Harley Recalls Exceed Sales

October 7, 2015

All Posts, News

Harley Recalls Exceed Sales

Harley-Davidson has sold 170,500 motorcycles and tricycles through the first nine months of 2015 and recalled 312,000 vehicles. Harley recalled 210,000 vehicles in 2014. Recalls averaged 94,000 vehicles annually for the decade that ended with 2013.

Harley-Davidson sold 171,079 vehicles in the United States last year. That total was up from 143,391 vehicles in the U.S. in 2010 and down from domestic sales of 218,939 in 2008. World wide sales of Harley-Davidsons were 267,999 last year and 313,769 in 2008.


Harley-Davidson’s current marketing strategy is called “fattening the tails.” It is an obscure metaphor that refers to a statistical Bell curve – which is a drawing on a piece of paper that looks a little like the Devil’s Tower outside Sundance, Wyoming; which is an analogy that may resonate more deeply with Harley’s traditional customer base than a reference to statistics. The highest part of the curve represents Harley’s traditional buyers – the one’s who have probably ridden through Sundance. The lines, or tails in marketing-speak, represent two categories of potential buyers to whom Harley is trying very hard to sell its brand. On the one side are “outreach” customers including women, members of racial and ethnic minorities who have not usually ridden Harleys and affluent buyers. The other side represents international sales.

During 2014, dealers sold 267,999 new Harleys worldwide, up 2.7 percent compared to 260,839 motorcycles in 2013. Last year Harley’s total international retail sales were 96,920. In 2008 international sales totaled 94,830. So all the hot air about foreign markets and “fattening the tails” and building the brand in India and China resulted in the sale of an additional, whopping 2,090 motorcycles per year.


In April, the Milwaukee company recalled 46,000 bikes that had potential clutch problems. Early in July, Harley-Davidson recalled 66,421 motorcycles with a misplaced brake line that could lock-up the front brake. Later that month, Harley recalled 185,000 motorcycles whose saddlebags had a tendency to fall off. In August, the company recalled 10,580 Street 500 and Street 750 motorcycles that had a fuel pump flaw that could briefly interrupt the fuel flow, which resulted in a loss of power, followed by an “abrupt restoration of power,” which was probably very thrilling for the non-traditional buyers for whom the new, little Harleys were intended.

In a story published yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, Michelle Kumbier, Harley’s senior vice president in charge of manufacturing and suppliers, told reporters James R. Hagerty and Tom McGinty that the motor company “was studying its manufacturing, design, testing and sourcing of supplies to see how future flaws might be avoided.”

“We’re disappointed,” Kumbier told the Journal. “We don’t find it acceptable.”

The recall surge coincides with a decline in Harley’s market share in the United States market for motorcycles with engines displacements above 600 cubic centimeters. Harley’s share of all those sales has decreased from 54.0 percent of sales in 2013, to 50.3 percent last year and 47.5 percent so far this year.


64 Responses to “Harley Recalls Exceed Sales”

  1. Lone Rider Says:

    @ Dave – and yet at the rallies anyone trailering their motorcycle is either scorned or ridiculed. That should be the real message. Harley Snobs are missing the boat, I have and will continue RIDING just about anything with less than 4 wheels. Its still all about the ride. Don’t even need a destination, just go.

  2. popeye Says:

    Harley needs to introduce a new line of “Biker Trailers” by harley. They would probably sell one with every bike purchased. Willie G skulls optional

  3. EC Vagos Says:

    You are all correct on some points. We ride Harley’s because they are awesome machines and way back when, they were American bikes. True, Honda builds the shadow in Marysville Ohio, 100%, but the cash still goes to the japs.
    True, a lot of the parts on Harley’s are foreign and jap, and now they have become hipster garnets as much as scooters, but you will never see me on anything jap, but I am truly disappointed with HD. But then again, they have gone the USA way, turned to crap.much of it has to do with this lazy ass, entitled generation that can’t do any job right if they even get a job, plus the corrupt politicians dumping tariffs to even the playing field and forcing “made in America” companies to try to compete on price, sacrificing any chance of quality.
    For now I won’t get the new Road Glide I wanted because it is built like crap and more entertainment center than scooter. I will keep by 90th anniversary bagged fresh and continue to rebuild my 77 superglide when necessary. That’s what I will continue until HD and America straighten shit out, if ever.

    Shiny side up my deserving friends.

  4. dogbreath Says:

    All Clubs have their own rules, some say HD only, others have American made as the only criteria. Some only care about size, with an old standard being 650cc so that Brit bikes could be included. That was when the biggest stock HD’s were 74ci and Sporty were 900cc. A lot of guys were riding bikes that looked like 74s but were really 61s (knucks and pans, don’t think there was a 61 inch shovel).

    If you didn’t have a 74 or more you couldn’t run with the pack – you were always at the back trying to keep up and pushing too hard. So as soon as you could, you got the upgrade.

    Jap bikes were not even a consideration until the 750-Four came out, and even they weren’t hated. Quite a few of them got made into fine choppers. It took a few more years, when Reagan rekindled Americas dying patriotism (war wounds of Vietnam) before the “Buy American” slogan became the rallying cry and the term “rice-burner” became a pejorative.

    HD has always fit the bill for me. I look at Indian every time they come back alive, but then they are gone again. Hopefully they will stay around this time long enough to make a difference.

    Looks like most of the companies like Panzer and AI have gone away, or have seriously downsized now that the absurd “buy a custom chopper” phase has moved on. Always seemed like a recipe for disaster to me to buy essentially a ‘kit bike” that some stranger assembled as a kind of one-off.

    There was a time HD could have died. And perhaps should have. But it survived, improved and then caught fire on several fronts at once as every metalhead in the world watched Motley Crue and Poison rolling on their brand new Hollywood choppers, and every older American with disposable income wanted to finally get that bike he had dreamed about since he saw Easy Rider at the drive-in.

    If there was a point to this ramble, I have forgotten it.

  5. Largeandy Says:

    @EC Vagos

    Amen to your comments, they are 100 % on the mark. i have owned and riden lots of Harleys over the years going back to early 1970’s when I thought a Sportster was a big bike. I also think “infotainment” systems are pure BS and Harley is certainly overpriced especially when compared to what Indian is now cranking out for less $$. I hear you on the Road Glide comments as well but damn, those new raod glides are a really great handling bike especially when pouring it on through mountsin twisty turnies.

  6. moonshiner Says:

    Been riding HD for 45 years. They have always had issues. A 1975 Superglide (my first brand new hog)I rode for years had lifters fail right off the showroom floor. With 600 miles on it I put Sifton solids in and took off for Colarado (from Michigan)and had a blast even though it used a quart of oil every 500 miles. In the many modifications I made to HD’s over the years most had to have hand fabricated parts or modify the aftermarket stuff that didn’t fit. Today the aftermarket has come a long way, most stuff is pretty darn good. Riding these bikes was more than a fad for me, became a big part of my culture and will until I’m gone. Every now and then I test ride a Beemer or other import, they don’t arouse the soul like a HD does. I recently completed another trip out west on my 2015 Roadglide. 5900 miles in 11 days, didn’t use any oil (huffed a couple ounces into the intake is all)to speak of, never missed a beat. If the crank goes I’ll rebuild it better and keep rolling. The 10 minute to complete recalls won’t keep me down. Go on a Goldwing blog, they got issues too, as do Beemers, so nothing perfect. Ride what you want, but keeping it in the wind is the goal that we all have in common. Ride often and safe.

  7. Meh Says:

    Harley management cheapened the brand quality a la AMF and deserve a vicious marketplace asskicking. Any real biker can build their own scooter and the aftermarket makes superior replacements for everything that matters. IDGAF if the posers don’t buy as many HDs.

    More opportunity for Polaris and Indian. If they become smart enough to cultivate the aftermarket they can erode the main advantage of Harley, which is not the stock bikes but the aftermarket support for much longer than the factory gives a fuck.

  8. bcnasty Says:

    exactly, I do my own work and only once in 2003 had any factory folks work on my bikes just because they gave me a better finance deal than the credit union and it included maintanence. That lasted one service. My point with Harley is I ride the piss out of them. I could always say well at least the crank is good. That 2007 was the biggest piece of shit I ever owned. I replaced oil pressure switch , compensattor and primary chain, ( twice ) clutch basket bearing , rocker arms and stator, rotor. At 37,000 the crank was 7 thousandths. Just like brothers you see walking out of a police bar, when you can not get home without rebuilding your primary on hot asphault in a hotel parking lot you loose trust.

  9. Wolfenlover Says:

    Makes me wonder if HD’s prices aren’t going to drop some too? The O-L watches
    the Price Is Right & they were giving a new HD away & it was in the,IIRR,
    $11,699.00 range.

  10. Wolfenlover Says:

    Lot of good that does this ol’ cripple! Fuck, they could be $100.00 & it still
    wouldn’t do me any damn good!

  11. puterindabasketchief Says:


    Yeah, I forgot to mention the 09 completely lunched the primary at about 25k, and I’ve already gone through a compensator on the 11.

    Respects to you.

  12. cruiser Says:

    This is an outlaws UK video of a funeral, respect, look at all the Rocket III’s

    It’s already on public access so …


  13. cruiser Says:


    This is a youtube video, already out there of an Outlaws funeral in the UK, respect.

    Look at all the Triumph Rocket III’s

  14. cruiser Says:

    Apologies for the duplicate

Leave a Reply