but still no radio), and finally an ’84 F-150 Custom Styleside, 302 with auto, a/c and AM radio.

    • 0 avatar
      PlaysInTraffic

      “Makes you wonder how our fathers and grandfathers survived the 20th century on 2wd Silverados…”

      Uh, they didn’t. At least, not for long. The Silverado was introduced as 1999 model.

      Before that, it was the C1500, and before that, it was the C15/C10.
      Sure, they could have had one of those with the Silverado trim package, from which it got its name. But that was the fancy-pants top-of-the-line luxury trim level, not a work truck.

  • avatar
    ItsBob

    Quote—A total failure in marketing occurred over the past decade.

    Quote– there was a period shortly after World War I when the company also manufactured pedal-powered two-wheelers. In fact, those bicycles only existed as a way to introduce new riders to the brand.

    Quote–It was a marketing tactic, and it’s easy to see the new bikes as following a similar strategy.

    Really H.D. ??
    A $4200 bicycle is supposed to appeal to Millennial’s and later turn them on to motorcycles??

    I think this must have been written as satire because their marketing dept can’t be that out of touch. Or maybe…..

    • 0 avatar
      markf

      I think the Harley marketing department is focused on merchandise cause the bikes haven’t changed in 30 years. Yet, EVERY Harley rider has at least 1 piece of branded clothing on at all times when on the bike. They will probably end up as a clothing company…..

      • 0 avatar
        Cactuar

        I wouldn’t be surprised if the HD merch was more profitable than the bikes themselves.

        • 0 avatar
          TwoBelugas

          “I wouldn’t be surprised if the HD merch was more profitable than the bikes themselves.”

          I agree. If someone showed me a tweet that says “Harley made almost as much money from kids toys and clothing sales from Walmart alone as new bike sales”, I would have to research it instead of rejecting it outright.

          • 0 avatar
            markf

            Harley and Ferrari have the same marketing strategy, slap your name on as much crap as possible and the public will eat it up…….

      • 0 avatar
        Bill Wade

        I’ve bee riding Harleys since 1971. I’ve never owned a single piece of Harley branded merch nor anything with skulls, crossbones, daggers or any of that nonsense.

        It likely did look a touch strange in the early 70’s wearing golf shirts, jeans and tennis shoes though, not so much today.

      • 0 avatar

        or tattoo….

      • 0 avatar
        HaveNissanWillTravel

        As a nearly 35 year rider (mostly Honda) and new owner of an ‘18 Iron 883, I have to say that there is very little plastic materials on these bikes, the frame welds are perfect, the paint is absolutely flawless,, just sitting on the garage floor and observing it. It handles well and is just an overall excellent motorcycle.

        They have changed as their QA is much better.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Harley Davidson is in very poor health (much worse than any non-GAAP metrics would reveal) and has been actively courting a deep-pocketed partner (fact) or potential purchaser for some time (as close to fact without their CEO stating it on a conference call with the BoD nodding in agreement).

      The almost inevitable future failure of H-D will look like the failure of Buell and its successor EBR Motorcycles, with some weird foreign company buying it out of BK for the namesake/goodwill, picking over its carcass, but just on a much larger scale.

    • 0 avatar
      redgolf

      or maybe most older boomers can’t hold dem big hogs up no mor, especially with momma on da back, when they stop, ya know, bad knees, hips, backs, but a Harley bicycle that easily transports on the back of their RV while their still looking cool pedaling around the RV parks, durag, faded tats and all – priceless!!!

      • 0 avatar
        Mandalorian

        @redgolf- when they hit this stage they move on to a Corvette.

      • 0 avatar
        Drew8MR

        I think it’s more that A: They don’t get ridden enough to wear out or ridden hard enough to crash out and B: They new bikes are exactly the same and C: the used market is beyond saturated. Why would you ever need a new Harley unless you were moving up from a Sporty to a Dyna or something.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      Harley went all in on the retro “live to ride, ride to live” Harley as a lifestyle meme. Anyone not enamoured with the whole “package” isn’t buying into it. It isn’t a matter of their marketing being out of touch. Their marketing and market is highly defined but highly constrained. That is why they are going to die. They are a victim of their own success.

  • avatar
    Zipster

    The flagging fortunes of Harley-Davidson are not without considerable irony.
    Probably the overwhelming majority of H-D riders are Trumpsters and it will be the counter-tariffs imposed by foreign countries on Harley-Davidsons in response to Trump tariffs which may lead to the demise of the company.

    The typical Harley rider, attired to look as menacing as possible together with the booming exhaust has given the company an image that will not be missed if it is gone.

    • 0 avatar
      markf

      Cause you polled all of them. Can’t you leave politics out of it? You should charge Trump rent for living in your head…….

      • 0 avatar
        Zipster

        And you should prostate yourself in front of him for giving your life meaning. Too bad you can’t receive a necklace like he did from the king of Saudi Arabia.

        • 0 avatar
          Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

          I suspect you meant “prostrate,” kiddo.

          Don’t try to use a word if you can’t use the word correctly; that’s the mark of an unintelligent individual.

        • 0 avatar
          "scarey"

          @Zippy=-=Like YOU prostate yourself in front of the Best and the Brightest ? Like that ?

          • 0 avatar
            Zipster

            How about “prostituting oneself to get a gold necklace? See the article in this week’s “New Yorker” about how the administration’s middle east policy was developed. It’s worthwhile if you can handle all the big words.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            I suspect you meant “prostrate,” kiddo.

            Don’t try to use a word if you can’t use the word correctly; that’s the mark of an unintelligent individual.

        • 0 avatar
          markf

          You should seek treatment for your Trump Derangement Syndrome….

          “prostate” LOL I See TDS has affected your spelling ability……

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          “And you should prostate yourself in front of him”

          Well, if the Russians do have a “pee tape” then he might be into watching that too ;)

        • 0 avatar
          WildcatMatt

          “My Uncle Thumper had a problem with _his_ probate. He had to take these big pills and drink lots of water!”

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        markf,
        Actually you can’t in this case regarding Can Hardly Davidsons.

        Trump has forced the EU to tax them. So if HD is not so healthy now it sure will lose even more.

        Motor vehicles and politics go hand in hand.This is something you must contend with.

        • 0 avatar
          markf

          Actually, you can.

          The article has nothing to do with Trump or tariffs, its about declining interest in motorcycles and declining sale in the US.

          Harley’s decline has zero to do with politics, though the fact that it still exists is due to Reagan’s tariffs on foreign bikes over 700ccs in 80s

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            markf,
            Its about a dinosaur biped slowly becoming extinct. So, if the EU taxes them at Chicken tax rates they will die off much quicker.

            Harleys are not huge in poorer countries as they are over priced for what you get. The EU is afgluent enough to afford them.

        • 0 avatar
          HaveNissanWillTravel

          You forget one of HD’s largest plants are in India.

    • 0 avatar
      Cactuar

      I was in Berthierville in Quebec last week-end and there were a bunch of leather-dressed bikers behind us at a red light. They were playing a loud KISS song and would shout and raise their fists with the beat. It was quite a spectacle. It was like I was back in third grade when the meanest kid was striving for attention. They probably thought they were very cool compared to us “normies”.

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      You should write for Jalopnik…that can’t write anything without injecting politics….always anti-Trump of course. I came here to avoid it.

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      While HD has been protected by tariffs on imported motorcycles over the years, they have also been railroaded by foreign governments who require them to produce motorcycles and source parts in the foreign market. This has put considerable strain on the employee infrastructure in the US and generated negative press which doesn’t help sales.

    • 0 avatar

      I was afraid we would get past 10 comments before politics were drug into the mix. Bravo Zipster, nailed it at 10

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Zipster may be letting T-rump carbonate his brain but the reality is what he said has a lot of merit to it, even if said in the wrong forum. Harley was specifically targeted and for a reason.

        • 0 avatar
          markf

          Harley was saved in the 80s by Reagan and the tariff on foreign bikes over 700cc

          https://www.nytimes.com/1983/04/02/business/us-raises-tariff-for-motorcycles.html

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            American Machine and Foundry (AMF) didn’t do Harley Davidson any favours with sub-par investment into engineering and manufacturing during the 70’s.
            “Willie G.” Davidson and investors buying the company back for 80 million and heading down the current “lifestyle” path was responsible for the brand’s salvation/resurrection.
            They have never been able to move beyond that image which will ultimately kill them.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Agreed.

  • avatar
    markf

    “While it builds a fine product….” That is debatable.

    Harley builds the same product year after year and hung its fortunes on baby boomers playing “Larry Leather” dress up dropping 20K on overpriced, under engineered motorcycles. Now that the baby boomers are dying off, younger folks couldn’t care less for Harley. Gen Xers like me (and a life long avid motorcyclist) are way more interested in current and vintage Japanese/Italian bikes.

    I don’t see Harley exist 20-30 years from now in its current form. They never made any attempt at anything but V-Twin Cruiser (they botched Buell but Buell was going no where with Harley motors)

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @markf – the most “modern” engine they have is the V-rod engine which IIRC was designed by Porsche but even that is basically 1980’s technology. That engine is constrained by the low and long drag racer style chassis.

      I’m with you in that I’m much more interested in European or Japanese machines. I’ve ridden Buells, quality control isn’t there and virtually anything Japanese or European was superior for 1/2 the price.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    I can see a future for scooter type motorbikes and crotch rockets, but the days of the hog are numbered. The oldest Boomers are 72 years-old and the youngest are 54. Not exactly a growth market. My daughter lives in Thailand, she knows how to ride a motorcycle but opts for a Vespa, it’s automatic and a breeze in traffic.

    • 0 avatar
      fIEtser

      Isn’t Harley building a plant in Thailand?

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Yes, Harley Davidson is building a new factory in Thailand (might already be open) and closing a Kansas City plant.

        “Harley-Davidson is opening up a plant in Thailand, where it plans to start production later this year. (The company also owns and operates facilities in India and Brazil, and it is closing a facility in Australia.)”

        So, they are buying stock back to try and prop up its value with the new corporate tax cuts, while closing facilities in the developed world (U.S. and Australia), and building out new factories in India, Brazil, and Thailand!

        Global NeoCapitalism on the hoof, as Jack Baruth would say!

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Had a conference in Scottsdale, AZ in April with many industry execs of manufacturing companies that produce highly discretionary consumer goods.

    These people represented motorcycle, watercraft, RV, snowmobile and light aircraft, etc. manufacturers, and flew in from all over, from Elkhart, Indiana and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Valcourt, Quebec to Vero Beach, Florida.

    This sector is already making genuine plans for a severe downturn in sales and revenue, as great as or greater than that which they experienced in the 2008-2011 period, and most of them experienced their peak (on a sales volume, not necessarily net revenue, basis – although some peaked in that area, also) in lat 2015 or early 2016.

    Some of the preparations included abandoning entire segments of their former business lines (e.g. BRP).

    Here’s a quick takeaway from their consensus and planning: People will still want their stuff and to do the things their stuff allows them to do, but it’s going to have to be far more affordable for future customers to do that stuff and own or rent the things that allow them to do it, and it mah not be via is from a business perspective for some/many of these companies to make that stuff given this trend, so exiting certain operations is going to happen for many of them (as they also eye east Asian competition, current and especially, future).

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      General aviation in the US is an example of a true loss of disposable time and income. Airplanes, while never cheap, are stratospheric in price (new). The entry level of a 4 seat Cessna Skyhawk is over 400k. Problem is, it doesn’t do anything that much better than a 20-50 year old version that can be had for 1/3 the cost or less. While a 40 year old Skyhawk (Piper Cherokee, Mooney,etc.) can still be a decent airplane, it’s not what people want. You want a new, shiny toy to go with your new, shiny license. Plus hangar space is at a premium, insurance, etc. and your out big money without spinning the prop.

      Learning to fly is exceptionally expensive compared to 20 years ago when I started flying. At around 150/hr and 50 hours of time (at least) to get even a private license, you don’t have to wonder why people don’t fly for fun anymore or take it as a hobby.

      • 0 avatar
        Drew8MR

        $150 an hour? It was like $34 wet with an instructor when I got my private.

        • 0 avatar
          gearhead77

          Yeah, it was $35/hr when I started too. $125 is the average, so you can still find deals. Personally, the Skyhawk is a better trainer and you and your instructor wont be over max gross with full tanks.

          Private with an instrument is mandatory in my book, especially if you’ll be using it for business. Airplane Flying Handbook is free from the FAA website and thats a good place to start if you’re curious. Theres all kinds of things in aviation to separate people from their money, just like anything else.

          • 0 avatar
            volvo

            In 1975 the C150 was $20/hr wet and the instructor was $15/hr. Currently local price is $110 wet with instructor at $50/hr. Good instructors are still underpaid but they get to fly for free. Given inflation over the past 40 years rental prices are not bad.

            A decent IFR equipped cross country aircraft such as a C182 will run you about $175/hr wet.

            Fuel price is highest of the variable costs at this time. C150 running about $35/hr and C182 $60/hr fuel burn.

            For single owner most analyses put the cost break even at about 100 -110 hrs/year more if you are financing the aircraft. That is a lot of flying hours for non business use. Partnership or renting makes the best economic sense but renters may not find the aircraft they want available at the time they want.

            In private aviation expenses are measured in AMUs (Aviation Monetary Units) = 1K.

            Wait. What was this thread about. Boys and their toys I guess.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      They have rates as low as $60/hour to get certified on Cessna 152 at an airport around here.

      • 0 avatar
        Drew8MR

        That’s not too bad, just be sharp and don’t screw around. I went to Sierra in Oakland and as soon as I could solo I just went out and goofed off most unproductively. That ended with trying to get my instrument though, because that was really difficult for me.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          I’m thinking about it. If I did it, I’d want to go all the way and get certified to fly by instrumentation, etc.

          • 0 avatar
            Drew8MR

            Get a decent sim setup. Don’t be self conscious about the radio.Learn your FARs. I can’t imagine you would still need to learn the E6B or memorize all the chart symbols (I am so not current), which was kind of a drag. The actual basic flying is pretty easy.If your ambition is just to go up and fly around,look at ultralights. They are a total blast. A 150/152 always served me fine for short to medium trips, you don’t need more unless higher altitudes/sketchy terrain/in a hurry/want to take people somewhere. I can’t ever imagine needing more than a 182 and certainly no more than a 210.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        $60 an hour for a Cessna 152? That’s only 20% more than it was here for a wet rental when I flew 25 years ago.

        When the Cessna 172 was new in 1956, it cost as much as a loaded Cadillac Eldorado. Today, a new one costs as much as a Cadillac dealership. People love their buy-the-lawyer/for-the-lawyer government though. They go crazy when an outsider intervenes.

      • 0 avatar
        fIEtser

        Yes, I was taking classes through a local college (until I ran out of money) and IIRC, it was averaging around $100/hr for the plane dry and the instructor.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    The problem with the car/bike analogue is one is a necessity while in the US at least the other is a toy. I haven’t ridden my motorcycle since last September and am looking to sell mine soon.

    Most of the things that work against getting a fun impractical daily driver are turned up to 11 with a motorcycle. What good is something like an S2000 dawdling down the highway or sitting in traffic? Then add the hassle of suiting up every time you want to ride, and becoming a meteorologist to determine when you can ride. I didn’t make a conscious effort to stop riding but once I got a fast enough car my bike mileage slowly crawled to zero. And the track day I did in September sealed the deal… that’s pretty much the only place I want to ride anymore.

  • avatar
    whynot

    Eh, this millennial has zero interest in any motorcycles, and I am hardly alone. That doesn’t make the motorcycle industry/HD a canary for the auto industry. You generally need a vehicle to live, expect for a few places (like NYC). Most motorcycles are not a serious vehicle (i.e. you can’t live with just a motorcycle as your only means of transport). They are a toy.

    HDs are for old baby boomer farts who mistakenly think they are cool riding one. Most other sports bikes are for Gen Xers/older side of millennial tools who mistakenly think they are cool riding one. Scooters only survive because of college students, but even they move along to cars as they age out.

    • 0 avatar
      Zipster

      For the boomers and those entering that age category, having a Harley is a Viagra substitute.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      I agree if we are talking about the US. But we are generally the exception to the rule when it comes to motorcycles. The rest of the world does commute on 2 wheels, largely due to steadier weather, shorter commutes, and either better drivers or prohibitive car ownership costs.

      • 0 avatar
        whynot

        Rest of world largely commutes on two wheels because there is good public transportation largely available when needed (e.g. Europe- although those two wheels are usually scooters or bicycles), or cars are out of the affordable price point of a large segment of the population (e.g. India).

        • 0 avatar
          markf

          The rest of the world(3rd world is what you mean) commutes on 2 wheels because they cannot afford cars.

          • 0 avatar
            TwoBelugas

            the Chinese and Indians are buying cars as fast as they can to get away from 2 wheelers.

            Meanwhile in the US there are many people who want to turn us back to Year Zero.

          • 0 avatar
            Mandalorian

            In the US Motorcycles are 100% a toy. An expensive toy that requires a special license which is a royal pain to get.

            Personally, I think Harleys are kind a cool, but there are a million other things I’d rather spend $30000 on.

            I’d like to see a Zipcar type service for motorcycles, but due to the licensing hindrance that can’t happen.

            Doing away with the motorcycle license might give the industry a shot in the arm.

          • 0 avatar

            In the town I am originally from everyone was riding bicycles – for shopping, commuting (I personally walked to work – 15 minutes walk in one direction), going to picnic, visiting parents, etc. Whole town was designed around bicycles.

            And then suddenly everything changed. After the fall of Soviet Union cars suddenly became available and affordable. So everyone aspired to own a car. Instead of riding bicycle for 5 minutes to work people started to drive cars to work. The problem was the lack of parking space. It took less than minute to drive to work but another 15 minutes to find place to park your car – you could park at home as well. Did not make much sense but people felt proud for not being left behind in the race to car ownership. And if you own car you to have to drive it somewhere to justify purchase.

    • 0 avatar
      OneAlpha

      Even in New York, I couldn’t see making myself dependent on public transport to get around.

      • 0 avatar
        markf

        “In the US Motorcycles are 100% a toy.”

        Not really true, though for a small segment of the population. In high school and college motorcycles were my only mode of transport. Inexpensive to buy, maintain and run (and great gas mileage) I could pick up a Yamaha XT 550 or 600cheap and keep it running (mostly) myself.

      • 0 avatar
        IHateCars

        “Even in New York, I couldn’t see making myself dependent on public transport to get around.”

        Agreed. Call me “elitist” but when I pull up next to a city bus on a hot Summer day and everyone is packed in there like sardines with the windows fogged up, contending with traffic is far better in my AC cooled, leather seated cab. I understand that for many public transit is a necessity but I will only take part if I’m absolutely forced to…..and even then…

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    I bought a new Harley Sporster when I was 25 for about $4k. It was a fine motorcycle and ultimately the performance was fine for me. It was also completely reliable. I also owned a BMW and it was total unreliable POS that ended up getting bought back under lemon law after fighting with the factory for more than 6 months (four of which the bike was in their service department). Good luck to the Honolulu police department.

    I don’t see Harley as having a quality issue but for a long time their outright performance wasn’t competitive if outright numbers were your driving factor. For millions of riders, 1/4 miles times just weren’t the overriding consideration, though.

    I agree, though, that Harley has had a demographic problem for a long time. Even 24 years ago when I bought my Sportster it was an anomaly for someone my age to ride one. Their recent efforts have fallen flat. The newer entry-level 500 Harley introduced isn’t very attractive and doesn’t even seem to match the performance and quality feel of the cheaper Japanese competitors.

    I don’t necessarily see the comparison with the car industry, though. Motorcycles haven’t served as daily transportation for Americans outside of a few cities with mild climates and favorable traffic laws in California for decades. There are a few hardcore riders out there, but they aren’t the norm.

    Less disposable income, higher insurance costs, more debt, more huge SUVs on the road making motorcycles feel even more exposed, fewer drivers who understand manual transmissions, more protective parents… these all affect motorcycle sales to new riders. I am 49 with two kids and can’t justify riding a motorcycle anymore, though I loved the hobby.

    Personally, I’m glad to see more small motorcycles on sale in the U.S. They make entry into the hobby more accessible and, frankly, these are fun bikes for experienced riders as well. One doesn’t always want to ride a 500+ lb Harley. I just don’t see how the motorcycle market is going to ever grow back to where it was 25 years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Posky

      This is the best comment. I agree wholeheartedly.

    • 0 avatar
      HaveNissanWillTravel

      I have to agree as well. I just purchased an ‘18 Iron 883 and love it. It’s not my primary transport, it is a toy. With the advent of texting, already “invisible” motorcycles have become more dangerous to ride, and with four kids the though of being run-over by some inattentive asshat is always in my head.

      Harley will have to do something. I rode Honda for almost 35 years and I did fall in love and bought the Iron, but nothing else in the HD lineup except for the Street Rod 750 appeals to me. If I want to move “up” in the HD world, it needs to evolve because a Softail will not be in my future.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Self-driving cars would save the motorcycle as the roads would become saver with dumb, predictable computers moving the normies around.

    The entry level bike is called “any used one for about a grand.” After that, you either have bikes that are just as expensive new as they are used, or bikes that are expensive new and worthless used, so the buying trends split from there. Only boomers can drop 5 figures on a leaky unreliable Harley to have the experience.

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      “Self-driving cars would save the motorcycle as the roads would become saver with dumb, predictable computers moving the normies around.”

      Only if those computers are predictable when there is an unpredictable variable (motorcycle rider) around. We still have a long way to go before self driving cars drive well outside their comfort zone. You also want your computers to be smart, not dumb.

    • 0 avatar
      IBx1

      safer*

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Self driving cars won’t solve the weather or distance problem.

  • avatar
    Lockstops

    They had their chance to use the levels of today’s production technology and all that to make more affordable bikes than before (which are still better than older bikes), and build their young customer base like that. That customer base would’ve been huge, and a large enough percentage would’ve kept buying bikes, parts, accessories and maintenance services from them. But they chose to take the easy, lazy route and try to price-gouge smaller numbers of customers, trying to be ‘upscale’, alienating the large masses.

    Keep charging 20 grand for shaky, unreliable POS bikes and then go ahead and wonder why you lost your customer base.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    When I bought my first bike in 1989 (Yamaha XJ600) biking had nearly died out. My city had lost half its dealerships. I hardly ever saw another rider. Economic boom helped, but the Harley boom brought in folks who bought the Japanese Harley clones. You started seeing a lot of ‘his-&-hers’ cruiser couples. Here the Harley age demographic dropped due to a profitable period in the energy industry, populated mostly by young guys with cash wanting to show they were rebels. The even younger guys however, were all about the sportbikes. Another trend I noticed was group riding. Driven by social media, no doubt, nobody seems to ride alone anymore, it’s always groups. Now, the Harley riders are disappearing and I’m seeing the ‘maker’ types with old 80s bikes turned into café racers. But, again it’s mostly to ride in a group to a café. So, none of those folks are buying new, their looking for an old Virago or Silverwing to mod. If the manufacturers want to improve their prospects, they need to go to municipalities and provincial and state governments and lobby the crap out of them to make biking more appealing. Number one issue should be parking. Why in my city does a bike have to pay for a whole parking space when a designated bike parking zone could hold six bikes in the space of one car? Or, even allow sidewalk parking, as I saw in Buenos Aires (and which was no obstruction for me as a pedestrian) Lane splitting? Scares me, but it could save on traffic congestion. Maybe even allow motorbikes on bike paths with a 20mph speed limit perhaps. In any case, bikes are far better than they’ve ever been, the way to keep riders is make the value proposition of riding better.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Posky

      Agreed.

    • 0 avatar
      OneAlpha

      I love commuting on my GSX-R750.

      While it’s a more involved affair to gear up than simply getting in a car and driving, traffic essentially doesn’t apply to you when you’re two feet wide.

      • 0 avatar
        IHateCars

        “…traffic essentially doesn’t apply to you when you’re two feet wide.”

        It does apply, but in a different way…because most traffic is trying to kill you when you’re on a bike;) I’ve spent that last few days here commuting on my R1, it’s been awesome but it’s truly astounding as to how much driver attentiveness has declined…which I don’t notice as much when I’m a cager. Fortunately most potentially dangerous situations are just a 1/4 turn of the throttle to get out of!

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      The ‘maker’ types is an interesting take. I was just in Denver last month as the weather was getting warm enough to ride. I don’t recall seeing a single modern bike. Everything was carbureted 80s, 90s bikes with style-conscious hipsteresque modes.

      Also seemed to be a weird obsession with thumpers up there. Could be the dual sport crowd, but I even saw a few single cylinder bobbers and other unusually mods.

      Strange motorcycle scene. I remember going up there when the military community was generally on base and Pikes Peak Raceway was still open and hosting AMA races. Sportbikes as far as the eye could see. Totally different place now.

      • 0 avatar
        87 Morgan

        TW5, i live in the Denver metro, their is a ridiculous number of HDs here. Personally, i cant stand them. Too loud, obnoxious.

      • 0 avatar
        markf

        Down in Colorado Springs we are generally free of the Denver, Hipster Douche bag infection. Plenty of Sport bikes,Adventure bikes and(unfortunately) loud, obnoxious Harleys. Very, very few douche bag, hipster 70s/80s bobbers.

  • avatar
    kkop

    Harleys, ‘crotch rockets’, blabla. The growth segment for quite a while has been adventure bikes – the SUV of the motorcycling market. Riders decided they wanted comfortable bikes (i.e. not exclusively built for Italian or Japanese physiques) and BMW and others sells (almost) as many as they can make. Being able to take them off paved roads is also a nice benefit.

    Harley has nothing in this segment.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Posky

      Good point. Adventure bikes have been the one segment gaining some traction and I don’t know why H-D has ignored it since the 1970s. There were rumors of a true successor to the XR750 coming but the bike Harley ended up showing was just a gussied-up Sportster1200 in 2009. The XR1200 wasn’t awful but it definitely wasn’t engineered for off-road shenanigans.

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      Our 16 year old daughter wants a 250-350cc dual sport bike to ride. She would maybe settle for a Rebel street bike if she can’t find a decent one but would prefer getting in the dirt.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @kkop
      Comparing adventure bikes to CUV/SUV sales is interesting. I see adventure bikes all over the place but when I travel down a gravel road I rarely ever see them. That is no different than the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited fad. People buy them because they “think” they may need the extra offroad capacity or like the image.

      I am seeing an “explosion” in “Scrambles” style bikes with some manufacturers having multiple variations. Ducati and Triumph have multiple variations.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    The only thing that could save H-D at this point would be to use their motorcycle expertise to develop a trike with an enclosable cockpit for under $10K (if that’s even possible). 2 wheels up front that can tilt when steering, in-line seating for 2 or seating for 1 and some cargo space, just enough engine for some fun acceleration. Something that would appeal to an urban, single first time vehicle buyer. Yeah, basically an Elio, but maybe H-D has the resources to pull it off.

  • avatar
    volvo

    Current new 125cc Honda price in Vietnam 38,000,000 dong = $1660 USD. I really doubt there is that much technology difference (except probably detuning for CARB). Honda USA could probably sell these for $2500 each rather than $3600 and still turn a tidy profit.

    For around town the newer electric assisted bicycles fill the niche previously held by 50cc motorcycles and a decent one can be found for roughly $2000 USD.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      a 125cc bike would be a non-starter in most of the US (except for curiosities like the Grom.) 125cc is the legal minimum for you to ride on a highway or interstate, and you’d be crazy to try. even the V-Star 250 I had for a year wasn’t anything I’d take on a freeway; its stated top speed was 68 mph and that left no reserve.

      for a heck of a lot of us, you can’t avoid using a freeway every day.

      • 0 avatar
        Drew8MR

        LOL, I used to ride 125s on the freeway all the time. In shorts with no helmet even (it was the 70’s and I am very stupid). Pin that bad boy and stay right.

      • 0 avatar

        Even in Central America, the standard bike is a 150 cc four stroke. You rode either Yamaha or Honda, or about a dozen Chinese copies of the XL 125. No two strokes, period.

        I run a two stoke about at least once a week…in a Supejet, a standup jetski….even that is at the end of the rope in the US. Any new design has to be a four stroke, which poses problems in a standup design hull. Kawasaki has a four stroke standup, but it is sufficiently large and heavy that it changes the nature of the beast. Even in marine/last loophole fashion, there aren’t any new two strokes.

        BRAAAP !!!

        As far as HD, it is an intentional legacy. Why you’d spend that much money for an old design, with significant limitations, makes no sense…..but clearly I’m quite wrong on this and “not getting it”.

      • 0 avatar
        Flipper35

        Kawasaki has a beginner cruiser that is 125cc.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Mission Accomplished.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    I don’t think that, at a corporate level, Harley stands absolutely no chance of connecting with Millennial buyers. There’s definitely a subset on younger riders that seem to have shifted to a sort of hacked-up, wrapped exhaust bobber look – probably both because there’s so many more cheap old cruisers than standards, and it fits a sepia-toned denim vest and knuckle tattoo aesthetic. More to the point, the current Sportster lineup is roughly the showroom fresh equivalent of that look. I think Harley knows this too, as they’ve leaned into some of the AMF-era paint jobs, and I know they tried the popup coffee shop thing (locally, on one of Toronto’s more hipstery drags, just down the street from one of the more hipstery bike shops).

    Unfortunately, the Street 500/750 feels a little half-baked, and Harley dealers have never been known for being all that welcoming to anyone interested in their smaller, cheaper bikes.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I agree.

      I think there’s are enough Millennials out there interested in the “cruiser” asthetic to keep H-D alive in the future, but the Street series feels purposely cheap, sounds like an old refrigerator, and isn’t especially attractive.

      It reminds me of how for years American car companies would “punish” people interested in an entry level product.

      That “Fat Bob” thing they make now looks cool, but it also costs $17k. They should move the Street series more in that direction.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Well, there might be a positive if they wait long enough…us millennials will be so poor we can’t afford cars, putting us on motorcycles and scooters like the rest of the 3rd world!

    You’re seeing it in consumer goods already. I don’t remember if P&G or Unilever, but one of them a few years back stopped or drastically reduced selling 1st world consumer products in places like Spain, Portugal, Italy, etc (former 1st world nations well on their way to 3rd world) and introduced more brands like those they sell in India, Brazil etc. When the money is gone, the money is gone.

    This will get me a flame I’m sure, I’m older millennial, and IMHO there is a significant gap between the first several early millennials and those after say 1986. We made it out of college at least a few years before the $hit-sandwich of 2008. 1986 and later never even had a shot. And so yeah (and this might be exceptionally millenial of me to say) I’m actually a little angry with the boomer generation. I feel that under their watch, they simply loaded up on debt, financialized basically every aspect of the economy (of particular note the cost of education, housing, and “health care”), presided over the exporting of blue collar jobs, inflated the tech bubble and housing bubble, and now probably a stock and bond bubble, then popped them, piled up $20,000,000,000,000 in debt (half of it in the last 10 years alone), spent every single dollar already and show zero signs of slowing down, have absolutely zero money to pay any debt back, sit on all of the fake gains in their housing values and their stock portfolios, brag about how “rich” their generation is, and how us millennials just need to suck it up and get to work and try harder and quit blaming others. Which in some ways is true (every generation has their hurdles), but overall my take is that they ruined significant parts of a “normal” life and kept all the benefits for themselves and dumped all the costs on the rest of us. And frankly its beyond selfish (what should I expect from the boomers….gotta have it all!!!) and insulting.

    So in some sick fashion, I don’t really wish ill on companies like HD, but I would have some sick satisfaction in watching all these companies that produce toys purchased on debt, the stock gains, the housing gains, all built on boomers and their absurd levels of debt, etc all blow up on them.

    So yeah, millennials have gotten shafted since basically they finished college, and now its a big panic and surprise they have no money to buy overly inflated toys?! And they’re not interested in slaving for an employer who will dump them on the street at 50? Or slaving so they can finance more debt on housing, cars, education etc? Or slaving to pay for the entitled boomers who did all this and are still going to demand someone else pays for their social security and medicare? Takes some real brain power to do that analysis.

    These “toy” companies have it coming. Demographics, debt, a glut of new toys floating in the market that will be the first to go up for sale for peanuts during even the slightest economic downturn (which will end up severe because all that debt will instantly not be able to get paid back and bankruptcy will explode) Good, they and the generation they hitched themselves to deserve every last bit of it.

    OK, rant off.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Dude you need to pour yourself a milk stout, throw an organic bison steak on the grill, put on a Shins vinyl, and mellow down.

      It’s just a motorcycle.

      /Year of 1986 person

    • 0 avatar
      "scarey"

      @Jerome10- No, that was a very good post. IMO, and many on here will disagree, The Greedy Corporate Executives that pay themselves millions or hundreds of millions per year and charge the high limit of what the traffic will bear, will reap what they sow. Actually, WE will reap what they should have reaped many years ago.
      Our standard of living has been declining for 4 or 5 decades. As a result, only the rich will have expensive toys, and for most people life is getting harder, not for their fault. As a retired boomer, I saw this over my working life. I have managed to get out of debt and retire with my head above water. Not by much. WHO will suffer for the greed of the Executive Class ? Those boomers who are in debt, and the younger generations who make smaller wages and pay higher prices than we did back in the day. Note to everyone who is still working- fiat currency is not wealth if you can save, save silver or gold , don’t spend more on a house or a car than you really need to. and don’t try to impress your neighbors. They don’t give a crap.
      Many things will change and not for the better. Panic now and avoid the rush ! /paranoia/

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      Boomers definitely broke it, and they enjoyed breaking it, but Gen X and Gen Y have embraced the suck. We are the people driving the housing market and real estate prices now. We are driving auto transaction prices and cell phone prices and everything else. We’re borrowing the money that is sending tuition prices through the roof. We’re becoming more and more culpable for the demise of the Middle America every day.

      Furthermore, we reached $20T in debt because the previous administration thought it was worthwhile to run deficits without worrying about growth. The Obama admin was the product of young, confused voters.

      People have been sewing the seeds of destruction for generations. It gets worse with each passing administration. It is up to the individual to survive, though young generations are taught the opposite.

      • 0 avatar
        gearhead77

        The beginning of the Obama administration was also the beginning, not the cause of,the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. There was no easy way out of it.

        • 0 avatar
          Ostrich67

          Wait, what? I sat in a DFAC on a military base in Kuwait in 2007, watching the US economy collapse in real time on CNN; utterly destroying my post-military career plans. That was a year before Obama got elected.

          You live in some sort of parallel right-wingnut universe, obviously.

      • 0 avatar
        "scarey"

        Actually, as a boomer, I blame the generation before mine the “Greatest Generation” for voting for politicians who raised deficit spending to astronomical levels with no intention of ever paying it back- they just piled it on later generations, mine and yours included. I always complained to my representatives that I had NEVER voted for ANY tax or tax increase, but that I was just born into a system that I had no voice in. Reagan understood but was outsmarted by congress (both parties I guess) and the debt and the tax increases just kept piling up. Now we may collapse from all the weight.

      • 0 avatar
        HaveNissanWillTravel

        Dilly.

    • 0 avatar
      Zipster

      Jerome:

      Very well stated. However, I would like to point out that the national debt tripled under Reagan and Bush I and doubled under Bush II. Until last year’s tax cut for the rich, the higher bracket for them which was passed under Obama was to some extent reducing the rate of debt growth.

      But in summary, I agree. I hope you and your contemporaries continue to speak out, the burdens which have been placed upon your generation are not fair

      • 0 avatar
        "scarey"

        Zippy- the national debt has doubled every 4 or 8 years no matter who is in the White House and which party they belong to, Doubled under Carter, Doubled under Reagan, doubled under Bush41, NEARLY doubled under Clinton (but he did have a surplus for one year- not due to only him, but also due to a Republican congress but I give him credit for that despite committing treason giving the Chinese our nuclear secrets and selling them our missile secrets), doubled under Bush Junior, and doubled under Obama. And maybe on track to double under Trump also. If you go back further, you will probably find that the debt also doubled under Kennedy/Johnson, and Nixon/Ford also. Last year’s tax cut was not just for the rich. “You are too much TV”-Mr.Miagi
        Give credit and blame where it is due.

        • 0 avatar
          Sub-600

          “Jimma” Carter, one of my all-time favs. Simultaneous double digit unemployment, inflation, and interest rates…he stands alone with that trifecta. I will never forget that clown sitting in the White House, wearing a sweater, and telling people to turn down their thermostats. He made Obama look like Alexander the Great.

          • 0 avatar
            ttacgreg

            The Carter years were burdened by the damage to the economy that the Oil Shocks imposed by OPEC in 1973 and again in 1979. He does not deserve the blame for that.
            Lesson learned, never admonish excessive materialism in the USA. Doing less with ever more natural resources was a big cultural imperative back than, and still is to a lesser degree now.

        • 0 avatar
          Zipster

          I suggest that you do some simple Google research about national debt increases. Among your other false claims about Clinton, the debt went up by “only” fifty-percent during his administration. It appears that you will believe anything if it satisfies your emotional needs.

          • 0 avatar
            "scarey"

            /www.forbes.com/sites/mikepatton/2014/09/18/the-u-s-debt-why-it-will-continue-to-rise/#53cb53a32e6c

        • 0 avatar
          TW5

          @ scarey

          An argument can be made that the Greatest Gen is really the most culpable. After all, they were the generation that fought in WWII, and when they reached retirement age, apparently many of them felt entitled to pull Social Security and Medicare benefits many multiples higher than what they paid-in. They raised payroll taxes sharply on their children and grandchildren to pay for it all. Those taxes continue to rise at a much faster rate than inflation.

          However, the Greatest Gen wasn’t particularly big and with all the Baby Boomers and Gen Y, there were plenty of hands on deck to pay for their benefits.

          Social Security and Medicare are literally Ponzi schemes. The “assets” requisitioned by DC were actually spent on frivolities in the present, and then subsequent generations were required to contribute to cover payments (on non-existent assets) to retirees.

          At some point we have to admit what these programs are and make corrections. Virtually the entire deficit is driven by those two programs and by Medicaid, most of which also goes to retirees.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            The U.S. Defense Budget is officially 710 billion USD annually, and closer to 890 billion USD annually if “off the books” programs that are definitively MIC oriented are accurately tabbed.

            Social Security, Medicare/Other Welfare Programs and Defense Spending gobble up the overwhelming majority of all federal tax revenues by a huge margin.

            “This year, Washington will spend a near-record $33,054 per household and collect $26,198 per household in taxes. The resulting budget deficit of $6,856 per household will bring the total national debt to nearly $170,000 per household.

            Federal spending has soared more than $5,000 per household since 2007 and is projected to rise another $9,000 over the next decade (all numbers in this article are adjusted for inflation). Unless spending is reined in, similar tax increases must eventually result.

            Washington will spend this year’s $33,054 per household as follows:

            Social Security/Medicare: $12,401.

            Anti-poverty programs: $6,112. Half of this spending subsidizes state Medicaid programs – so 50% of this roughly 6k is to supplement Medicare, but at the states’ level.

            Defense: $5,046.

            Interest on the national debt: $2,434. The federal government is $21 trillion in debt. It owes $16 trillion to public bond owners, and the rest to other federal agencies (mostly to repay the Social Security trust fund, which lawmakers raided annually before the program fell into permanent deficit in 2009). Record-low interest rates have recently held down interest costs. However, the national debt is in the process of surging from $10 trillion to nearly $35 trillion between 2008 and 2028, which will push annual net interest costs to nearly $6,000 per household — or double that cost if interest rates rise back to normal levels.”

          • 0 avatar
            ttacgreg

            Might you consider it possible that “defense” spending and irresponsible tax cuts, particularly for the ones who need favoritism the least, those in the top 1% also contribute to the deficit?

      • 0 avatar
        hpycamper

        Too bad I won’t be around to hear the complaints of future generations about how millennials screwed up everything. Should be entertaining.
        Signed
        Boomer

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Jerome, even as a “cusp” boomer (though I have far more in common with the Xrs) I have to agree with the vast majority of what you said. Time Magazine had a great story on this. May 28 “How my generation broke America” A really good read for sure. I think you would find it interesting and it supports much of your position. I don’t wish failure on the companies that provided products for those who “created” what you lament; they are just filling a void and made a profit doing so. Nothing wrong with that.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    Harley would have to totally reinvent its whole brand in order to appeal to a new generation of riders, and they wouldn’t do that unless they decided that trying to sell $40,000 bikes to dentists was no longer what they wanted to do.

    I started riding at 38, and it was sportbikes. While I love motorcycles, I’ve NEVER even considered buying a Harley because I don’t like their machines, and I especially don’t like the reputation they have and the demographics they appeal to.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Posky

      I have never heard of anyone who began riding after 35 in my life. Kudos to you!

      The Harley taste is definitely an acquired one and I’m not fan with the associated aesthetic. While I really do like their product overall, it’s not something I would want for most of my regular riding. I’ve owned Sportsters in the past but found anything bigger to be more trouble (and money) than I wanted to deal with. It’s a total mystery to me how cruiser riders don’t spend a large portion of their time scraping up the bottom of their foot pegs.

  • avatar
    pragmatic

    So big data is going to save the auto industry? What advantage in collecting data do they have over a cell carrier? I don’t see the added value of the automobile generated data over the phone generated data. So where’s the money?

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      Well, they charge you to buy the equipment, they skim transactions prices off the top, then they process the data themselves, which saves them paying someone else for the information.

      The make/save lots of money.

      The sad part is they do it without specific disclosure of what they are doing or how they can restrict services or how it affects the end-user. That is why most corporate surveillance needs to be shutdown.

  • avatar
    slap

    The average car from 1970 or 1980 isn’t as well equipped as a “stripper” model current car. The base Honda Accord is $23,570. The base Mazda 6 is 21,950. The new cars are safer, more reliable, last longer, pollute less, and are more fuel efficient.

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      While all of that is true, markets also tend to make things cheaper. That isn’t happening. The manufacturers like to pretend it’s because no one buys their low-cost options, when in fact, the oligopoly is playing signaling games among themselves to keep transaction prices constant in real-dollars over time.

      Not long ago, Nissan announced they were reducing production. Why? That’s the sort of thing you can put in a financials footnote or disclose in a shareholder meeting.

      They are colluding, and it seems Germany is the only country worried about it at the moment.

  • avatar
    TW5

    The problems with the motorcycle industry are so vast, it’s hard to know where to begin.

    Harley is probably in the most trouble, but the Japanese are not immune to terrible decision-making. Most of the Japanese manufacturers make 4-5 different variants of the same basic motorcycle, which does nothing for their bottom line or for the riders who pay higher prices for MSRP and spares.

    As severe as most of the product problems are, most of the issue in the US is related to macroeconomics. As the US trade deficit was widened drastically foreign capital has come flooding into the US, and regrettably, lenders discovered that Americans were content to ruin the housing market by overpaying for real estate. This cut into household budgets. Furthermore, American troops, who’ve long been the mainstay of the young motorcycle demographic, have been deployed for nearly 20 years now. It seems many of them no longer have time to ride. The rest of the under-30 demographic are struggling to pay off school loans.

    Additionally, 2-wheeled motorsports have effectively collapsed in the US. This was once the primary marketing activity in the United States for much of the motorcycle industry. Without motorsports, and with the closure of many motorsports complexes, particularly those in close proximity to military installations, has badly hurt the industry, though this affects Harley less than the Japanese and Europeans.

    The industry is a complete wreck in the US, and for whatever reason, the manufacturers don’t seem interested in making a coordinated effort to fix it. The retro Japanese bikes are clever, but they still consider them to be illegitimate trivialities hence the “retro” tag.

    Whatever, this is capitalism. Pull your head out or go bankrupt.

    • 0 avatar
      "scarey"

      You are correct, Sir- the Japanese motorcycle makers are also in peril.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        Japanese motorcycle makers are not in peril due to USA market contraction.

        This table sums it up:

        https://www.statista.com/statistics/606311/motorcycle-sales-projection-globally-by-region/

    • 0 avatar
      markf

      The decline of US Motorcycle racing is indeed tragic. It was a once thriving sport that fed many excellent US riders into the WSBK and MotoGP. Now there are only 3 US riders in all o WSBK and MotoGP, du to dominance of Spanish riders but also the near total collapse of what was AMA superbike racing

  • avatar
    carve

    I’m 41 and Harley’s have never appealed to me. They’re as refined as a tractor, gaudy as hell, too heavy, and absurdly overpriced. What do they do well, besides shake? Zero interest.

    I learned to ride at the local Harley dealer though, on a Street 500. I’ve no idea why anybody would buy one of those things. Utterly unremarkable. 500 pounds with only 35 hp? Quality and refinement sucked, too. You’d have to rock it back and forth to get it into gear, welds sucked…it just felt cheap. For the same money.

    I do agree that millenials are not only less able to afford a bike as a toy, but too many of them spent their entire youth staring at screens instead of actually going out and doing risky and exciting things. They’re scared of bikes.

    Also, while bikes are fuel efficient, they’re not much better than a lot of cars, like a Prius, these days, and frequent tire replacements required on a bike, as well as other maintaince like chain and sprocket, valve adjustments etc. mean they’re probably not cheaper to run than an econo car- they’re just a lot more fun.

    The only real practical arugment for a bike is ease of parking in urban areas, and splitting lanes in LA traffic, where motos are HUGELY practical.

  • avatar
    carguy67

    Not mentioned so far: Autos have gotten progressively more crashworthy–‘safe’ is not the appropriate term and never has been or will be IMO–while motorcycles have not (and really can’t be made much more crashworthy for, well, obvious reasons). I’ll SWAG that, before seat belts/harnesses, crumple zones, crash testing, etc. riding was not appreciably more dangerous than driving a 1940s-era car (that is to say, both were dangerous). Most people past teenage years have known at least one person who was killed or grievously injured riding; that can leave a lasting impression. I once flipped a quarter with a friend over who got to ride on the back of another (inexperienced) friend’s brand new Norton 750; I lost the flip but the guy who ‘won’ was killed when the bike went through a barbed wire fence off a country road on a reverse-banked curve. Put another way, after WWII cars were arguably not much safer than riding a motorcycle, and the veterans who survived combat were willing to accept the risk; Americans have become considerably more ‘safety’ conscious (witness the proliferation of ‘safety’ and crash ratings in contemporary car commercials).

    Lest you think I’m overly ‘safety’ conscious, until a few years ago one of my favorite hobbies was flying light aircraft, and I got reasonably good at basic aerobatics. I also survived an engine-out over rough terrain and kept flying afterward (I also continue to drive two ancient British sports cars–just put 5,500 miles on one of them–that aren’t appreciably ‘safer’ than a large bike). In a plane, it’s almost all on you; i.e. your fate in in your hands, not the old lady who decides at the last second to make a left turn, doesn’t see you coming(and won’t hear your straight pipes until too late, if at all (when I told my mother I was taking flying lessons she said “At least it’s not a motorcycle”). For better or worse, we’ve become much more ‘safety’ conscious, and bikes don’t fit that narrative.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    To add to the issue re safety, it is true, motorcycles are donorcycles as BigTrucks likes to call them.

    I’m in early 40s and have known at least a dozen people who’ve been killed or seriously injured on motorcycles (if I include friends/relatives of people that I know, and include moderate injuries in addition to severe injuries and deaths, it’s more like two dozen or more people that have bit the pavement hard or have been in collisions with vehicles while on bikes).

    • 0 avatar
      redgolf

      sad to say a lot of motorcyclist do not understand how a bike steers, push left go left, push right go right! it’s called counter steering, just the opposite of how you would think a bike steers! If you don’t believe me go out on a lonely road or highway and try it, it’s not your body leaning rather the gyro effect of the front wheel causing the bike to lean and steer the bike in that direction! many bikers have been known to steer in the wrong direction thus heading into the danger instead of steering away from it.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      **Every** person I know who owns and rides a MC has laid one down.

      I know of a few who rode their MC to an early expiration.

      Anymore, with rate the general public is NOT paying attention, I really am at a loss as to why anyone would ride one on a public road. The juice is not worth the squeeze.

      Up in the mountains on a four wheeling road appeals to me on some level, not enough to act…

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        “Anymore, with rate the general public is NOT paying attention, I really am at a loss as to why anyone would ride one on a public road…”

        THIS.

        I love the asshats who have super loud motorcycles thinking “Loud pipes save lives…” No they don’t. Far too many people driving “cages” are so fscking involved with their phones they don’t hear 140 dB ambulance sirens RIGHT BEHIND THEM! I don’t care how much your motorcycle farts, with the windows up in the average CUV and these folks constantly staring down into their laps, even the loud motorcycles are just a buzzing gnat…

  • avatar
    redgolf

    “remember your first bicycle? I mean your first REAL bicycle?” a Harley Davidson cruiser! ha ha ha , taken from the new GMC truck commercial!

  • avatar
    dts187

    Anecdotally, I don’t know a single person in my age range interested in a Harley. Triumph, Ducati, and BMW are the aspirational motorcycles. Another option is a custom cafe racer. I personally know two people paying good money for a local shop to build them a cafe style bike off a 70s Honda CB platform. Another acquaintance built a bobber off an old Kawasaki 750 cruiser.

    The new breed of motorcycle enthusiast seems to like the cafe/UJM look. Manufacturers are catching on. Triumph has the modern classics line. Yamaha the XRS series. Kawasaki has a retro treatment for their Z line.

    The old classic chromed-out cruiser just doesn’t fit the bill right now. Harley has a few decent looking bikes but the price-to-performance aspect just isn’t there. Id like to have a new Fat Bob to compliment my Street Triple but the $18k+ price tag is laughable. The good looking and much cheaper Iron 883 just doesn’t have the performance for me to justify the price. They need to find a better balance if they want to succeed. I don’t think it is so much a “millennial” thing as much as it’s a Harley has been resting on their laurels and cashing in on the boomer wave. They’re now behind the game in creating a product that appeals to the next generations and paying the price.

  • avatar
    markf

    Don’t worry they have a plan. Electric!

    “As part of that effort, Harley-Davidson said it is on target to launch its first electric motorcycle within 18 months. Tuesday, the company said it would invest more aggressively in developing electric-biking technology.”

    https://www.marketwatch.com/story/harley-davidson-sales-decline-continues-2018-01-30

    • 0 avatar
      "scarey"

      I can see it now. Every August, just before the Sturgis Rally in South Dakota, thousands of stranded electric Harleys on the side of the road, all looking for a CHARGE.

  • avatar
    toxicroach

    I don’t know how common motorcycling should be, but off hand I know 1 guy about to turn 40 with a motorcycle. That’s it. That’s my anecdotal evidence.

    The younglings today are a remarkably boring and safe lot, so you can depower the donor cycles all you want, I don’t see motorcycles making a comeback anymore than I see cigarettes getting popular again. But I could be wrong.

    As far as car cost, sure, they’re more expensive now, but on the other hand they also last two to three times as long, so on a dollar per mile basis I think a modern Honda Civic is a steal.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      It will be a few years until people figure it out, but the days of the durable car available new at the dealership are behind us.

      • 0 avatar
        carguy67

        re: “… the days of the durable car available new at the dealership are behind us.”

        Please explain. I’m not in the market, but I’m of the impression that if I did want a new Civicorolla I could go to a dealer and buy/lease one?

  • avatar
    carlness

    Harley sells motorcycles based off of an image. The actual product has been obsolete technology for 20+ years. The decline in popularity and sales has been entirely predictable.

  • avatar
    sgtjmack

    And why isn’t Harley building these bikes themselves? They can’t make a ton of money off of the branding alone. They need to be making them in house, and not simply rebadge something that someone else makes.

    I’m sure that these are quality made bikes and all, especially at over $4k. But there needs to be an in house building program, then the price could probably come down.

    But how in the heck are they going to market it?

  • avatar
    stuki

    Smaller “Japanese” bikes at US dealers have precious little to do with the Japanese reading the US market better than Harley. They’re just building for the ones who are buying bikes; emerging Asia. America isn’t worth even a footnote anymore. Even European sales, is becoming little more than a marketing exercise for building brand credibility.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @stuki – I posted a table up thread that confirms your comment. In 2018 Asia/pacific motorcycle sales are predicted to hit 108,800,000 units. North America (USA/Canada/Mexico) 1,930,000.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Good timing for this article.

    Hamburg this weekend is hosting Harley Days. Its supposed to be Europes biggest bike event.

    Since I’m in Hamburg I’ll drop in and have a look at some of the events.

  • avatar
    Daniel J

    I’m right at the gap of Gen X and Gen Y. What I see from folks similar aged to me(1981) is that what they want and what they can afford are two different things. Its similar to the housing market. They told everyone they have to have granite. But many first time home owners can’t afford new builds or granite, so guess what? They stay renting.

    What I’m getting at, is I believe, that we’ve all been convinced “the best, or nothing”. Basically, they don’t want to settle for something less because of marketing and peer pressure.

    I also believe that Millennials would rather spend thier money on fancy food, trendy clothes, trendy breweries and hangout places than buy and maintain a car, let alone a motorcycle.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      According to sociological research, even the poor or those with little chance of upward mobility deserve some ‘guilty’ pleasures in their life. Be it a cigarette, a beer or a big screen TV. We should not hold this against them as without any ‘pleasures’ or rewards life can become unbearable.

      So for millenials, trying to get ahead in an increasingly complex, competitive world, with housing prices out of control and wages not keeping up with the cost of living, spending some money on a night out, or a designer piece of clothing is a fairly inexpensive reward. Whereas a motorcycle (or vehicle) may be a quite expensive ‘frill’, which requires ongoing costs.

      • 0 avatar
        Daniel J

        This is genuinely not the case that I see. Maybe my anecdotal evidence is small, but I’m talking about going out several nights a week or even more frequent, and sometimes to really expensive places. I see those who’d rather spend their money now that save. That’s fine if thats what they choose to do. Part of it is the social norms of today which is driven by the current social standards and media.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          I’ve never experienced a situation where more people, even those with relatively high incomes and net worth (even if the also carry around a large chunk of debt anchored to their assets), have expressed a willingness to live it up, even borrowing against many/all of their assets, to YOLO, as today.

          There’s been a cultural shift amounting to sea change when it comes to views on debt.

          The debt business and war business are two of the best businesses ever created, in terms of profitability for the proprietors.

          • 0 avatar
            Zipster

            Deadwood:

            Your succinct rendition of the budgetary inflows and outflows is quite compelling. Now utilizing your usual cynicism, what would you propose as a fix?

            Do you have theories as to why people are such compulsive borrowers today and how they might be induced to become financially responsible?

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            I read an interesting article recently on will power and weight loss. The study found that those good at studying, maintaining weight, good eating habits etc.(university student participants) did not exercise much willpower but had sound habits and stable personal lives.
            A similar study done on “postponed gratification” showed that children from low socioeconomic groups with unstable environments or poor future outlooks ALL chose “immediate gratification” over “postponed gratification” even though the reward for postponement was higher.
            People will not “save” or prepare for the future if they have no trust or belief in a stable future.

    • 0 avatar
      monkeyodeath

      It’s been shown that millennials are more interested in experiences than possessions. They’d rather travel, go out with friends, and do things than collect stuff like houses and cars.

      And…why not? Who’s to say buying a car or motorcycle is a better decision than being able to go out, eat good food and drink good beer all the time?

      Our parents’ generation got suckered into the idea that home ownership and a new car in the driveway was the key to happiness…and they were miserable. I think a lot of millennials have seen that are are seeking new avenues of happiness.

  • avatar
    Dilrod

    Maybe Polaris will spin off Indian and merge it with Harley to create the American Motorcycle Corporation. That’ll carry them through!

    As an aside, I used to recruit employees for the Spirit Lake, IA plant when they still built the Victory. Really cool place, like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory!

    Funny thing about them dropping Victory for Indian. It might buy their motorcycle business some time until the novelty wears off, but do they think this will save it long term? Kind of like FCA re-branding as Studebaker.

  • avatar
    Maxb49

    “I also believe that Millennials would rather spend thier money on fancy food, trendy clothes, trendy breweries and hangout places than buy and maintain a car, let alone a motorcycle.”

    And who are we to blame them? The same can be said for any generation in history prior to the genesis of car culture.

  • avatar
    7402

    The millennials who may or may not be driving the next phase of transportation choices will look to electric bicycles sooner than Harley Davidsons or even the new Super Cub. Yes, you can drop $6,000 on an electric bicycle, but you can get perfectly serviceable ones for $400-$1,800. For an in-town commuter it does everything a motorcycle can do except go fast. You can also park it securely in your apartment while charging it overnight, and you get eco-cred without spending Tesla money. You don’t need a driver license of any kind, so they can be adopted at a younger age. These electric bikes remove the main objections to biycling for transportation (as opposed to recreation): you can go up hills effortlessly, and you can arrive at work without needing to shower.

    Maybe HD needs to make an electric version of that admittedly very pretty bicycle.

  • avatar
    DougD

    $4,200 for a bicycle? Pfft, you can buy a good used motorcycle for that much all day long, although none of them are Harleys :P

    I have a Harley riding friend, he’s a HOG ride captain, schedules his vacations around group rides, loves it. However he’s also over 50, I don’t think millenials will go for that because they don’t do that level of organization. I may be over generalizing here but they don’t commit, then decide what to do at the last minute.

  • avatar
    retrocrank

    It could also be a sign of another bird, Henny Penny.

    Or,

    Maybe there is a growing recognition that being an obese faux-gang jackass on sonic competitor to a B17 attending to his genital deficiencies just isn’t all that attractive after all.

  • avatar

    My 60 year old dentist has a Harley.

    ’nuff said.

  • avatar
    zipper69

    I started riding two wheels in 1958 and over the years went through a range of British and then Japanese bikes, I finally quit in 2005 when my “company bike” left with the job!

    H-D got fat and lazy by depending on a domestic market that they assumed would NEVER change.
    British manufacturers did the same, I saw the domestic market dominated by Triumph, BSA, Norton, Matchless etc deflate as each new, modern iteration from Honda arrived, they simply made a better, newer more reliable product.

    I lived in Europe 2000-2007 and they ADORE Harleys despite the awful cost of importing them and paying through the nose for parts, but that export market wasn’t enough to stop the rot.

    Kawasaki, Honda, Yamaha took Harleys apart and made a note of all the bad points, then produced their own versions that stopped, started, went around bends and didn’t leak oil, they were also sleeker looking and lighter than the Hogs they mimicked.
    A new generation not wedded to the H-D mystique prefered the “fakes” and that bit into sales even more.
    H-D may continue as a clothing and decorative parts company but I see no future for their product in this century.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      I will state my unsolicited opinion that Kawasaki is prob the most underrated bike maker, with some epic hits, and actual, tangible high quality offerings, at very reasonable price points, Yamaha is generally overrated and overrated compared to Kawasaki (yes, it’s true that Yamaha has a wider offering and even went after the Harley riders and Goldwing aficionados, in addition to the crotch rocket crowd) – but their quality/durability is still 10x superior to H-D, and Honda is priced and regarded as it should be based on the merits of their offerings.

  • avatar
    agent534

    If they want to get in with the young crowd, they need a dirt bike. Maybe a 4-wheeler too. There are rouge bike gangs riding their dirt bikes on the street all over suburbia.
    Make a dirt bike, make a clone of the first Fast and Furious movie centered around urban dirt bike riders, and ride that wave.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Honestly right now would be the golden era for me motorcycle wise. I loved bikes around the 400cc range. None were really available outside of the dual sport singles at the time. Now there are several bikes in this class and they are better than ever.

    But I quit riding around 2010 or so, not because the bikes werent great, but because everyone got a freaking smartphone they couldnt bear to put down and I got sick of being nearly killed a couple of times every ride. Some woman in a minivan turned left in front of me while yakking on the phone. I missed her, but I went down and she never even saw me or stopped. I have kids and a family to support. I loved riding, actually was my primary transportation for several years, but it just wasnt worth the headache.

    Combine that with the fact that motorcycle ownership while on active duty in the Army requires you to do a reem of paperwork every time you want to climb on it and it just lost its appeal.

    In short, bikes are better than ever (never was a Harley guy), its cars and drivers that suck. The inability to see out of a car nowadays is a problem.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    “many of them felt entitled to pull Social Security and Medicare benefits many multiples higher than what they paid-in.”
    Could someone PLEASE tell me how to do this? I paid into SS for over 40 years. What I get now will cover my utilities, food, and maybe enough to cover the payment on a push-scooter.
    In all seriousness though, the motorcycle industry in the USA goes up and down with the economy. In the 1970s Honda and some others would sell more of one MODEL in a year than an entire brand sold in later years. Then the recession of 1980-83 hit and motorcycle dealers closed faster than Sear’s stores now. I recall that in 1985 you could still buy a new 1981 or 82 motorcycle. At some discount.
    Things picked up again in the late 1980s only to crash again with the DotCom bubble.
    What’s going on now is a reflection of the real economic situation for 60% of the population. The supposed “recovery” after the Financial Crisis (Fraud) of 2006-2008 has not visited them.
    So no $$ for a new motorcycle and plenty of used ones at lower prices.
    A similar situation may effect auto companies in the decade(s) to come.

  • avatar

    An aside, I am surprised no one mentioned the Barracuda in the lead pic. The tire size seems all wrong for some reason.

    A neighbor down the street had a 500 cc (I think) BSA. It was great when he would run it without the “baffles”. What a sweet roar it would make! He was always out cleaning and waxing the thing. It looked great. He was a gunner in a helicopter in Nam and was our small towns first and only one killed in that war/police action. Even though he was at least 4 to 6 years older than me, he always treated this goofy, little kid kindly. His parents were on the obsessive side which made me wonder where that BSA ended up. It may be in some barn collecting dust. I’m sure they were extremely reluctant to part with any of their son’s stuff.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    Harley doesn’t build a fine product. It crude and primitive (two cylinder engine!) and punishing to ride. Tush powder is standard issue for Harley riders. Many Harley riders love to blast their exhaust sound at everyone in sight. Not exactly being good to your neighbors.

    Harleys sell on nostalgia and image. Very few people under 40 years of age are attracted to the James Dean/Harley image.

  • avatar
    monkeyodeath

    I live with a diverse group of people in their mid-20s, and it’s been eye-opening (I’m in my early 30s).

    Expensive, non-essential possessions like new cars and motorcycles are totally off their radar. The money they have left over after paying for rent and student loans, they would rather use on travel, concerts, yoga/rock climbing classes, and going out.

    We live in Los Angeles, so everyone does plenty of driving, but a car is seen as 100% utility — nothing more. Nobody cares about having something new, trendy, or fancy.

    Sure, it makes sense that motorcycle sales are down — bikes are pretty inessential, and a lot more of a hobby than car ownership.

    But this generation has no attachment to cars. If they could ditch their cars and affordably ride Uber/Lyft everywhere, they would in a heartbeat.

    Is there anything wrong with that? Of course not! Every generation has different priorities. If anything, it’s a good thing they they value good times over material goods.

    But I definitely think car makers should be wary. The day personal car ownership becomes non-essential — whether by self-driving Lyfts or better public transportation — lots of young people are going to unload their wheels and never look back.


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