Monday, December 7, 2009

The Future of Motorcycling: Thoughts about Harley Davidson

Now that Harley Davidson has shut down its Buell brand and sold off MV Agusta, it can focus on its core business. Buell made high performance sportbikes to appeal to younger riders, but the brand only sold 135,000 bikes since it was started by Erik Buell in 1983. In 2008 Harley bought MV Agusta to increase company penetration in Europe, but then turned around and sold the Italian motorcycle company this fall.
I would say Harley was hoping these bikes would appeal to a new generation of riders, as the buyers of Harley Davidsons have an average age of 47. Harley had hoped that the V-rod would appeal to younger buyers, but it has not been the best seller among the under 40 crowd. Those crazy kids all gravitate to the Japanese crotch rockets, and then go out and ride them like “King Kiyo”. Sadly most do not have half the riding skill of the British Superbike champion. Will those that survive someday gravitate to the more docile V-Twins of their fathers? If they do, will the move to Harley or will they choose the Japanese counterpart made by the same company as their sport bike?

The average Harley rider, being over 45, grew up in a household that probably had American automobiles, and has always believed Americans should buy American products. The under 40 crowd has mostly rejected the “buy American” mantra. They choose to drive Hondas, Toyotas and Mitsubishis. Those that ride motorcycles choose to ride Hondas, Kawasakis, Yamahas, and Suzukis. They don’t feel compelled to buy any product just because it is American made. I see this daily in the attitudes of my 20-something family members and their peers.
I think many who are 27 today and riding sport bikes will be riding when they are 47 though for most it won’t be a sport bike. Will it be a Harley or a Japanese cruiser?
So what is an American motorcycle company to do? Harley has to find a way to appeal to this demographic. Otherwise, Harley might find itself in the same situation the American Automakers are in today.


Anonymous said...

mainly younger ppl ride crotch rockets today because they wanna go fast as fuck not slow on some cruiser pos. u spend a fraction of the cost for something thats better on gas and goes way faster and def gets more bitches than a harley which is what 30-40k? BULLSHIT! also we younger adults drive imports because theyre faster and way more easy to work on than mustangs or pos american shit. and yes i am american and im proud to say that! i drift. so my choice is gonna be a 240sx with a swapped sr20det built to shit on stance coils bride seats and work vs-kf's size 18x14 in the rear -4 offset and 18x12 front -2 offset. flushed to shit with 50mm overs and origin aggressive aero with one huge ass gt wing to piss your ass off low as fuck to the ground and shooting flames at your fucking piece of shit focus. i honestly hope gm and ford go out of business because theyre products suck way too much. and when they get a recall and u take it in. the recall is just like putting a bandaid over the fender. thats it. they break and break and break. mainly because there too fucking retarded. i am a mechanic. i hope you know your ignorance towards imports is pretty pathetic. oh yeah and another reason why younger ppl dont want a harley is because theyre loud and sound like fucking shit. thank you for your time ;D

bikerphoto said... reinforce my point exactly. Younger people don't feel compelled to buy American, so therefore Harley has a problem. By the way, I am not anti-import, I have a Kawasaki and a Harley in my garage.

Gary France said...

I own two Harleys. I am over the average owner age of 47 that you mention.

I thgink H-D are getting themselves into serious trouble by sticking too much to their roots and by not being up-to-date. Sure they are going for a particular taget maket and that centers a lot around cruisers. But, take a look at the new range of Victory bikes and wow, they look good. Why? Because they are keeping up with the times and producing great looking bikes with modern designs.

Harley need to modernise!