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The Problem with Harley Davidson

Updated: Feb 10

I can certainly help to craft a more respectful and constructive version of this opinion piece. Here it is:

Harley-Davidson, a company with roots dating back to its establishment in 1903, continues to manufacture its motorcycles in the heart of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the northern United States. Enthusiasts of Harley-Davidson bikes are known for their loyalty to the brand, often cherishing the distinct sound of their V-twin engines. At motorcycle gatherings, seasoned riders proudly declare their attachment to their Harley motorcycles, expressing the immense joy these bikes bring them.

However, it's evident that Harley-Davidson is facing a critical challenge. The brand's following largely developed during a time when the company stopped producing bikes without flat-head motors back in 1973. While this loyal market is ideal for high-end sports cars and luxury SUVs, it may struggle to fully embrace the newer, more diverse offerings from Harley-Davidson.

In contrast, younger generations, such as millennials, face economic complexities, including soaring housing costs and underemployment. As a result, they often lean towards practical transportation choices and seek affordability. In the motorcycle market, the "big four" Japanese manufacturers have adeptly catered to this demographic by offering high-performance bikes at competitive prices.

Harley-Davidson's recent foray into electric motorcycles with the Livewire, priced at over $34,000 CDN, might not align with the needs and preferences of cost-conscious younger consumers. Similarly, the company's more budget-friendly 2020 HARLEY-DAVIDSON STREET® 500, starting at over $6,000, may not be compelling enough to sway potential buyers away from more affordable alternatives from Honda or Suzuki.

This conundrum places Harley-Davidson in a challenging position. It's clear that the company must carefully consider its next steps to remain relevant and successful in an evolving market.

If anyone from Harley-Davidson is reading this and has influence in the decision-making process, here's a suggestion: If the company is going to continue producing smaller bikes that mirror its Japanese counterparts, perhaps it could consider aligning these products with a different brand, such as Royal Enfield or AKT. This approach could allow Harley-Davidson to retain its signature brand image while targeting different market segments. Additionally, the company should pursue its foray into adventure and on/off-road motorcycles, as exemplified by its recent Pan America and Bronx models.

It's worth noting that not every Harley-Davidson offering needs to feature a V-twin engine. Perhaps exploring different engine configurations, such as a boxer engine, can help expand the brand's appeal.

Ultimately, this piece is intended as a reflection and an entertainment only, highlighting the evolving landscape of the motorcycle industry and the potential opportunities that lie ahead for a legendary brand like Harley-Davidson.


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