Harley-Davidson Management Acknowledges Marketing Mistake


I read your comments and of course I disagree with many of them. One being that in a difficult economic situation people are systematically going to go for for a cheaper Harley-Davidson model. I never  believed that a biker wishing to ride a new V-Rod or Softail or Electra Glide is going to buy a new Sportster because it’s cheaper. My opinion is that he will not buy anything, keep his current bike and tinker with it until better times.

This morning I was not surprised to read that Keith Wandell, President and Chief Executive Officer, said in an interview with The Business Journal that the company mistakenly thought the recession would push consumers toward Harley’s Sportster and other less expensive motorcycles. Harley management ordered a Sportster production increase but of course retail sales didn’t materialize. And now dealers have a glut of this model…I believe in discounts, but not in pushing me to buy a model I don’t want. So, Harley give discounts, as much as you can without losing money, for each bike of the line-up. Simply because you will never push a biker to buy the bike he doesn’t want. So now is the time to buy a Sportster…if you wanted a Sportster.

13 Responses to “Harley-Davidson Management Acknowledges Marketing Mistake”

  1. 1 Brandon Jul 30th, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Intelligent remark, Cyril. Good thing that Harley is not afraid to realize that they make mistakes.

  2. 2 FUJI Jul 30th, 2009 at 10:58 am

    Remember the old saying there is an ass for every seat and a new trick for every day.
    Old Harley tricks, snow them with BS

  3. 3 FUJI Jul 30th, 2009 at 11:03 am

    Keith Wandell, Harley-Davidson. Did I undersatnd him to say just a short time ago that the sportster program was working ?

  4. 4 Jay Jul 30th, 2009 at 11:10 am

    Fuji, I think that you are confused. The program to push people to buy a Sportster with the promise of a trade in 1 year for a bigger bike is the consequence of the problem explained above, to move a glut of Sportsters out of the showroom because of over producing them. So it’s possible that this new incentive program is working. Now you have the marketing explanation why Harley decided this new Sportster campaign.

  5. 5 FUJI Jul 30th, 2009 at 2:06 pm


    Fuji, I think that you are confused

    Could be I have to deal with it every day if only you had to walk in my shoes every day. LOL

    I do understand, lived through the first plan as such in the 80’s. Two friends of mine both dealers one close one not. To comment
    If one is to believe that the dealer network is in harmony with the Co then thou should follow the Pied Piper on his little path.

  6. 6 BikerMarc Jul 30th, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    Now, are we seeing some Leadership at the top?

    Admit your mistakes and move on quickly to recoup. GO HD GO.

    There’s still time to regroup your marketing & sales efforts. That said, ignore your dealers and the customer regarding “price points” in this economy and results will surely go south even more.

    Just my 2-cents Bros & Babes.

  7. 7 Jul 30th, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    Ride on !

    By the way they also should consider on lowering the prices in Europe ! ! !

    A Brand New 2010 Street Glide retails for 20 000,00 USD in the U.S and for 23 000,00 EUROS in Europe

    A little Math explanation :
    20 000,00 USD = 14 492,75 EUROS & 23 000,00 EUROS = 31 740,00 USD ! ! !

    That means that the bike takes an increase of + 8500,00 EUROS / + 11 730,00 USD between USA & EUROPE ! ! ! = AMAZING !

    And this was just an example on a Street Glide, this is the same for all models, I let you imagine the Price of a CVO here in Europe….

  8. 8 TQ Jul 31st, 2009 at 4:51 am

    European H-D prices are ridiculous,even taking into consideration of sales taxes ( VAT. BTW., etc ) in the range of 17% to 20% depending upon country sold. I wonder how much of the price is to cover the costs of the oversized glass palaces in which these bikes are now sold . In my opinion the company has gone for the highest profits from the RUB recreational market , and fed the bubble from below at the entry level with easy credit. When the bubble bursts there will be a glut of secondhand bikes. Will modern mass market Harleys then retain their value ? Will more cautious and prudent buyers go to the glass palace to buy an obviously overpriced bike just to have the newest and latest model ?
    One dealer told to me that there will always be rich people . At another i couldn’t get 50 weight oil for an older model ( which has greatly increased in value since it’s year of origin) but the lady next to me at the counter could buy set of underwear items.. If the entry level bikes ( sportsters) were a reasonable price in europe the glass palace showrooms might attract a more younger crowd too ! ! In my opinion dealers have followed a business practice ( probably orchestrated from the factory) which may have greatly benefited the share holders, yet which is not sustainable long term.Maybe they can find new markets in the emerging BRIC economies.After all, isn’t that where the parts, which up the assembled bikes, are originally made ?

  9. 9 Jul 31st, 2009 at 7:05 am

    Harley sportsters are good bikes as are the V-rods. Just keep the plastic parts out of the bikes.” If they are not steel they are not real”.
    Quik Chanj Chops

  10. 10 Jul 31st, 2009 at 7:10 am

    Not just steel, metal of any kind is what a bike should be made of. Billet aluminum, alloys etc.,etc., just no plastic. I am sure the plastic is great for racing because of the lighter weight, but we are just cruising, and if you want lighter weight with strenth lets go with carbon fiber. Plastic is for toys.
    thanks for listening
    Quik Chanj

  11. 11 FUJI Jul 31st, 2009 at 9:15 am

    Stephen Curtis(Quik Chanj Chops).

    Not doubting your intention but just to clerify .

    Carbon fiber reinforced plastic (also referenced as carbon fiber) usually stronger than steel X – times per sqr inch. mush lighter as we all know but still plastic.

  12. 12 FUJI Jul 31st, 2009 at 9:28 am

    Speaking of carbon fiber , What if a Harley built a bike entirely / as much as possible from carbon fiber. THAT WOULD BE A GREAT ADVANCE IN HI – TECH ! horse power to weight would improve resulting in more agile , faster, fuel efficient. yada yada yada bike.
    Damn , just woke up must go!

  13. 13 jsdiamond Aug 3rd, 2009 at 10:41 am

    HD’s error began with that silly “Dark Customs” booklet coupled with the idiotic idea that painting something black would make a $16k motorcyce seem attractive to someone in their late teens and early twenties. That entire campaign looks like it was created by gay ad designers in New York.

    The second mistake was the Crossbones.

    The GOOD thing that Harley did –and this is probably by acccident, is that they have finally looked outside of their office cubicles and acknowledged that younger riders are not the same as older riders. This generation wants the Sportster –not only because it’s reasonably priced, but because it is a good bike that’s also a good platform for chopping or mild customization. I hope that Harley has learned something from this. They had a drought of riders under 30 years old for the last decade+. Now the Nightster and Iron are bringing them back. Now all they need is a factory rigid.

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