Harley Bashing

November 9, 2016

All Posts, News

Harley Bashing

A couple of major, online articles published this week predict that if Harley-Davidson doesn’t “catch up with what’s in demand” the “brand will get replaced” and warn that Harley stock may soon “go into an uncontrolled skid.”

The articles were published Saturday by The Huffington Post and Monday by the multimedia investment advisor The Motley Fool.

Until the so-called Great Recession that began in 2007, Harley was one of the most admired, American manufacturing companies – so well regarded that men tattooed the brand on their arms. It sold an iconic product built by American workers who fed and clothed American children. The company was profitable because sales were brisk and Harley motorcycles were overpriced.

Outlaw Machines

Mostly sales were strong because Harley wasn’t really selling motorcycles. Harleys were, in Brock Yates’s memorable phrase, “Outlaw Machines” that had ridden “into the mainstream.” Part of the Harley mystique was nostalgia for the America that flourished between the Korean and Vietnam wars – when people took to the then “open” roads for fun and “outlaws” were tolerated because the nation prided itself on its freedom.

The defining novel of the beat generation was called On The Road. One of the most influential television series of the 1960s was Route 66. One of John Steinbeck’s last books was Travels with Charley in Search of America. William Faulkner’s last novel  was The Reivers, about a week-long joyride in a stolen car.

During its 25-year-long heyday, Harley-Davidson really sold the dual commodities of “running away from it all” and the outlaw mystique. Customers with some money in the bank could get credit from Harley-Davidson Financial Services, Harley’s very own loan company, and Harley made as much money from that as from motorcycles. If you couldn’t afford a new motorcycle, you could buy the outlaw mystique in the form of a tee shirt, wallet or shot glass. New motorcycle owners could express their individuality with genuine Harley-Davidson bolt-on parts. Television shows about custom Harley-styled motorcycles, like Orange County Choppers, were inescapable.

The economic crisis that began nine years ago and ever more rigid social control enforced by the ever less tolerant American police state ruined all that. Harley stopped selling the motorcycle outlaw mystique and has been in almost constant decline ever since. Someone in the company decided that only geezers wanted to be 1970’s style outlaws or go for joyrides in search of America. The motor company decided its new customers should be women, mellennials, minorities and foreigners. The company screwed over its employees and degraded its products in order to maintain its profit margins and reward its clueless executives.

Forget History

But all of this is merely history and The Huffington Post and The Motley Fool are blissfully ignorant of it.

In an article titled “The Startling Decline of Harley-Davidson” Huffington says Italian manufacturer “Ducati has a high potential of overtaking Harley Davidson if the statistics continue as they’re going…Ducati’s sales increased by ten percent in 2015 in the United States, while Harley-Davidson’s sales decreased by 1.7 percent. Besides Ducati’s growth, other companies are also giving tough competition to this heavyweight motorcycle.”

The article claims, “Nowadays, younger generations are looking for speed, sporty style, and comfort in the vehicles they drive. They lead active lives and drive fast cars, so it only makes sense that they’d want fast motorcycles too. This is where Harley-Davidson, unfortunately, can’t compete. The top leaders of the fastest bikes are Suzuki with a top speed of 248 mph, Kawasaki with 220 mph and Ducati with 169 mph.”

The Post reports that Matt Levatich, Harley’s tone deaf Chief Executive, “wants U.S. suppliers to be globally competitive by matching the costs of overseas rivals. He also considers young adults as the most important segment. The investments on new engines, favoring a particular model, and other updates won’t be decided by the core market of just older white men. The bikes that appeal to younger adults, women, and minorities will be given more priority. Just like with anything in life, the new replaces the old, and if you don’t catch up with what’s in demand, your brand will get replaced as well.”

New Engine

In an article lauding Harley’s new “Milwaukee-Eight” engine and titled “Is This How Harley-Davidson Beats the Motorcycle Competition,” The Motley Fool reports: “While Harley has seen its bike sales slide, Polaris has enjoyed double and triple-digit growth for the Indian nameplate. While admittedly starting from a much smaller base – Polaris bought the Indian brand out of bankruptcy in 2011 – it has continued to post strong gains even as industry fundamentals have weakened considerably.”

“And while the new engine should also help Harley retain its premium price positioning,” the article continues, “that hasn’t necessarily worked in the bike maker’s favor. It may have retained its margins, but it’s been losing customers and market share too.”

“…the fourth quarter is typically Harley’s weakest, and even though it has maintained its shipment guidance for the year, expecting to ship between 264,000 and 269,000 bikes to dealers in 2016, industry trends suggest it may miss that goal. Harley-Davidson has used some seemingly questionable tactics to make its numbers over the past two years,” the investment advisor claims, “and may do so again just to clear the lower end of its threshold.”

You can read The Huffington Post article here.

The Motley Fool report is here.



37 Responses to “Harley Bashing”

  1. Ortega76 Says:

    Harley is pushing the Milwaukee 8 to keep more of the aftermarket parts money. They are really pushing dealers to stop doing non-EPA compliant performance mods and push the bar-and-shield crap that IS EPA compliant. It’s just a smokescreen to stick with Screamin’ Beagle though. There is talk of HD doing blacklists of VINs for non-HD parts for warranties or pressuring dealers to not work on any bikes that have non-HD parts. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not official but it MAY be coming sooner than you think.

  2. Johnny Rotten Says:

    fuck da factory…
    they fucked all the fuckers they needed to cater to years ago
    the new milwalking 8 is a pile of shit just like most of the no r&d shit they whip out and sell, then address fuckups after the fact…..

    on that note…


    M.L.L.&R. to those deserving

  3. OutlawMotorcycleJoe Says:

    It’s refreshing to see you mention the American Police State. It’s here to stay, no doubt about it. Sometimes I feel like I’m living on a fucking island!

  4. Krobar Says:

    HOG magazine, which is owned by Harley Davidson, wrote an article not that long back that confessed that HD is pricing their bikes to upper middle class weekend riders, HD is putting themselves out of business. They know it and don’t care I am sorry but spending 30k for a full dresser that I can not ride all year round over a fantastic truck…. 2 bikes on the top 10 best touring bikes are cheaper then the 3rd place Ultra by as much as 10k

  5. Tommy Says:

    Until the competition can make classy looking bikes like my Heritage they will never get my business. The closest thing they have is the indian but I can get over that cover they have right behind the motor makes the damn thing look like a Vespa to me….

  6. Chief Says:

    I’m 33 and when I recently wanted to purchase a new bike I looked a lot into the new Indians and Harley’s, how they compared to one another in terms of performance and cost, and when the dust settled I rode off into the sunset on a new Indian. Simply better performing bikes and way more bang for your buck.

  7. fayettenamhoe Says:

    what was once deleted, rides again,
    rain or shine, in the death of the
    cold ass nite, my oily, rusty,bent
    flat black will ride me into another
    day, when i break down, i get out my
    duct tape, bailing wire and monkey wrench
    and a cold beer, no AAA involved,the screw
    driver blues,on a lucky day slow motion
    and some poe child ask me when i’m
    on the curb, what happened to your chrome?
    what fucking chrome?, don’t need no
    stinkin chrome, and i no need for loud
    , ass pipes you won’t hear me coming, and you
    won’t hear me goin as i eat her pussey while
    her stiff man works a low lay job, and
    the looney bin is open for business
    come taste the ride to hell, no chrome
    involved, no, yes i gave my wardrobe up
    after all who would want to dress like
    another put down with only a fake harley
    , to show for it
    some shit fuck T.V. show that tried to
    stereo-type me, ride free, that used to be
    what it was about, be free not a fake

  8. fayettenamhoe Says:


  9. Anonymous Says:

    I’m what harley would call a young rider, I think they are trying to market to me, maybe.

    I will be buying a used harley this winter because i’m poor and they get cheap when it’s cold.

    I’ve got my eye on an FXR, I want to buy American parts for it, take it to my local independent shop, “sup it up”, and if I can get 40+ mpg, 90+hp and 90+ torque then i’ll be a happy man.

    I have been doing research and it seems it won’t cost much to rebuild or sup these old evo engines, and I keep hearing its the best engine harley ever made. heck harley even sells brand new evo engines for $2500, with 2k in upgrades I keep hearing these old evo’s will eat a twin cam. (in an fxr frame of course)

    i plan to keep this fxr for as long as i can ride, and i will keep rebuilding and riding it.

    As for harleys new engines and bikes? no thanks, I’m not a rich yuppie and I don’t want to look like one either.

  10. Phuquehed Says:

    I don’t call them the HuffingGlue Post for nothing. Anyone hired by and writing for them is a retard and may actually be related to anyone hired by and writing for HelloGiggles.

  11. ipsick Says:

    “i’d love to see some of these doo rag headed, fat middle aged newbies try to start a linkert carbed panhead.”

    Right on the money. My 50 Pan had it’s quirks when it came to starting it. If you didn’t know the sequence, no way it would start. Not only the choke but you had the left grip control the timing. I miss that bike…….

  12. Mercyful Fate Says:

    Here’s a different angle I hope the regulars will enjoy.

    When I was a young lad I played in a rock band to get the chicks. When I became older I got my first Harley to get the chicks.

    To you young guns out there contemplating your purchase decision: The girls don’t get all googly-eyed when you tell ’em you own some Chinese built, mostly plastic, crotch rocket.

    So, Harley does have that going for them.

    Today? Now I ride my Harley to get away from that damn crazy chick. hehe

  13. Sieg Says:

    I’ll never part with my ’70 FLH, period. And as someone else noted, I’m old enough to remember the AMF years well enough that I called the factory before I bought my Bitch, and confirmed that it was made while the factory was still under the control of the original ownership. FWIW.

    On those rare occasions when I got to a stealership, it’s typically just to buy oil-I’ve run 105 in mine since the day I got it, and don’t plan to change. I do, however, take every opportunity when I do go there to ask after NOS parts. For instance; I recently went through my oil-pump, and needed new gaskets-the thin plastic ones. I asked, and the dealer checked his computer, and lo and behold, they had some in stock. I bought al 20 of them at about a buck a pop. The parts manager about had a fucking heart-attack when he came out and saw me buying them all…at the prices listed in 1970. Ooops. I’ve repeated that with quite a few old parts, gotten them for the original prices, simply because the youngster at the parts counter don’t have a clue that they don’t make the damn things anymore, so they should charge whatever the market will bear.

    There are plenty of older sleds out there that can be had relatively cheaply, and I can’t think of a better way to start a relationship with a bike than by rebuilding it. My first was a 1947 Knuckle, and it came in peach-baskets. That used to be par for the course, I don’t know of ANYONE that went out and plunked down the then-princely sum of $2500 for a new one! That was for the “Dresser-Pilots” and Shriners. Mayhap if would-be riders had to start scrounging parts and putting their own sled together again, we’d have less yuppie scum, and more real riders on the road.



  14. Hangaround Says:

    I’m with puterindabasketchief . I have a Victory bagger. Its American made, cost thousands less than the comparable street glide, and a lot less to hop it up. Maintenance is a dream and it has over 17K with no issues.

    Its more agile than a Harley, is more comfortable than a Harley, and outperforms all but the most rodded 103’s out there while still being a simple V-Twin design.

    Yeah resale value may not be as good but I ride with a club and I’ll roll this till the wheels fall off so who the fuck cares.

  15. TX_Biker Says:

    My Club does not have a brand requirement, That being said we are all riding HD. Personally I ride an older carbureted Fatboy with a few mods that I bought for around $8k. Recently I did get to ride a 2017 Road Glide with the Milwaukee 8 motor. I liked it but probably will never buy one. I am quite happy to ride the Fatboy, and maintain it myself. Harley will always be my bike of choice as long as I can find an older bike….

  16. rw Says:

    The last time I went to HD to see about ordering some shovel parts the guy behind the counter didn’t even know what a shovel head was.

  17. trebor Says:

    Harleys attitude with every new bike they put out is that they have come out with something cutting edge where in reality its already been done by the influx of ordinary bike builders years ago.So much of what Harley claims were already seen on jap v twin copys from the 80s’.Who would ever have thought a basic bike for over $20,000 and thats before you ditch the lame exaust,trash the uncomfortable seat,better handle bars,power commander ect ect just to make it yours?Thats easy another $5,000 on top of the cost.You’d be out of your mind not to get tbe extended warranty cuz soon as their little coverage expires boom all kinds of high dollar repairs can be expected.Simple shit like screws for your saddle bags which constantly come out most likely wont be in stock or the amount of money they want is ridiculous.I am in the habit of going to my local hardware store that way i get good stainless stuff instead of that rust after one year crap hd uses.Genuine Harley?Looks like its made in the same foreign countries as after market parts.Guess it depends on which shift it was made on to get the tag Genuine Harey.But at the end of the day i still ride the dogshit out of my bike cuz even with all the bullshit and snobbery from the dealership nothing in the world gives me that feeling.Support your local indepent shop.

  18. Phonebooth Says:

    Harley Davidson has always sold to a niche market. They tried to take advantage of the baby boom, now they need to recede again. They also need to allow the small mom and pops that serviced their brand to buy parts at wholesale and make a comeback. There will always be some Harley guys around. Help them stay Harley guys.

  19. Whitepride Says:

    @SomeGuy. That might not be a bad thing if someone takes them over. The right people could be a positive change for the company. I’m old enough to remember the AMF days

  20. Paul Says:

    To butcher a quote, “The rumors of Harley’s demise are greatly exaggerated.” The fact that their market share has gone down is merely a reflection of the fact that serious competition has entered the market and that is a good thing. It’s nice to have options for other American made cruisers. In the end competition can only make them all better. Remember in the early 70s when Detroit first started to compete with foreign compact economy cars? They put out some real crap for a while! But eventually they got better. Does Harley need to change to compete better and to vie for their customer loyalty. Of course, but I do not think that they will die off, they will have to change to meet the more complex market place.

  21. puterindabasketchief Says:

    After nearly 25 years riding Harley I got tired of everything IronRider spells out so accurately above. Bought a Victory six months ago for about 6K less than a similar HD model, and after a tuner and mild cam, it dynoed at 109/111. 12,000 miles later, I got no complaints.

  22. fallendesperado Says:

    Harley was under 9 bucks on the stock exchange in 2009 for a bit and then went on a serious run after….so did polaris (indian)….maybe Sutter needs to make another SOA type series to help prop up some Harley sales. I have 2 Harleys right now and I’m thinking my next bike is going to be an Indian

  23. rookery Says:

    If ever a company deserved to crash and burn it’s HD. As a entity they are total scumbags. It’s creeping strangulation of all the independent repair shops by withdrawing spares availability and discounts is a corporate suit inspired attempt to force people to upgrade to newer models which hey, surprise surprise can only be serviced by an official dealer. My clubs dropped the all HD rule, we don’t miss them, plenty of better bikes/engines/inspiration/value for the buck out there…

  24. Shovelhead Says:

    Good, I’ll be glad when the day comes that HD’s are no longer the In thing with yuppies.
    I’ve never bought a new Harley, prefer older bikes anyhow. Even if I had the money, I couldn’t justify the enormous price for a new HD. Bad investment. I love American made and try to support Made in America as much as I can, but the HD Company seems to be run by the ultimate in greedy business people who do not support me. If they die, so be it. I’ll still ride an old Harley whether the company exists or not.


    the worst thing harley ever did was put electric starters on them.

    before that, only 2 types of people rode them, bikers and cops.

    i’d love to see some of these doo rag headed, fat middle aged newbies try to start a linkert carbed panhead.

  26. Wino Enzed Says:

    My oldest Harley is a 1948 and the newest is a 2008. Thats a 60 year spread and most other manufacturers did not last over that period. BMW and a few others did but sadly HD is too much a corporate these days.
    I am loyal to the bitter end. Bought my first new HD 33 years ago and over here they were the price of half a house so folk thought you were mad and they were probably right. Too old to rock n Roll to young to change :-)

  27. Fr. Abraham Says:

    After reading this article, I remembered going to the dealership just a few years ago to buy a headlight bulb for my old shovelhead SuperGlide, where they wanted to charge me almost $80…just for a standard sealed-beam headlight bulb. Then I remembered why I have no attachment to Harley.

    I’m getting close to 40 years old. When I was growing up, a Harley was something that a few of the old-timers and die-hards rode, because they were the only ones left who would rather buy American instead of buying reliable, fast, and cheap. I don’t even ride a Harley now…$5k bought me a Big Dog that was built during the Clinton administration, and even as it came straight from the factory it’ll outrun everything Harley’s ever made except for maybe a V-Rod. Maybe.

    Today, most Harley riders are the weekend-warrior types living a fantasy inspired by Kurt Sutter and the Teutul brothers, and wouldn’t know the first thing about how to use a 3/8 drive ratchet…let alone, how to change the oil in their bikes…and this is the customer base that Harley has been cultivating. After having witnessed a man unloading his bike off a trailer and throwing dirt on it to make it look like he rode it to a rally, I’m starting to see why Harley is (and has been) having problems.

    At least they have a thriving t-shirt business…

  28. Enzo Says:

    I read that Huffington post piece earlier in the week, piece of garbage when it came to talking of other marques.
    Want the unsolicited opinion of a millennial? Harley turned into a lifestyle brand that coasts on reputation alone, they’re the Ferrari of the bike world. Indian is gaining so much ground because they offer an attractive cruiser style with a modern liquid cooled engine at a reasonable price. My only friend who wants a Harley is the one obsessed with “Sons of Anarchy” young guys don’t care about the mystique of ofwg’s when there are hot machines like the KTM Superduke or Aprilia Tuono at similar price points that will handle the road better.

  29. Bolo Says:

    I bought ’97 springer softail from a dentist who barely road it in the last 20 years and the article is right, millennials seem frightened of it and give me scared looks (beta-male hipsters who are softer than baby shit). But oddly enough kids love it. I had a 10 year Asian girl stop her bicycle in the middle of the cross walk to tell me she loved my bike. The neighbour kids watch enthralled when I do my morning 10 minute Evo warm up so I think there is hope for the younger, post-millennial generation.

  30. IronRider Says:

    Oh FFS I can tell you many times I have walked into a Harley dealer and mistaken one of their bikes for a Ducati. Honestly if you looking for a Ducati your not even looking at a Harley Davidson or going to mistake it for one.

    Huffpo and the so called investment rag are talking out of their asses because if they had a fucking clue they would now these are two separate classes of bikes and buyers ( well except for the yuppie who watched SOA or joined the Iron Order and wants to play Biker for the weekend ).

    The people who Ride and own Harley’s are not shopping for a Ducati, and no Harley owner is going to walk into a Ducati dealer and look for a Harley part. Harley’s financial woes have fuck all to do with competition from Ducati… like Ziich, Zero Nada. Harley woes were due to their own ego and thinking that riding on merchandise sales and playing to the yuppie market and trying to build bikes on the cheap with inferior quality for those yuppies and pricing them out of exsistance because they thought they could.

    Not too mention Harley seemed to think that loyal Harley owners would buy whatever Harley put on the showroom floor and that the customer would buy what they were told was hip and service and quality were not important, that was Harley’s mistake.

    Harley for years and years had a loyal following and still does to an extent, but Harley seemed to forget that servicing the customer with people who had a fucking clue along with sales and service staff that cared about the customer and the brand and had the parts to back it up.

    The days of going into a Harley dealer and even thinking of trading up to a newer bike are past due to Harley building shit engines and bikes that spend more time on the lift then on the pavement. Harley’s problem was they forgot to care and service their loyal customers, not too mention that the newer bikes are not worth the cash. Sure they might look nice but they are no where near dependable and are no where worth the money they are asking for them.

    Harley still is trying to appeal to the masses with stripped down starter bikes that look like some cheap ass Chinese knock off. May as well put a fucking kids Big Wheel in there and slap a Harley Davidson sticker on it.

    If Harley want to keep their customers start by fucking listening to them, get their people to start giving a shit about their customers and back that up with front end staff who arent arrogant and actually care about their jobs. I fell bad for the mechanics because a lot of them do care but are saddled with shirty built bikes that they have their hands in fixing more than they ought to do to cheap parts and cheap built bikes.

    Not even going to bring up the fact that parts stocking seems to be non exsistent at most dealers, but if you want a T-Shirt fuck they have 20 cartons of them in the back. Harley isnt nor never will need to compete with Ducati, now Victory and the likes of that are a different story entirely, those companies are Harley greatest threat due to the bikes and engines they are putting out.

    So the only thing that Huff Po and Motley;s so called news story is good for is the bottom of the bird cage

  31. Va.Bob Says:

    I’m all for Ducati doing well.Especially with their new Scrambler model.But”overtaking Harley-Davidson if statistics continue…..”?Sound like Hillary speechwriters,or the “Baghdad Bob” Washington Post.

  32. Lou Sassel Says:

    In the last month the stock has gone from $49.70 to $58.78. Roughly a 18% increase.

  33. Sieg Says:

    The HuffPo and the Motley Fool…two of my must-reads every day.
    At least when i want some comic relief.

  34. Paladin Says:

    One reaps what one sows.


  35. SomeGuy Says:

    If the stock plunges too far it will become a takeover target. Someone will buy them out, willingly or not, if the price drops far enough.

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