By on February 6, 2021

HarleyThe bikes that made Milwaukee famous, Harley-Davidson, have rolled out Hardwire, their ambitious five-year plan to restore profitability and desirability to The Motor Company.

HarleyNot to set the bar too high, Harley-Davidson is hoping to increase profits and low double-digit earnings per share (EPS) by 2025. How do they plan to do this, given the graying of their audience, much like that for ’32 roadsters and ’55 Chevrolets?

Going at it a different way, according to Harley’s marketers, means using enhanced digital touchpoints to reach customers, including non-riders, through multiple channels. Well, they’re not straying too far from what they’ve done practically forever, investing in touring, large cruiser bike, and trike segments, but now they’re expanding into adventure touring and cruisers to augment their prior positioning.

So far, it’s not looking too promising, but the launch of Harley-Davidson Certified, a pre-owned Harley program much like that of almost every carmaker, is a good move. Many of their dealers were already selling used Harleys for nearly the price of a new bike, and in the case of some of the more desirable models, for more than the going price in either Kelly Blue Book or NADAguides. This might provide buyers of used Harleys with an extended warranty and a little peace of mind, beyond the dealer’s sleight of hand.

Global dominance is a lofty goal, and having been there before, Harley-Davidson is keen to make a return as a lifestyle brand and icon. Not only will the company push bikes worldwide, but they’re also going to use bike parts, accessories, and soft goods to springboard their renaissance. Redefining their footprint, Harley will tread in 10 markets deemed most important to their success, although they didn’t define what those markets were during the press conference. E-motorcycles were deemed important to Harley’s future, and their commitment was restated, along with declaring that their LiveWire e-motorbike is the leader among plug-ins worldwide, likely a point of contention in India or China.

Spreading out the wealth, or perhaps the risk, Harley-Davidson is offering equity grants to its 4,500 employees, giving each of them an opportunity to own a bit of the bar and shield. In calling it a new approach to inclusive stakeholder management, this action was taken to recognize workers who create and deliver their signature products.

Harley

Jochen Zeitz, Harley’s chairman, president, and CEO, said, “Harley-Davidson is the most desirable motorcycle brand in the world, backed by leading positions in the most profitable segments and a reinvigorated culture of performance, efficiency, focus and speed.”  In the hot seat only since May 7th, Zeitz was chairman and CEO of Puma, the German athletic shoe company from 1993 to 2011, remaining chairman of Puma after being appointed CEO of the sport and lifestyle division of Kering, the luxury goods firm. Without a doubt, Zeitz has the Powersports industry background needed to regain Harley-Davidson’s footing, not only as a motorcycle manufacturer but as a much larger cultural icon.

[Images: Harley-Davidson]

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85 Comments on “Harley-Davidson Hardwires Five-Year Growth Plan...”


  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    Exclusivity or Growth for H-D?
    Make great motorcycles, make fewer of them is the path to profit for this brand.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    While I wish Harley-Davidson good luck, part of me thinks their strategy is not going to work. I honestly believe their products are out of sync with the needs of the 21st Century… and a world that increasingly has less money to spend on expensive toys. Moreover, the Harley-Davidson cache simply doesn’t mean as much to young people as it does/did for Boomers.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryan

      I agree. Not just young people though. I’m a GenXer, I don’t know anyone in my age group that would purchase one or “aspire” to purchase one. A good amount of my friends have motorcycles. None of them are HD’s. When I hit the market, I doubt HD will offer anything I am interested in. As of right now, they don’t.

      They are a 100+ year old American Company. I do hope they survive. When options go away, the customer loses.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        The fact that they don’t have entry-level bikes sends me away every time I check to see if Harley has something I like.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          Lack of an “entry-level” is an issue. They tried to do it with the “Street” series but it was obvious those were built to a price point and rather than improve it they are getting rid of them. Some people like the Iron 883 but there seems to be about $3,500 of badge premium baked into the sticker.

          • 0 avatar
            Luke42

            They need a $3500 bike, which is nice enough to get riders to come back to Harley in 3-5 years.

            That $3500 price-premium is about what I had budgeted for the whole bike in my 20s. I can afford much more now, but $3500 *price-premium* over a Honda/Kawasaki/Yamaha is still enough to send me out of the store with my tail between my legs.

            I can afford $3500 these days, but my wife will have a thing or two to say about where else we could use that money…!

          • 0 avatar
            Mackie

            My friend had the Street series. Complete and utter garbage. Dangerous to ride. Abysmal customer support. The Harley dealership he bought it from eventually refused to repair it anymore. He finally cut his losses and bought a Honda. Harley is only (barely) capable of building overpriced lifestyle bikes for retired dentists. Completely irrelevant to anyone younger than a boomer. Crap bikes, crap company. They deserve to die along with their ageing clientele.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          They had one a few years ago…the Buell Blast. It was a 500cc single with a belt drive. Smallish, but actually a decent bike if you were buying one for a transportation device. Obviously this is not a demographic that frequents HD dealerships.

          I was a fan of the Buell line, but they were overpriced based on their performance and that matters to sportbike buyers. Still would ride a Ulysses if I got back in to it though.

          The entry level bike issue they have is likely the same that killed the Pontiac Fiero. The Corvette of the day had gotten stale and it was pretty easy to build a better performing mid engines sports car. Couldnt have that though, so they neutered it.

          A modern small displacement bike would run rings around Harley’s big traditional offerings. They knew this, so you got a quirky styled 500cc single that would be a decent bike in a city but was never going to sell the Harley Davidson riders. This let the company take the easy way out, throw their hands up and say “The people have spoken…build more Road Kings”.

          Well the people had spoken. They said “your entry level bike sucks compared to even a geriatric Kawasaki EX-500” while their core customers increasingly sold.off their road kings to buy golf carts to tool around “The Villages” down in God’s waiting room.

          Harley Davidson is the Mercury Grand Marquis. Neither are coming back.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “A modern small displacement bike would run rings around Harley’s big traditional offerings.”

            Are traditional HDs really built for “performance” though? Outside of the Sportster and Street, I’ve always thought the idea is that they are for going longer highway distances. That’s why they have the weight and larger fuel tanks and more emphasis on torque over high RPM speed.

            It’s like saying a base Mustang will run rings around an F-350 long box or a conversion van. It will, but they weren’t designed for the same purpose.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            True, but again the Japanese cruisers and touring bikes will also run rings around HDs offerings in performance and reliability.

            Then there are the Sportsters. Neither particularly comfortable or fast. A competent entry level.offering would likely do everything better than that bike unless you just have to have the badge or styling and it seems that customer has long since gone off to Shady Acres.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            YMMV, and I don’t have much direct experience, but it does seem like the brand’s performance and reliability has improved since 2016 (at least on the cruiser/touring side). I haven’t seen many comparisons where they come in last place.

            I agree on the Sportster. They either need a big refresh or a $3000 price drop. Still better than the “Street” series though.

            I personally don’t think HD should focus on other segments. Building expensive and middling “adventure”, “sport” or “scrambler” motorcycles isn’t the ticket. “Build more Road Kings” can work, but make the Road King the best touring motorcycle someone can buy. And, make a sub $9K entry-level cruiser that’s actually a good cruiser (COMFORTABLE, stable, long fuel range). In those classes things don’t need to be a rocket.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @ajla – I’ve riden various Buell bikes. If you haven’t riden a Japanese sport bike or anything European you’d think they were okay.
            Harley had the V-Rod which was supposed to be their street performance drag bike, old Yamaha V-Max’s would slaughter it. They came out with a drag strip only version of it. A litre class street legal Japanese sport bike with a skilled rider on board was faster. Low 10 seconds with the occasional dip into the high 9’s.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            I’m a little familiar with the V-Rod, but they also stopped making it in 2017 and don’t do a “street performance drag bike” any longer.

            Criticizing something like the current Street Glide or a Road King for its quarter mile time seems like criticizing a Sportsmobile van for its skidpad numbers. “Performance” for a cruiser/touring segment would be different than “performance” for a Sport/Drag segment. It’s possible that the newest HD offerings are bad cruisers/ highway performers as well, I haven’t ridden any of them, but the recent published reviews (and I’m not talking about on ‘HOGLUVRS.com’) seem fine.

          • 0 avatar
            ect

            Art, not to agree or disagree, I’m not a motorcycle enthusiast and don’t claim to be an expert on the market. But I do have many years of experience in executive management.

            What I do recall is attending a conference about 20 years ago where one of the presenters put up a chat showing (i) the annual change in HD motorcycle sales and (ii) the annual change in US males turning 45, both over the previous 50 years. The overlay was pretty much perfect.

            The message from that presentation was that the median age of the first-time HD buyer was 47. Affluent men looking for comfortable highway-cruise capability and attracted by the HD brand as delivering on that. Easy Rider on their minds, I suppose.

            It sounds like nothing has changed. If that’s the case, they have to decide either to stick to their knitting and become a niche brand, or risk it all on breaking out of their niche. The latter will require something industry-leading – simply throwing out an undifferentiated low-end offering into a crowded market will only antagonize the base without attracting a new demographic.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @ajla – I just used the V-rod as an example of HD’s mindset and failed attempts at broadening appeal. The Honda GoldWing is an old design superior to HD. BMW has touring bikes that are also superior. European touring bikes handle and haul ass.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            I still like that Low Rider S though.

      • 0 avatar
        Pig_Iron

        @Ryan, The only Harley I “aspire” to is the 1948-1966 Hummer (DKW) line. Just because they are the anti-Harley Harleys.
        https://tinyurl.com/b1i2eu8h

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    You could write the same article for Cadillac, Buick, or Lincoln.

    I’m not a biker, but for me the iconic bark of a Harley is a big turnoff.

    I wish them well.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Back when I was riding, I looked at a Harley. Their bikes cost several times what my used car was worth. I bought a Kawasaki instead.

      There’s a Harley dealership in my town. I stop in every few years to see if they sell anything I want. They’re set up like a mall fashion store, and the bikes are mostly in the parking lot. Probably a good business decision, but it didn’t help sell me a bike.

      The last time I went there, I asked where the smaller bikes were — because I’m short, and I’m more into right-sized engineering than showing off. The boomer-aged sales-lady told me she wished they had some so they would have something to sell “to the women”. So, I left. I haven’t been back since 2016.

      HD is a brilliant sales machine, but its very carefully targeted at a zeitgeist that doesn’t include me. Or anyone I know, really. There’s no on-ramp to being a “Harley person”, either, at least for those of us who are only interested in the bikes themselves. But HD isn’t going to slay their golden goose just to bring me into the store. [shrug]

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @Luke42 – Harley is now a victim of their own marketing. **Big burly rugged rebel bikes for real men.**
        As you mentioned, anything smaller is gurl’s bike.
        Excessive pricing that just the “faithful” or RUB’s (rich urban bikers) will pay.
        They’ve failed miserably at moving into new markets.

        I see scramblers as the new trend. Litre class bikes that are lighter, more agile and flexible. Triumph and Ducati have that segment nailed.

        Victory er um Indian’s best seller is a small light “streetfighter”. The cruisers they make don’t sell.

        Adventure bikes are the new boomer fad. Harley’s entry in that market is viewed as a joke by everyone I know as well as on-line.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          “Triumph and Ducati have that segment nailed.”

          Those brands aren’t exactly budget friendly either. You’ll be looking at $11K-$15K.
          Cheaper than a HD Touring bike I guess. I still think the sweet spot is something coming in under 5-figures.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @ajla – I was referencing trends not pricing. You typically don’t get much of a bike for under $10k.
            The adventure market is a prime example. The only decent bike for under $10k USD is the Yamaha Tenere 700 and that is just pennies under $10k.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            Yamaha seems like a solid brand for the money. Both my motorcycles have been Yamahas and I’ve liked them.
            I don’t have anything personal against HD or Triumph but it’s hard for me to see what you’re really getting for the extra $5k-$10k aside from the lifestyle brand mystique.

        • 0 avatar
          Add Lightness

          “Adventure bikes are the new boomer fad. Harley’s entry in that market is viewed as a joke by everyone I know as well as on-line.”

          Going way off the beaten path on a Harley would probably prove to be way more of an adventure than on a modern bike. Better have a satellite phone with you.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @Add Lightness – LOL. Just follow the trail of leaked oil.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            If only they had given the Buell Ulysses (or the entire Buell line) a modern motor. No, better to kill that all off…what young people really want is the V-Rod. Or not.

            Harley made their bed in the late 90s and early 2000s. They rode the baby boomer train to the bitter end. It made them money at the time but they didn’t connect with younger riders and here, 20 years later it turns out not many 75+ year olds ride. Who knew?

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @Art Vandelay – I saw an interesting video about Harley done by a young moto-journalist. He believes that part of the reason Harley struggles with change is because they were protected by tariffs in the early ’80’s. They weren’t forced to be competitive. They then got lucky because their bikes appealed to a demographic with disposable income. They trapped themselves in a fixed product image. He felt that they will die.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            I think they could make it through, but they need to go all in on new, modern product and then take it racing. They’d have to show they are competitive bikes again. I’m not optimistic though.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            I has a a KLR 650 that I rode for many years and miles (I think I put like 30k miles on that bike). Did Charlotte to Dallas on that bike.

            It was crude but never stranded me. The guys I rode with on BMWs certainly couldn’t say that. However I always did want a KTM.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @Art Vandelay- KLR’s are heavy and primitive but reliable as a hammer. I was considering buying a new KTM 790 ADV R but they discontinued it and came out with an 890 that’s 16 lbs. heavier. I might buy a Yamaha Tenere 700.
            I’ve put 28,000 km on my Suzuki DRZ400SM in the past 3 years.

    • 0 avatar
      Norman Stansfield

      Not for Cadillac. The CT4-V & CT5-V are desirable vehicles, especially when the Blackwing versions come out.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        Cadillac’s market share:

        1985: 1.95%
        1990: 1.87%
        1995: 1.14%
        2000: 1.10%
        2005: 1.38%
        2010: 1.27%
        2015: 1.00%
        2020: 0.89%

        https://carsalesbase.com/us-cadillac/

        Cadillac and Buick may introduce some nice cars from time to time, but throughout my life my perception of them is that they’re an “old man’s car”.

        Buick’s market share slide is similar to Cadillac’s, and they’ve been reduced to selling foreign-built Encores as their staple while selling 6x as many Buicks in China, holding a 5% market share in that country. Almost nobody would miss them if the brand left the US market.

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          Back when the Volt was introduced, GM had a chance to make Buick GM’s high tech brand.

          But, like HD, they didn’t want to redefine their entire brand just to get green car hippies like me to aspire to drive Buicks. Selling Buicks to old people is a tried-and-true business model, nevermind that their corn customer is aging out of car ownership.

          Fast forward a decade, and Tesla is the car and the business both Buick and Cadillac have to beat in order to stay in business.

          The world changed, and these brands didn’t change with it. I’m too busy lusting after Tesla cars and Zero motorcycles to give it much mind.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            To be fair, GM did make the ELR and CT6 PHEV but people lined up none deep to check them out.
            Even as a “green car hippie” do you know anyone that even bothered to test drive one? I’m just not sure a Buick-ized Volt was the ticket.

          • 0 avatar
            Luke42

            “To be fair, GM did make the ELR and CT6 PHEV but people lined up none deep to check them out.”

            The ELR was an outrageously priced Volt clone.

            The Volt came first, THEN GM tried to jack up the price to Tesla-levels.

            People who wanted a GM PHEV bought the Volt. People who wanted an $80k green car bought a Tesla. Nobody bought the ELR.

            The story might have been different if GM had introduced the ELR first. But Chevy is GM’s high tech brand, and Cadillac is GM’s high-priced brand. GM does not have a “pay extra for a front row seat to the future” brand — that would be Tesla.

        • 0 avatar

          “my perception of them is that they’re an “old man’s car”.”

          How old “old men” supposed to be? 100 y.o.? 200 y.o.? My impression is that most of commentariat here are over 60/70 years old, lets call them Boomers. Most are “old men” by any definition. So Cadillac and Buick must be the most popular brands on TTAC.

          • 0 avatar
            Old_WRX

            Inside Looking Out,

            What’s that you’re saying sonny? Speak up. I can’t hear you. Troublemaker:-)

          • 0 avatar
            Charliej

            I am 75 and I don’t lust for either Buick or Cadillac, My car is an 18 year old Escape. Probably the last car I will own. People in the US look at motorcycles as toys for the wealthy. In the rest of the world, motorcycles are transportation. I have ridden for 61 years and I am still riding and will as long as I am able. I hope to ride for at least another five to ten years. Living in a small town in Mexico is much more conducive to riding than driving and since I will never live in the US again, riding is what I will do.

      • 0 avatar

        Didn’t Autoextremist say 250 of each ? You’ll never see one, save four years from now on Mecum.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I don’t have the psychological dislike for H-D that many on the internet have and I also don’t think they’d be better off copying the products of Triumph or Vespa or whatever. Having definitive branding is good.

    However, I also don’t think any motorcycle brand has much of a future.

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      I’m firmly in the psychological dislike camp. Don’t mind saying so. I’m not against motorcycles but am against intentionally selling the most obnoxious products possible and having a whole catalogue of dealer installed accessories to to make them even more obnoxious. When your brand image is essentially that of a bullhorn for d’bags, go figure the public turns against you.

      There will always be a market for this stuff, regardless of it being HD that manufactures it or not. I don’t see them having a consumer base outside of this group so they should probably go for exclusivity. Maybe they can make there electric bikes come standard with loudspeakers that will blare out fake exhaust noise to keep that customer base coming back.

      On a side note, there is a fantastic episode of South Park that pretty much sums up what most of us think of Harley riders. Like many of the best jokes, it’s so funny because it’s so true.

      https://youtu.be/ipDmsxQVxIM

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        @thegamper: Yeah, unfortunately, you’re right. I had one neighbor, an accountant of course, who owned a Harley, but he was reasonable and maybe the only one I’ve met. I live near a scenic road that’s popular with all kinds of vehicles for rides and you hear the exhausts and the music blaring to overcome the exhaust. That being said, the Japanese bike owners (other than Gold Wings) can be just as loud, but at a higher frequency.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        I’m in the “Psychologically don’t like” camp for several reasons:
        1. The typical superiority complex held by HD riders.
        2. Too heavy, too slow. No handling or braking ability.
        3. Conformity- they talk about being rebels but your bike and riding gear has to follow the “dress code”. The bikes and riders look alike and sound alike.
        4. Too bloody expensive. I knew a guy bragging about his heavily modified Harley. Everyone else thought it was awesome.
        They got mad when I pointed out the fact that my stock sport bike would still kill it in a race. I also pointed out for the same price, I owned a pickup, 2 dirt bikes,the sport bike,a quad and a little boat.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          “2. Too heavy, too slow. No handling or braking ability.”

          The newest ones? And compared to what?

          But do what you got to do on the other points. I don’t like Honda vehicles because I’ve had bad experiences with too many of their owners.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @ajla – Any comparable Japanese bike performs better than a HD. European touring bikes tend to perform much better.
            I don’t like cruisers or touring bikes which is basically all Harley successfully builds.

            If you ride bikes and know a lot of riders, it’s an across the board reality. HD riders tend to look down on other brands and riders. I’ve met HD riders that were open minded and friendly but that’s rare especially when they are in a group.

            I recall pulling into a road side café on my supermoto. I was part way through a 260 km ride. Over 1/2 was on gravel.
            I was wearing full “race” leathers and full-faced helmet. The lot was full of HD riders my age. They all got quite and glared at me as I parked next to their bikes. They continued to glare when I pulled off my helmet and they saw I was as old as them.

            I’ve stopped at that spot multiple times. If the lot is full of ADV bikes or Japanese criusers/tourer’s, the riders will always say “hi” and strike up a conversation.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “HD riders tend to look down on other brands and riders.”

            There’s a bit of irony here because after reading comments over the last 2-3 years a concern about buying an HD is that lots of *other people and riders* would be sh*tting on me for getting one. Like, I’ll be the one receiving the glares and getting the pre-judgement and being told that I should have bought anything else.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            ” *other people and riders* would be sh*tting on me for getting one”

            My brother whines about that. He owns three Harley’s and is an arrogant azzhole.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “My brother whines about that. He owns three Harley’s and is an arrogant azzhole.”

            That’s an interesting new layer to things.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @ajla – I’m not the only one who thinks that. I know a few guys who work with him who feel the same way. He’s a blue collar guy who worked his way up the corporate ladder into a very high paying job usually reserved for those with a bunch of letters after their name. Good for him but ego and attitude came with the title and a 6 figure income.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            @Lou, but my experience with European bikes that aren’t Husqvarna dirt bikes is that any Harley Davidson may as well be a 1994 Accord with respect to reliability by comparison. BMWs adventure bikes were just terrible when I was riding. KTM s were better but when they broke you’d be waiting and waiting for the part.

            My KLR 650 was the other end of the spectrum. It was more Soviet Tractor. Sometimes it would break, but if you had a hammer, a rock and a.roll of duct tape it would get you home.

        • 0 avatar
          Add Lightness

          “Too heavy, too slow. No handling or braking ability.”

          -The sensation of speed without the danger of velocity

          “Conformity- they talk about being rebels but your bike and riding gear has to follow the “dress code”. The bikes and riders look alike and sound alike.”

          -They want to be special and different like everybody else.

          “Too bloody expensive.”

          -Same can be said of Morgans which are basically the same thing with 4 wheels.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            “The sensation of speed without the danger of velocity”

            If that’s the case, why ride?

            There is truth in yout comment. That’s one of the reasons why I love my 400cc supermoto.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      @ajla,
      “However, I also don’t think any motorcycle brand has much of a future.”

      What about Zero motorcycles?

      They seem to be growing their sales and their lineup.

  • avatar
    mcs

    How is it that an article about the future of harley-davidson does not mention the Serial 1 bike? The e-bike market is really hot now and the Serial One is harley’s entry into the premium end. It’s been getting good reviews. Serial One was spun off as a separate company, but harley is a major equity holder. It almost seems as though they thought the harley name had too much baggage.

    https://electrek.co/2020/11/16/serial-1-e-bikes-harley-davidson-unveiled-first-test-ride/

    https://www.theverge.com/22179185/harley-davidson-serial-1-ebike-test-hands-on-specs-price

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      It is on their website, so they aren’t keeping the relationship completely hidden.
      harley-davidson.com/us/en/products/bikes/future-vehicles/e-bicycles.html

      I wonder what the profit margin is on this compared to the motorcycles.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I guess I don’t understand how this is per se bad & obnoxious:
    content.homenetiol.com/2000292/2100889
    /0x0/406627c09e0444549216fdc9cd8d859f.jpg

    But not this:
    motorbiscuit.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/2020-Indian-Scout-Sixty-
    Bobber-1024×424.jpg

    or this:
    tinyurl.com/p96lqsyi

    Is the well just too poisoned by the Sturgis crew?

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    “their ambitious five-year plan”

    • Five Year Plans rarely work – ask your favorite soviet. Recommended approach: Announce your 14-19 year ‘intention’ – and then change your logo (see: “gm”). [This signifies that Everything Is Different Now.]

    First picture: I strongly object to this portrayal of animal exploitation (for some perspective, refer to this article**)
    https://veganista.co/2019/04/12/this-is-why-some-vegans-still-wear-leather/
    **Warning: Language Advisory [the strong words let us know that the writer is Serious, Modern and Emphatic, and therefore Unquestionably Correct]

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some burgers to grill.

  • avatar
    Old_WRX

    I’ve never really cared much for HD’s, but in all fairness I’ve never ridden one. They sound all wrong to me (my wife says they sound “broken”). The 90° V2’s (Moto Guzzi, Ducati)and the BMW HO 2 sound much better than the HD or the screaming I4’s. Though what the Japanese manufacturers have achieved in terms of specific output, reliability and longevity with the I4’s is nothing to sneer at.

    HD seems doomed. The demographic that buys (or bought) them are getting to the point where their rides will be electric mobility aids. I don’t really see how they can do much about that without completely changing their lineup/image. It would be a shame if they went away; HD’s are a real part of American history.

    The HD image these days isn’t really what it was. No longer is it the guy with greasy jeans who took out spark plugs with his teeth. Now it sometimes seems more like a fashion show. Some HD riders seem to be as carefully dressed as a teen going to the prom.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Semenak

      “The demographic that buys (or bought) them are getting to the point where their rides will be electric mobility aids.” There’s a Business Model for Harley, that just could work!

      • 0 avatar
        Old_WRX

        Jeff Semenak,

        Actually it could be quite lucrative. Some of those electric mobility aids run north of $50K. I know someone who has a Permobil chair (excellent piece of engineering BTW) that cost insurance over $60K — and that chair isn’t even one of the ones with elaborate custom positioning hardware.

        • 0 avatar
          Jeff Semenak

          With the Government paying for it, to the Moon! I actually wasn’t entirely tongue-in-cheek when I wrote that comment above.

          • 0 avatar
            Old_WRX

            Jeff Semenak,

            “I actually wasn’t entirely tongue-in-cheek when I wrote that comment above.”

            It might have commercial potential. Weirder things have happened. I can sort of picture the HD logo on a power wheelchair — not sure I want to though:-)

  • avatar
    Turbo Is Black Magic

    Doubling down on low volume, high margin bikes is probably the most short sighted thing they could do… so of course they are doing that!

    Harley has not had anything worth looking at since they kicked Buell out of bed. Now they tease with an actually interesting street fighter… then kill it… now someone up there got triple dogged dared to make the ugliest adventure bike on the planet and well, let’s just say they nailed it.

    Time to set up a test ride for that Indian FTR

  • avatar

    Most Harley guys I know are very well off working class, and other than the acting out part a very few riders have, are an agreeable sort. I don’t get the love though….it’s a rolling anachronism. You may as well flog a two stroke streetbike. Also, the Harley guys don’t have any younger members….I see almost all greybeards on Harley, the young guys are on Japanese motors mostly.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @speedlaw – I rarely ever see someone under 55 on a Harley. Teen and 20 year olds are usually into naked streetfighter’s or sport bikes which are usually Japanese. Scramblers appear to be more popular in the 30 year old age group.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick_515

        I have a friend who “wants” a Harley – though he’ll never do it. He’s from California and has a long pony-tail, but is also the most pathologically conformist person I have ever met. Go figure. The actual Harley owner I know was a friend from the gym. Correctional officer in her forties, she showed up on a brand new one bought impulsively one summer day. We were all puzzled, as she had kinda bad knees. Though we never knew the actual extent of her emerging infirmities, as she’d literally frown the moment a workout was announced, so hard to separate attitude from productive pain from actual physical issues.

        Lou_BC, I remember the first time I saw an F 650 GS and fell for it. I’ve never ridden bikes before, and don’t know much about them, but I did think about maybe getting into it once. Funny enough, I have some disposable income now, and time…

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          @Nick_515 – I’ve met a few guys this summer who are new to riding. One has an AfricaTwin and the other a BMW 850GS. Neither are “first timer” bikes.
          If one is new to bikes or returning to bikes then a small bike is the way to go. A F650 GS would be fun. ADV bikes are fun and tend to take getting dropped better than other bikes.

          I bought a Suzuki DRZ400SM supermoto 3 years ago after not owning a bike for 9 years. It’s a blast. I got bored of the street and now run nobbies on it.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    My bike days are over but if I did ride again it would be the Japanese 4. In the past I owned a Suzuki GS450S and a Yamaha Vision. I never would have considered a Harley just too big, heavy, and slow. I do own a Buick but I doubt I will ever buy another GM, Ford, or Stelantis. Next time I will buy a Honda, Toyota, or Mazda.

  • avatar
    Imagefont

    Harley is all style and no substance. It’s all about their brand, motorcycles are secondary which is why they’re not in a position to innovate the product – only the old, traditional stuff sells. What happened to the V rod?
    They could stop selling motorcycles and just sell leather jackets and other apparel.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Harleys are intentionally new antiques. And I don’t mean that as an insult. They could build a modern machine but chose not to. For the short term that worked but their products and image are not appealing to most potential customers under 60. And that is HD’s fault. By putting all the emphasis on stylish but antiquated architecture, their product is nothing that your average Millennial or X/Y buyer is really interested in. And they cost a fortune. None of my friends who ride purchased a HD. Two have BMWs, a Yamaha, and two Hondas. They are on me to get my license and if I do, I won’t likely be purchasing a Harley. Yet my wife who had her first motorcycle experience on a Harley, loves them. Go figure.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    That might be a better business strategy to concentrate more on selling leather jackets and apparel. You don’t have to own a motorcycle to buy Harley apparel.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    They’ll be bought out by a Chinese tire maker but mostly for the trademark so they can sell HD apparel, key chains, etc at Walmart. Otherwise the bikes will be made in China to undercut all competitors.

    Yeah breaks my heart too.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    They spent 40-years coasting on tariffs and ‘merch’ sales. They made the sound of their product its signature selling point, and now they want to sell a bike that makes no sound. They picked one demographic to appeal to and now those folks are at the short end of the demographic curve.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      So they were in it for the short money. That’s cool too and no company lives forever. OK maybe a few do, but it’s also good to make hay while the sun shines and diversify in real estate or something for when it don’t.

      Vanilla Ice did. Mc Hammer didn’t.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      I’m still pissed off over the tariff which cost me dearly because I bought two Yamaha sport bikes (FJs) back then.

      My one time on a Harley (Heritage Softail) was so negatively polarizing that it surprised me, I really wanted to like it.

      Slow, really uncomfortable (especially for my wife on the back), awful clutch and the worst transmission I have ever experienced.

      This will be my 48th year of riding motorcycles. I’ve had my current bike, a 650 Ninja bought new, for over 10 of those years. It constantly surprises me: reliable as a stone, fun to ride, good looking and the best $5500 I ever spent in two wheels.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Agree most companies do not live forever. Agree to make money while the sunshine and diversify. The brand Harley Davidson has more value than their motorcycles.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      It’s the same criticism of the lopsided income of Detroit based brands with their fullsize pickups. Go all out on the things you do best and sell the best. Yeah while you can and the party lasts.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Full size pickups are what Detroit does best. Remains to be seen how the few EVs that Ford (i.e.Mach E) and GM make and will make will do but most cars are being eliminated except for Mustang, Camaro, Challenger, Charger, and Malibu (Malibu will probably not last too much longer). Suvs, crossovers, and pickups are what is selling.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Harley needs to stick to selling t-shirts. Motorcycles are a side business for them. When your average owner has gray hair and a masters degree; really badazz dude rarely comes to mind. I used to have a ’67 Sportster that went from bar to bar. These days Harelys go from Marriott to Marriott with their owners using club points on the weekend. Going 180 out I find my Radrunner ebike more useful than a motorcycle. Harely has ignored the very entry level portion of the market for decades. This has cost them in potential sales as someone wants to trade up for something a “bit more powerful”. I’ll look silly on a Honda Grom and won’t care.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    H-D will be in Chapter 7 before 5 years are out. Their demographic is dying in two ways: literally for some, financially for the rest.

    Having H-D as the surviving American manufacturer and the AMA as the dominant riders’ organization did more damage to motorcycling in this country than anything but an outright ban could’ve. The AMA as a lobbying organization got rid of helmet laws in twenty states; a different group of the same number of motorcyclists could’ve made motorcycling more attractive to everyone. An American motorcycle manufacturer that was more like Ford would’ve substantially broadened the appeal of its motorcycles as the #1 seller in America and a minority player in Europe and SE Asia.

    We could’ve been exempted from any speed limit greater than 35 MPH. We could’ve had red-light-is-a-stop-sign. We could’ve had lane-splitting. Any of these would’ve made motorcycling more enjoyable for everyone. If we’d gotten all of them, not only would a lot of people own motorcycles to make trips faster, but there would be enough of them to make a significant dent in traffic congestion. Instead, they lobbied for not mandating a $150 piece of equipment that saves enough head-injury claims that insurers will give you a discount for merely owning one.

  • avatar
    Luke42

    Oh, no, I missed the Super Bowl again! /s

    I’ll get over it.

    I’m glad the sportsball fans can have their fun! They can and should have their fun without me, though. That way we can all be happy.

  • avatar
    markf

    Late to the party…

    When has any 5 year plan worked any where, ever?

    I am a Gen Xer (52) who has been riding bikes since I was 16. Never once did I consider buying a Harley. I think Gen X may be the last generation for a while to have some disposable income for expensive motorcycles and none of my friends or fellow Gen Xers (except women riders, they love Harleys) ride a Harley.

    I don’t see how Harley turns into anything but a low volume, boutique manufacturer. There will be market for 30K anachronistic, loud, heavy and slow bikes, it will just be much smaller.

    The Livewire was going to save them, total flop. Then bicycles. Aside from press releases has anyone actual seen a Harley bicycle?

    Now we have “Hardwire” LOL with this brilliant plan “But Zeitz, who turned around nearly-defunct sports apparel brand Puma in the 1990s believes that better days – and more buyers – lay ahead as new riders “age into the market.”

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/billroberson/2020/07/29/ceos-rewire-plan-turns-to-hardwire-as-harley-davidson-reports-92m-loss/?sh=6f1154a34fe5

    Age into the market. They have given up and their is plan is to hope that once you become a Grey Beard some instinct will kick in and make you want a Harley.

    Good grief…

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