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Interesting video, I think he glosses over the cost aspect too much though. They sold themselves as premium for so many years that people under 40 with limited income, which is most of them, don't even think about Harley unless they are die hard fans. The average person just looking for a bike is going for cheap easy and full of content and that's where the Japanese excel. People in that age range who have that disposable income have been raised on European motoring superiority so they stick with those brands because that's what rings to them as premium.
I don't think Harley is dying, they'd have to want that because they can't take the humility of decreased market share. Their brand is still strong amongst a lot of people. Long term they'll have to shrink their business model though because I don't think that public image can support the old position of 50% of bikes in America being Harley Davidson.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Well as the video points out, the current age of Harley riders is going up. And as they already own a bike, they aren't buying new ones. The brand is not attracting new riders, so when this current crop dies off, Harley will be a niche brand if it survives at all.

I know they were trying to attract new riders by releasing new types of bikes (scrambler, adventure etc). The hardcore base decreed this as sacrilege and the new CEO has put those plans on the back burner to focus on what they've always done. Therein lies one of the problems.

As the video points out, in America, other brand are doing well with sales figures going up. Harley sales are down and have been going that way for a while. Doing the same thing that isn't selling, and expecting different results, is bad business practice (in my opinion).

Outside of America, as has been stated, there are so many other well made premium brands to choose from. And that is before you even look at the image of the brand. And, of course, the cost.

New young riders who many only have a few hundred or couple thousand pounds/euros to spend can't afford a Harley. Plus, as the video says, they are viewed as old man/dad bikes. Why would a young rider get a Harley when they can get a sexy Ducati, a reliable Honda, a prestige Triumph? All of which are affordable to buy/run/insure.

The video does point out the dominance of Harley in America is over. But unless they rebrand themselves or offer something new/different, there may come a time when they will be known more as clothing brand and not motorcycles (I'm talking 20/30 years from now).
 

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Agree video does not deal with how much Harley's cost as an element of thier decline. Video did briefly, and sort of, present that information in chart showing Harley's boomer customers passing through peak buying years then ageing out.

Video also doesn't fully detail that in general, motorcycling is declining in US. So to extent US is an important market for any bike company, that is an issue.

But otherwise it's spot on - share buy backs to jack price (and reward executives), chosing to tariffs instead of innovation, etc.

If Harley does stop making motorcycles, that's some time away. Ironically they may wind up oriented to European and Indian / Chinese markets. Recall Royal Enfield shut down in the UK but is doing just fine in India.

Harley purists really objected to company's efforts to appeal to younger and new riders? That is weird.



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Discussion Starter #5
Video also doesn't fully detail that in general, motorcycling is declining in US. So to extent US is an important market for any bike company, that is an issue.
It did touch on this. Because of the huge market share they currently have, poor Harley sales in America make it seem like motorcycle sales are on the decline. However, when you take Harley out of the equation all the other manufacturers have reported increase in sales.

Before I got my Triumph I was looking at a number of alternatives. However I never once considered HD. I needed a bike that was great to rode every day around London and have enough grunt to make weekend trips away fun. HD didn't tick all those boxes for me. Is that unfair? Maybe. But HD always struck me as a hardcore bike for ZZ top beard wearing bikers. And that's not me.

I think it's safe to say that there is no one factor at play, rather a confluence of events, decisions and business practices that are reaching their peak now.

I'm new to the scene, but even before I started riding, I rarely saw any HDs in the areas of the UK where I've been. But I've seen loads of Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Triumph, BMW.
 

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Didn't check the video yet, but as (small) shareholder I am unconvinced with the change in CEO and the new (old) strategy.

What they were trying to do with new models on the market could not materialize immediately, takes a ton of R&D, but had great potential for diversification in a market that has become to shift noticeably away from big cruisers. Probably Livewire was too much ahead of its time, should have looked at some crossover first, but still right direction.

Look at sales of BMW GS in Europe and other markets, they top the charts of units sold, and we're talking about 20k worth of bike. Lots of alternatives out there, cheaper and sometimes better, but the BMW brand still counts for something.

My opinion is that Harley had a crisis of brand identity, and rather than pursuing the brave and right way to reposition themselves in the market they are now back to the old ways and are going to course correct within few years time.

My view: forget US... Asia is a booming market hungry for low displacement vehicles, where unlike Europe and USA the middle class is growing fast.
Why not create a low displacement model, still premium, for that market?
Why not even create a sub-brand reminiscent of Brembo vs. ByBre to appeal to the Asian young market and create a customer base ready to upgrade to the Premium HD tomorrow?
As a shareholder, I would approve that diversification strategy over a brand loyalty one.
Else, as happened with Norton, you're going to Chapter 11 and then someone will acquire you and do it anyway.

Dave

PS: the Porsche customer base was outraged by its SUV when it first came out, and guess now which models provide major revenues contribution?
 

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Discussion Starter #7
PS: the Porsche customer base was outraged by its SUV when it first came out, and guess now which models provide major revenues contribution?
BMW customer base was the same when their 4x4 was launched.

Also, you make some very cogent points. Diversification is not a dirty word. Having other bikes under HD doesn't mean they stop making the big cruisers. No offence to our friends across the pond, but I think the "bigger is better" mentality is unsustainable. Same thing happened with the car industry; not everyone wanted a super huge car with crap fuel economy. Other manufacturers came along to fill a gap in the market.
 

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I might be in the minority, but I don't think its all gloom and doom for Harley. Actually, until the pandemic, I thought the Motor Company was slowly turning the corner and attracting new-to-the-brand riders and a younger demographic. And also riders migrating from other brands, like Triumph.

Their new Softail lineup includes a couple of big-twin bikes that have prices within a stones throw of a Speed Twin and a Thruxton. Performance is similar, fit and finish are comparable, and they have that modern retro vibe. What you cant really get from other brands is the big twin engine and a slice of Americana. The latter two are incredible value propositions across multiple markets/segments as long as performance, reliability, and fit and finish are on par with other premium brands...like Triumph. From what I see, vast improvements were made in those areas with their new lineup.

I believe their best bet to gain more sales is to attract riders who are looking to upgrade to a bigger engine bike but who never considered a Harley before. Which, coincidentally, is me. I never would have guessed that I would be surfing Harley reviews and visiting their dealership ... and I am clearly not their target demographic. But their new lineup speaks to me. Ironically, it was my Street Twin that got me interested in a Harley. After experiencing a torquey engine, I now want to upgrade to a big V-twin engine and there really isn't too much choices besides a Harley. I think there's a lot of riders out there in my position. FWIW, it may be a function of where Im living (NYC) but I have been seeing more and more Harley riders in their 30s wearing full face helmets and non-Harley apparel.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
What you cant really get from other brands is the big twin engine and a slice of Americana.
How much of a draw is this outside of America though?🤔 (the Americana bit I mean)
 

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Well NYC remains a trend epicenter...and I can see Harley's becoming a thing with Greenpoint hipsters. Would note that Triumph and BMW also make large displacement cruisers. Although not as many varieties of them as Harley.

I think Harley's have more appeal outside US than in and it must have something to do with Americana branding. Purely anecdotal evidence, but some time ago when living in London and had a British bike, used to see a surprising number of Harley's. Which often didn't quite seem to fit on country and village roads whose size and design dated back to William the Conqueror or before.

Was having a beer outside a pub of Isle of Wight and recall giant Road King (I think) with lots of chrome whose rider was having issues navigating tiny and tight curve around the village square fountain. And recall thinking how much that person must love Harley's to buy one (what with ocean freight, customs duties, GST...) and operate it (spare parts availability, UK fuel cost) in the UK.

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Discussion Starter #11
I think Harley's have more appeal outside US than in and it must have something to do with Americana branding. Purely anecdotal evidence, but some time ago when living in London and had a British bike, used to see a surprising number of Harley's.
That's funny. I've ben living in London over 15 years and in all that time I think I've seen two Harley's on the road (not counting the few I seen parked down at The Bike Shed).

Also, as I've said, I never considered getting a Harley when I was deciding what bike to get when I was getting my full licence. And my friends who also ride aren't fans of them either. In fact they kind of make fun of them for leaking oil and only being good in a straight line!😅
 

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I’m right at the core of the market they want. Under 35, veteran, grand parents rode so I always had Harley branded things. They just don’t make a bike for me. The Street line just isn’t competitive and lacks the Harley vibe. The Sportster could work but it hasn’t been updated like their other lines, a five speed in 2020, really? I really dig several of the new softails. But none of the ones under $16K are anything but hideous to me. And if I had tourer money I’d get a car first. Like I get the whole being an aspirational brand thing but if I have to compromise, and compromise, hard to get my foot in the door, you’ve gone from “emotional purchase” to “bad idea”. You pretty much can’t start comparing the street or sportster lines to anything else. It’s like pick 3 either cheaper, lighter, faster, and more comfortable and get something else or pick one and get it to say Harley on it. It’s not that they are bad bikes they are just over priced and I evolved for what you get. And they have missed this one at least two generations of what could have been life long customers. And I just don’t know if they can recover in time.
 

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I also want to point out that I wanted an XR1200 back about 08-10 or there abouts when they were new. The problem with the bike wasn't the bike, it was the fact that the MSRP was over 14k USD and the local dealer had two in the showroom but both were marked up to 17k USD. That was back when a brand new Thruxton or Bonneville were 9k USD, even a Speed Triple would've been cheaper.

The used ones now are a fortune locally too because the guys that did buy them thought they would be collectibles and are trying to price them to that point now.
 

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I have had a lot of bikes over the year, every imaginary make. Lots of Ducati, one MV and 3 HD. Two hard to ride long distance on and a sweet heart VRod. Great bike to ride 5-600 miles a day on.
My problem was dealers and hard core dissing that VRod. They hid them in the back rarely admitting they had on.
Was easier to get good service on the bike using independent shops.
Parked in a parking spot for motorcycles it was knocked over. Minor damage, dealer held it for two months claiming HD failure to send parts.
Took it to independent HD shop they had it in and out two weeks. My dear lol er told me one late evening that I was the only buyer of VRod he had in two years. I liked the bike but not the companies lack of support.
Also read several focus groups answers to questions HD bigwig question ie: why don't you like the VRod? Answer typical, "doesn't look like HD, doesn't sound like one, looks like a Nap clone."
Partisapents were all middle aged HD owners who probably weren't going to buy any new bike.
Haven't given a thought to any HD since.
 

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Am in the market for a new bike. Been looking for awhile. Current active ride is a Rocket X that has been modified a bit. Have a Harley fat boy 2010 that i bought brand new and very seldom ride any more. Since 2015 when i bought the Rocket X the Harley seems boring even after a lot of performance upgrade. The new Harley's with the Milwaukee eights have not impressed me much. 2020 Indian Roadmaster Dark Horse in Ruby red different story.
 

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Well as the video points out, the current age of Harley riders is going up. And as they already own a bike, they aren't buying new ones. The brand is not attracting new riders, so when this current crop dies off, Harley will be a niche brand if it survives at all.

I know they were trying to attract new riders by releasing new types of bikes (scrambler, adventure etc). The hardcore base decreed this as sacrilege and the new CEO has put those plans on the back burner to focus on what they've always done. Therein lies one of the problems...
If the current age of Harley riders is going up and the hardcore base has influenced the hold on change and innovation, would it be safe to say then that the hardcore base are the ones aging, and therefore shrinking. If so, then go ahead with your innovative products to attract the larger, younger demographic before it's too late.

Also, no one is saying you have to stop making the classic style Harley, maybe it just becomes a smaller niche within your overall product line, kind of like the Bonneville within the Triumph line (I wonder how the sales numbers are split for the different Triumph models).
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Also, no one is saying you have to stop making the classic style Harley, maybe it just becomes a smaller niche within your overall product line, kind of like the Bonneville within the Triumph line (I wonder how the sales numbers are split for the different Triumph models).
I said something very similar in an earlier post. As someone else pointed out, when Porsche and BMW introduced the 4x4s into their line-up there was much bemoaning a d gnashing of teeth from hardcore brand loyalists that they were killing the brand. And yet, here we are years later and that diversification has been a boone for both companies.

Diversification is not a dirty word. Having other bikes under HD doesn't mean they have to stop making the big cruisers. No offence to our friends across the pond, but I think the "bigger is better" mentality is unsustainable. Same thing happened with the car industry; not everyone wanted a super huge car with crap fuel economy back in the day. Eventually, other manufacturers came along to fill a gap in the market and the companies that initially refused to change were made to play catch up (sometime very unsuccessfully).
 

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Would never trade the Rocket X with a Bonneville. Why ride a pony when you can ride a race horse.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Would never trade the Rocket X with a Bonneville. Why ride a pony when you can ride a race horse.
Umm, why are you talking about the Rocket X on a thread discussing Harley-Davidsons? 🤔
 

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Harley is a lifestyle brand. The bikes are a gateway to their clothing line and apparel... They sell you status and image, using 1970's tech and styling, with premium price tags.

There is only so much market for that. People for the most part, don't buy a Harley because they want the best performance... or value... or quality. They just want a Harley.

It's how a dentist can buy something, and on the weekends put on his Harley uniform and let people think he is a badass. Its the premise of the movie Wild Hawgs and its become a cliche, but one that holds true.

Then there are the diehard Harley loyalists... but they are getting ready for their retirement homes...

Harley has the money and skill to build new and interesting bikes, but they will always defer to their loyal fanbase, even if in the end it spells their doom as they die off and aren't replaced with new blood.

There have been plenty of brands over the years that had a rich history and prestige, but in the end failed to adapt to new markets and they went the way of the dodo... If they would embrace liquid cooling, lighter bikes, higher output, etc... I would consider one.

But my fear is that even if they build a bike, something like their Bronx prototype... that they will half ass it and it will be too heavy, make way less power than the competition, and they will charge an arm and a leg for it because it has their name on it...

In a way, they kinda remind me of Apple. Charging top dollar for what in most cases, is tech and features that Samsung or Google came out with 2-3 years ago. Despite the premium label, there is a reason why Android dominates the entire world with 86% of the global marketshare.

Yes, Apple is very successful,but in a lot of ways they charge outrageous prices for outdated tech that has a ton of limitations... just because they are Apple, and so many have bought into their lifestyle brand that they are willing to pay any price for anything with an Apple logo on it...

But $1400 cell phones... a item that most need to get through the day in this world, is a far cry from a $20k+ toy that we don't...

They can do what they want, and if they fail, they fail... I would rather see them put out bikes that appeal to more than their aging customer. they do have an extensive dealer network and so I would consider them if they put out the right kind of machines.

Cadillac did it. They used to be lumbering, slow, but very posh cars for old white men. They got into the performance game and now crank out some pretty sweet cars and sales are up. Their CTS-V is an absolute beast...

It pissed off the old timers, but so what? They were selling their cars and moving into retirement homes with the Harley guys anyway...
 
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