Harley-Davidson keeps rolling on despite critics of riders and culture
MILWAUKEE — Harley-Davidson ® (NYSE:HOG) is a truly global iconic brand that’s been around for 118 years. No matter where you travel, young and old, boys and girls, respect and seek out the brand. It has gone through some highs and lows like any company but some of the lows threatened its very existence. Like any business, Harley-Davidson (HD) has been challenged in answering market demands.
Harley boasts more than 1,400 independently owned Harley-Davidson dealerships in nearly 100 countries. Half of those dealerships are in the United States. Their dealers are tasked with being ambassadors of the brand to create experiences and bonds to last a lifetime.
Harley-Davidson hires a new CEO
In February 2020 HD hired new CEO, Jochen Zeitz (58), previously of the sporting goods company Puma SE. Zeitz is widely respected as a shaker and mover in the business and industry world but the HOG (Harley Owners Group) people had their doubts. “Why is the board of Harley bringing in this German guy to run the company?” Still, he was widely respected for running Puma and since he does ride those were two things to his favor. After he navigated HD through the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges the company has faced in 2021 he was fully accepted.
HD has had a tricky time negotiating the waters of the different facets of the American population. In 2003 they came out with their first electric motorcycle, The LiveWire. While the bike might be able to brag a low carbon footprint, its $30,000 price tag and foreign look to the traditional Harley bagger it has not sold well. LiveWire features 95 hp motor and a battery charge range of 150 miles. It weighs about the same as the Sportster at 550 pounds. Zeitz seemingly wants the company to do the right thing by continuing to offer the model, despite disappointing sales. He is quick to point out that while it has not sold as hoped, it is still the largest selling model of electric motorcycle in the United States.
This year the company introduced a Euro-style touring bike, The Pan American or Pan Am. The bike has a base price of $17,500, weighs in at 550 pounds, and develops a massive 150 hp. Unlike most of its other brother and sister bikes in the product line, it goes by a four-digit number, 1250, indicating the cubic centimeters of its engine displacement rather than three digits of cubic inches.
(Video: Pan America Production | Harley-Davidson)
One thing Harley owners always want is a CEO for HD that actually rides.
“I’ve put in many miles aboard Pan America, in beautiful and remote parts of the world and have experienced the innovations and capabilities that will unlock our brand’s passion for adventure for more people around the world. I am truly excited about Pan America. Adventure touring is a natural fit for Harley-Davidson,” says Zeitz.
Zeitz offered another surprise to captivate shoppers this year. After the end of the first quarter on April 20, 2021, HD was ready to announce the first of their new top-secret “Revival Icons Collection” projects. Much to the surprise of many dealers and customers alike, Jochen Zeitz announced a retro-style FLH Electra Glide was being released to commemorate the early Electra Glides of the company. Other iconic models will soon follow in limited production runs. The bike was available in a limited quantity of 1,500 for a cost of $30,000. The bike is a solo seat modern reproduction of the 1969 FLH Electra Glide with the new Milwaukee 8, 114 cubic inch engine and Infotainment electronics added.
(Video: Harley-Davidson Icons Collection / Electra Glide Revival)
Score a big win for Zeitz as, in many instances, these Revival model bikes were sold before they even arrived at the dealership’s showrooms. For many Baby Boomers in the HOG group, this was the model bike that made them fall in love with the Harley Davidson product name. It was as much art as machine and those who rode looked to be sitting in the lap of luxury.
HD has not been without his share of headaches in 2021 though. The logistics of getting finished bikes from warehouse to dealer showrooms have been problematic. Earlier this year some dealerships reported waiting for several months for their allotments and orders. This may have been due to corporate changing out trucking companies from those they used in the past. Some blamed the delays on the usual COVID-influenced supply chain delays.
Another issue involved the company’s apparent lack of preparation for the rush of Baby Boomers looking to switch from their two-wheeled Harley Davidson models to three. The Harley Tri Glide (FLHTCUTG) trike has remained in short supply and sold out at many dealerships. Used trikes now bring premium prices to supply the demand.
How about that legion of older Harley-Davidson riders?
As arthritis and other health issues of America’s senior motorcycle riders set in, they no longer feel like they belong on 2 wheels. But they feel they can remain safe on 3. The bigger, glides, or baggers, as they are often called, weigh in around 850 pounds, stock. With the added weight of luggage, rider, and passenger, they can approach closer to three-quarters of a ton (1,500 pounds).
As one senior rider put it, “I got two bad knees and one bad hip. The last thing I want to do is drop my bike with my wife on the back.”
That said, older Americans are loving the Harley trikes for other reasons as well. They no longer need to be concerned so much about dropping their rides in slick conditions produced by fresh rain, ice/snow, grass clippings, oil or diesel slicks, and loose gravel or grain. They do not need to balance the bike when they come to a stop for an intersection. The only remaining concerns? Trike riders do need to remember the fenders sticking out on their sides. That means not cornering too fast since they can no longer lean into curves to counter centrifugal force.
While Harley Davidson and other motorcycle manufacturers had pretty bad returns in 2020, HD’s first quarter 2021 earnings were up 9.7%! As one travels the country, dealers are often selling more used bikes than new bikes. This is due to both their stock on hand and the limited buying power of the younger buyers looking to enter the market. (I.e., the Harley Davidson Family of Riders or HOG Members).
Like their bikes themselves, the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Company keeps rolling on!
About the author:
Mark Schwendau is a Christian conservative patriot and retired technology professor (CAD-CAM and web development) who prides himself on his critical thinking ability. Schwendau has had a long sideline of newspaper editorial writing where he used the byline, “- bringing little known facts to people who simply want to know the truth.”
Mark is on alternative free speech social media platforms after lifetime bans from Facebook and Twitter and shadow bans from Instagram and Fox News commenting. His website is www.IDrawIWrite.Tech
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