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Author Topic: A good read on Harley's Past, Present & Future  (Read 153 times)
SilverBullet
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« on: November 14, 2018, 12:45:11 AM »

Very interesting read. A bit long but interesting well written article.

https://jalopnik.com/how-harley-davidsons-all-in-bet-on-its-past-crippled-it-1830332227
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« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2018, 02:55:49 AM »

 I read the whole thing.  Just as interesting were many of the comments.  This one in particular struck a nerve.  It was posted by someone who says he works in the power sports industry.

"Largely it has to do not with the overt reliance on HDís past*, so much as the overwhelming social toxicity that their ownership group cultivates among themselves (and that HD lowkey promotes) that will end up killing the company. Itís motorcycle demagoguery.  *[I donít think HD's past is terminal to the company - they do have amazing design language; you think ďmotorcycleĒ, and you imagine HD. You think ďscooterĒ and you see a Vespa in your head. Thatís not a bad place for a brand to be.]

Itís totally cool to be a fan, and being a good fan of a brand tends to bring in more fans, particular when itís higher end, as HD primarily is. Itís an aspirational brand, and therein lies part of the problem. The core of the ownership group has mutated into something powerfully toxic. To them, the idea of anything else even being a motorcycle at all, much less something they would ride or promote to others, is so repulsive that they are openly hostile to other riders and brands, and more importantly, potential riders and future HD owners ... who currently donít ride HD. New riders (read: Millennials, who are by and large a socially conscious group) are being turned off to the brand en masse, and HD is powerless to change it without completely disrupting the carefully cultivated ownership group that is creating the issue.  And make no bones about it, that very toxic ownership group is whatís keeping the company afloat at the moment ... as is reflected in a dealer visit.
(see my comments below)

Itís not all HD riders, naturally, but itís a large enough group that they do a solid job of misrepresenting the ownership group as a whole.

What really hurts though, is that this is compounded by the fact that riding motorcycles in the US needs to be something fun, and right now, for many, itís not. Bikes arenít a viable option for most for day to day use, and they arenít going to become as such anytime soon. We arenít Europe. Heck, the kids donít even want to own cars and have never even seen a manual transmission... they sure as heck donít want to go the extra mile and learn to ride safely. For a core group, bikes are transportation, but even to that group, theyíre transportation because they are fun, exhilarating, what have you. We need to get the industry back to ďriding on the street is funĒ. We need to parlay that sense of fun to a new generation that doesnít ride, that didnít have minibikes (and often even bicycles) as kids due to helicopter parenting, that would prefer to ride share because getting from point A to point B is just ďwasted timeĒ instead of something to be enjoyed.

Itís an experience that really canít be duplicated any other way and as an industry weíre doing an awful job of competing with all of the other forms of entertainment out there... which sucks, because ours is so awesome.

So to bring it back around, HD is a high end brand that people who ride should aspire to own (buying a 40k bike as first ride is not the best idea unless you are rich dentist), but new riders and potential owners donít, because they now donít want to be ďHarley PeopleĒ due to the fact that the HD ownership group (and dealers) will be openly hostile to anyone riding something other than a Harley... which the new riders and potential owners donít currently own yet, compounded by an industry wide decline in new riders in general that weíve not even come close to figuring out.

I donít want to come across as anti-HD here, because Iím really not. The bikes are great, some of their stuff is just wow; that core of owners though? Not so much."


Some years back the BMW dealer here (who also carried Piaggio) closed up shop.  The local Harley dealer bought him out.  They wanted BMW, not Piaggio, but they took it and made a half-hearted effort.  We stopped by there one Saturday and one of our riders on an MP3 had the nerve to park in the front row, apparently unofficially reserved for Harleys ... keep in mind that this was now a Piaggio dealer.  The "toxic core" milling about made it clear that the MP3 did not belong, and he moved it rather than risk some untoward accident while we went inside.  While not the lone factor, the "toxic core" the above post highlights keeps Harley alive, but may well be what kills them as well.

Footnotes: 1. The Harley-BMW dealer has long since dropped Piaggio.  2.  If you Google Harley-Davidson Louisville, your first hit will be Harley-Davidson Of Louisville.  If you Google BMW motorcycle Louisville, your first hit will be BMW Motorcycles of Louisville.  Both are at the same address, but neither site mentions the other brand.  I haven't been there in years but I imagine there's a wall down the middle of the showroom (or maybe the BMWs are in the back).
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« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2018, 04:56:32 AM »

My experience with the Harley dealership at our Nashville rally turned me off. I will NEVER consider a Harley product (other than an old Topper) and make sure I tell all of my friends how I was treated. Is that wrong? Maybe, but it's my money and H-D will never, ever get a dime of it. I feel bad for all the folks that lost their jobs with H-D closing plants here, but it wouldn't bother me one bit if Harley went tits up.
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« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2018, 05:04:58 AM »

The nostalgia thing must have played out for Harley.
Kudos to them for reaching out for new customers.
Next step is to think outside the box, like Honda's DCT transmission or Can-Am's Spyder.
And hopefully they can keep the price down on their new models.
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« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2018, 03:37:49 AM »

Here's a different article-
https://www.ericpetersautos.com/2018/11/13/the-electric-suicide-of-harley-davidson/
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« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2018, 06:55:40 PM »

This author is probably right ... but he's also in some level of denial.  If they keep building what they've always built at the prices they presently charge, they're probably doomed.  "Build it and they will come" doesn't seem to apply.

The market (read customers) for all those things that make a Harley a Harley is, by all accounts, dwindling.  If they could sell them for half of what they now charge, they might have a shot at getting a new batch of customers, but I suspect that's impossible.

They probably need something new to survive, but something new BY Harley can't, by definition, be A Harley.  "Harley" is synonymous with so many things that something new can't be.  They might have better results if they give any new lines, new names, e.g., "NEW NAME" (big letters) by Harley-Davidson (little letters) a la Spyder by Can-Am, Ryker by Can-Am, etc.
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« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2018, 09:38:37 PM »

Harley has survived tough times before and will survive this downturn. Cheaper gas prices have done more to motorcycle sales in the last few years than any other factor. That HD dealer in Columbia TN was an idiot.
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