Let’s Flog Harley Some More

January 3, 2018

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Let's Flog Harley Some More

Harley-Davidson executive has always been an oxymoron.

For at least the last 35 years the company has survived by selling symbols of all the things corporate executives are not: Edgy, rugged, handy, individualistic heroes and antiheroes who see through the shallow materialism of corporate executives.

Working class biker heroes and anti-heroes, drifters with mysterious pasts and knives on their hips or guns in the smalls of their backs, knights errant on steel steeds populate the imaginations of most of the Walter Mittys born in the 1950s and 1960s. Not so much for the Walter Mittys born in the 1980s. Old Harley riders see Clint Eastwood when they look in the mirror. Or Steve McQueen or at least Jack Nicholson. For the last six or seven years it has been kind of interesting to watch Harley try to sell these masculine symbols to men who look in the mirror and see Stephen Colbert. The Motor Company has also been trying to sell its very symbolic products to men who see Will Smith and women who see Hillary Clinton reflected back at them.

What Could Go Wrong

When Harley releases its fourth-quarter financial results later this month they will show that the company’s sales are continuing to decline for the fourth straight year. In the third quarter of 2017 the company’s revenues decreased by about 12 percent and motorcycle shipments dropped by about 14 percent. This is a Harley problem. This isn’t necessarily a cruiser motorcycle problem. Harley’s competitor, Polaris Industries, seems to be doing just fine.

Many executives seem to think Harley is doing just fine, too. Harley is still paying shareholders dividends. Various economists, including the analysts at the financial firm Goldman Sachs, think Harley is about to turn it around. Harley is going to do this, Goldman Sachs thinks, because the company is going to create two million new customers. How, you may wonder?

Well first, the company is “placing a renewed emphasis” on teaching people to ride. Currently 245 dealerships have courses that teach people to ride a Harley. So far, 50,000 people have taken a course at a Harley-Davidson “Riding Academy.” Only 1,950,000 to go. To put that big number in context, Harley sold 124,777 motorcycles through the first nine months of 2017.

Many New Models

The company also plans to release 100 new motorcycle models over the next decade. Possibly Harley will turn things around because many of its millions of new riders will insist on having the latest thing year after year. It is unclear how many total models Harley will have in 2027 or what they will be called.

But, it seems likely that by about 2020 one of them will be called the Bronx, after the New York borough that is “the birthplace of hip-hop.” The company recently submitted trademark applications for the brand names “Bronx” and “Harley-Davidson Bronx.” The trademark is for “motorcycles and structural parts there for,” The company will have three years to use the new brand name.

It is anybody’s guess what kind of motorcycle Harley’s executives think the Bronx should be. Maybe it will be a little pocket bike you can carry on your shoulder like a boom box. For sure, the name will look great on a tee shirt or on a genuine Harley brand silk tie.

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33 Responses to “Let’s Flog Harley Some More”

  1. Filburt Says:

    Elon Musk of Tesla forced to step down for being a failure. H-D Levitich is in bed with Musk on this gimmick electric push product that has caused H-D plants to shutdown and Americans to lose their jobs.
    When is Levitich going to be forced out of H-D?

  2. Mark Says:

    Here’s 2 quick kickers about HD that show an absolute disconnect between them and their customers. The new FLH’s that have the radios in them, do not have a CD player. I’m an older guy and CD’s are what I understand and like. I don’t do the MP3 stuff. Stupid HD.
    The other one is, why did HD not put in the tire pressure system with the bikes that have the computer screen. Oh hell yea, we love to roll all over the ground to check the rear tire pressure and would never want to be able to turn the bike on and get the pressure in a read out. Stupid HD

  3. TX_Biker Says:

    Indian’s market share is small and polaris does not report number of units sold like harley does. While they say indian sales are up, overall motorcycle sales for polaris are down. An estimate by a financial analyst puts their entire motorcycle sales (not just Indians) at about $50,000 units. with sales for polaris in total across all products reaching about 1/4 of harley davidson. That would be impressive it it was just the indian line. But it’s not.

  4. Jerry Ramirez Says:

    ‘Vrod’….. man ! Lol

  5. Iron Rider Says:

    The HD dealers nowadays some of them are more concerned about selling you a t-shirt or mug and somewhere buried behind all the merch you can wear and drink out of is the bikes. Some of them will only have a handful of bikes, some have more but have you ever asked one of their people walking the floor a technical spec on a bike? Have of them have no clue how many CC’s the engine is, they have to go “find”someone that can answer it or go look it up.

    Used to be the people who worked the floor rode and knew the bike specs and could answer about anything that you asked, same with the guy at the parts counter and the tech in the back working on bikes, but at a lot of the dealer it just isn’t the case anymore. You go into the dealer now and the person doing the parts isn’t a parts person at all but someone they hired to do the receiving and stocks shelves.

    The poor tech who is usually some appretice kid who got hired cheap to get his time in and is so swamped with doing more PDI’s than repairs because some repairs are over their ability due to the fact that some of HD’s rides are spending more time on a lift than on pavement.

    Shit half the time some HD dealers dont even stock oil filters they have to order them in. Now how much of that is mantra from HD HQ to keep parts stock low and so your not stuck with money tied in inventory or what who knows, but it almost seems like Hd HQ has instituted change in how the dealers are to operate with regard to their dealing with HD riders and potential new customers and I wouldn’t exactly say the changes are for the better.

    Now there are dealers who are good and these are the folks that have been HD dealer for a long time and still have some of the same folks working their for ages. There are some man where you honestly wonder how they are still in business because you go into their location and man the service isnt there.

    I know guys who have bought newer rides, some have had minor issues, some have enough frustration to never go near another new bike because they were just constant problems that HD just didnt seem to know how to solve and having a bike sit there for weeks on end and no solution in sight to a fix isnt good for business.

    It’s one of the reason why guys are loathe to give up their old rides, just because of reliability and the fact that you still can source parts. Some of the old bikes are worth a good chunk of change, look at some of them going down the road man and you can see the pride that someone takes in their ride, and even with miles on the OD they are still going and you just cant say that about some of the bikes HD has put out the last while, it seems more about profit than reliability

  6. Mark Says:

    @ MtPockets

    Agreed. There has to be and are some HD dealers that are run by folks that get it and do a good job at taking care of their customers best interest.
    Let me give you a perfecty up to date example of HD’s BS at screwing over their customers with full intent. I happen to have a 2017 FLHXS, nice bike and I’m happy with it. I fixed it so it fits my riding style and has the power I want. But then the 2018’s come out and made the 2017 a one year bike. The motor on the 2018 special is blacked out and the rear tire is an 18 inch. That rear tire makes a positive difference by moving the riders weight forward to a mid position between the wheels. It’s very noticable when backing the bike around by making it feel much lighter, no kidding, because experienced riders of Harleys notice it right away. What this all means is, the bike lost a lot of value because it’s a one year wonder. And you can bet if someone in a few years wants to trade it in, that is going to be used to fuck em’ and the dealer will sell the trade as if it’s not an issue. Typical HD bullshit. Did HD know that the FLHXS would be changed from 17 to 18 of course they did and they knew that the owners of the 17 would take it in the shorts, too fucking bad. Now thats customer loyalty from HD’s finest. Maybe HD will come out with a 18 inch rear wheel to replace the 16 inch on the 17’s but it’s not going to be worth the price because they will really stick it to anyone willing to pay. HD is offering different, change out wheels for the 18’s starting with a different front wheel and I believe that also includes the rear wheel both with the needed ABS pick up and so on so the linked ABS brakes work and one doesn’t need black outs on the pick ups and have no ABS. Try putting on a SE high flow air cleaner on. The bracket thats on it needs to come off so the air cleaner and the throttle body match up. But that thin gasket isn’t always enough so you need to make one. All HD needed to do was cut down the part that the breather bolts go through and it would work perfectly. Duh!
    Yea, parts are a real bitch, but I can still get oil filters at a dealer for a shovelhead and Evo. Ain’t that a wonder.

  7. James W Crawford Says:

    Growing up, Imgad a neighbor who had a Servi Car.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harley-Davidson_Servi-Car

    Time for Harley to bring it back?

  8. J Taylor Says:

    What A MOJOR LAUGH

  9. MtPockets Says:

    @ Mark It’s not just building the bikes but also supporting the ones they already built.
    Call most Harley shops, and if your bike is more than 5 years old they probably wont have what you need.
    Contrast that with Honda. I was recently looking for some parts for my wifes 72 CB350. I called the local Honda shop to get some direction on where to start looking for parts. The parts guy says “hold on a second”… then comes back on the phone and says “yeah, I got one”.
    The sad part is, there actually ARE good dealerships out there. Belgrade Montana and Gillette Wyoming come to mind. But most wont touch anything just a few years old, especially if you didnt buy it from them.

  10. Mark Says:

    Seems everyone forgets about the bad ass golf carts that HD used to make.! With the Boomers packing into the Trailer Home Resorts in Sunshine Cities, it’s time to reinvent the products that HD used to make. Just imagine, rolling up in a Harley Davidson golf cart designed after Magunm’s 308 to the hang out by the shuffle board court. Oh yea and for all you old timers that couldn’t get past the wrinkles could have a chance at last to get those evasive Gray Wings.
    But on the other side of the coin. If HD would stop fucking over their customers as targets to squeeze out every nickel and dime they can scam out of them. Customer loyalty may have kicked in where the older guys passed on down their love for the motorcycle itself onto the younger generations. But the spark and excitement of the bike has suffered. Everyone has their own stories about being fucked over by an HD dealer and or HD themselves, wrongly. The HD base didn’t die off in the last few years, they gave up because of the BS by the motor company.
    Take the BMW K1600-B. This thing is a 6 banger that way more loaded and a far amount less money than an HD of equal equipment. But it’s way faster and handles light years better. The point is, if BMW can do a bike like this and do it far cheaper than HD, that’s on HD. I got to roll one that an In-Law owns. Not my riding style by a long shot but the bike is very intense nevertheless. Hopefully, HD can figure out what they need to and for the time being stay out of the red. HD has an enemy that is with in the walls of HD, greed.

  11. P-Body Says:

    Hello everyone,

    It is sad to see an American company bleed out, especially by suicide. But it represents the current climate of corporate fascism. Sacrificing people, quality of employees lives, and jobs to feed dividends. Harley-Davidson has gone from a motorcycle company that sold t-shirts to a t-shirt company that dabbles in motorcycles.

    My friend has a sign in his shop;
    $15,000.00 and 15,000 miles doesn’t make you a Biker.
    A bike you can’t trust ( regardless how expensive ) and an overpriced T-shirt isn’t a lifestyle, it’s just bad judgement.

    Big respect to the deserving,
    P-Body

  12. Gottabejustright Says:

    I’ll compare it to Starbucks…..I hate the snooty image of the place, nor do I need the fancy drinks. However, every now and then I get a good house coffee for a descent price which meets my needs. I walk past those I don’t care to be around and enjoy the company of a good soul if they are willing to show some respect and interact.

  13. tiopirata Says:

    @Old Skewl
    I hear you Mate. I have been a 1%er for more then 4 decades but I have not myself ever been old school or traditional in outlook. I raced in my younger years, even had a factory ride in the early ’70s. These new for 2018 monoshock softtails are really very good bikes, they ride better and have better power then any Harley before them, all of you should try one at the dealers yourselves, they really are light years away from their predecessors. I can see why HD think they may be able to attract a different rider set with these, hell, I would have one, and probably will. The new Indians are OK but not even close as a riding experience.
    It’s a good move by HD, they are not intending to produce bikes to please us old fellas, no point in that.
    It will continue to evolve too, I can see the day when my brothers and I will be obliged to ride together on our electric bikes, just a few years from now, or not ride at all. I can imagine the squeals on fora such as this from us septagenarians

  14. T Hell Says:

    Harley Davidson marketing executives exude pure genius, just yesterday, after the news broke, someone purchased the domain’s HarleyDavidsonBronx.com and Harley-DavidsonBronx.com for $.99 cents each. Perhaps coincidentally they were placed on the resale market today for just a little more if any one is interested.

  15. Hangaround Says:

    I think everyone here is missing the master marketing plan that Harley has been working on in secret with the worlds number one authority on mc life, Kurt Sutter. Obviously Harley is in the know with Kurt and his major retool of the SOA sequel where one rival factions will obviously be based in the Bronx and will ride an appropriately styled motorbike!
    Hopefully the Mayans MC will adopt the new monoshock softtails as their club bike. I’ve always wanted a monoshock softail frame to work into a chopper and I see a market flooded with cheap, slightly used, bikes in the near future.

    @BradH – yes I was rolling on that post!

  16. jicase Says:

    The answer to this may not lie in HD, but with other bike brands. When I started riding (1964)there were plenty of small displacement bikes, most of ’em made in Japan. You could buy a cheap used Honda 160 or Yamaha twin 200 and run the wheels off it. We learned the basics of coordinating clutch/brake/throttle and when we got a few more bucks together, we traded up to someone’s used 350. A Harley (or BSA, Triumph, BMW, etc) was something you aspired to own someday in the distant future. I think now it’s harder to get anyone started. There are few small, cheap bikes and few that can be bought for much less than a cheap used car. Not many kids can afford a big twin.

  17. James W Crawford Says:

    Re oldskewl:

    Oregon’s Governor is not known to ride a morocycle but she does have a kickstarter on her vibrator. It is a four stroke, V twin, 1,600 cc which she uses on her husband.

    The jest above explains Harley Davidson’s ongoing implosion. Demographics have greatly diminished the pool of teenaged to twenty-something year old males who would be the new riders who are the core of the motocycle market. Many of these alleged men suffer from a severe testosterone defeciency. Even the segment of this market who want to ride are more likely to choose a rice rocket or a european bike.

  18. MtPockets Says:

    I think HD themselves and their dealers share the responsibility for their own demise.
    IMO, HD fucked up when they killed Buell. For the most part, kids dont want their Dads Road King, they want something reasonably fast and sporty. Buell was a great way to introduce them to the air cooled v-twin.
    I think they also fucked up when they gave the V Rod such an identity crisis. Looks like a crotch rocket with pull back bars and forward controls???? Who the fuck thought THAT was a good plan?
    I’ve heard of good dealers (they are rumored to exist), but most are just rapists with no clue how to keep customers.

  19. Shovelhead Says:

    Whether Harley lives or dies, makes no difference to me. I’ll keep on riding my ’73 Shovel, plenty of parts around to keep her going. It would be a shame to see an American Co. Fail, but the execs have done it to themselves.

    As for the whole instant Biker thing….I still don’t get why people think they’re a Biker just because they buy a Harley!! Why do Yuppies think they can buy a lifestyle? Why can’t they just be who they are?

    What you ride has nothing to do with it, It’s how you live and ride that tells the story.

    It blows my mind when I see shit like some Yuppie Bitch pulling up to a Farmers market in a new Mercedes dressed like a Hippie. No fucking clue!
    This shit makes my head hurt.

    respect to the real 1%

  20. oldskewl Says:

    tiopirata Says:
    The new 2018 Softtails just released are excellent bikes, 21st century rides. Who knew they could do that? I believe they are superior to most other cruisers out there, maybe Triumph equals these in ride quality but that’s about it.

    Softail.. such a ridiculous name for a bike that rides like shit, nothing “Soft” about it. Old school bikes with a jockey and kick start get more looks than some bagger. HD screwed the pooch when they got out of the FXR platform.

    A club style 93 FXR with a 96″ S&S kit can fetch $20k (if it has all the bells and whistles). No other modern HD platform can fetch that kind of coin.

    I got too many bikes, including a new M8. My shovel gets the most attention anywhere I go. Its as if no one has ever seen someone kick start a bike before. One day, these old Pans and Shovels will be fetching $30k + while the new bikes are worthless the day after you drive away from the dealer. You might as well use that warranty as toilet paper that comes with a new bike too.

  21. Rashomon Says:

    The Bronx? No thonx! – that old Ogden Nash quote just keeps on keeping on.

  22. Hillbilly Says:

    The problem with HD is not so much the bikes as it is the dealers. I have had so many issues with HD dealers all across the country. Their mechanics are mostly young and have no idea what they are doing and charge 3x what anyone else would charge for the same work. $100 dollars or more to change a tire is crazy. I have been riding Harley’s since ’77 and will continue to ride a HD but other than buying the bike I will not go to dealer for anything unless it is a t-shirt which are overpriced also.
    When all of us oldtimers pass HD is going to be in real trouble.

  23. Filburt Says:

    HD dealership’s are MSRP only. Phufk’m and feed’m fisheads.

  24. Dutchboy Says:

    The Motor Company seems to run in cycles (pun intended). They go great guns for a lot of years, producing products Joe Lunchbox can work on in his garage, then the “professional managers” take over, start raping their customers, alienating their loyal fan base (we don’t want to be associated with “bikers” and other criminal riff Raff!” The company goes south, and eventually the “Professionals” are forced out by guys who love the bikes, actually RIDE and know something about engineering. Then the process starts all over again. This time though HAD faces several enemies: an American focused competitor, several Federal and State agencies that hate the freedom and self reliance inherent in the MC culture, a pussified male society, and worse of all an entrenched Professional Management that will be very difficult to uproot. Good luck HD, you’ll need it!

  25. BigMac Says:

    I’m going to guess the “Bronx” is styled after a bagger with lower rear and fat front tires. The baggers will sport 1500w amps and shit ton of subwoofers. The genius who came up with this probably sat outside the rosebowl one Sunday and seen the local one piece riding back and forth blasting Kanye West louder than their pipes.

  26. tiopirata Says:

    Whatever may be HD’s current fiscal realities, the new 2018 Softtails just released are excellent bikes, 21st century rides. Who knew they could do that? I believe they are superior to most other cruisers out there, maybe Triumph equals these in ride quality but that’s about it.

  27. Wino Enzed Says:

    HD and Polaris are just big corporates who try to sell the Outlaw MC look to poofters and wannabes….side walk commandoes….. makes me billious.

    HD could call a new model an “Oakland” but they would’nt dare lol
    Even Hollister would of been better… bronx… weirdos in charge, what next ???

  28. Jim Jones Says:

    Polaris is doin’ fine? Where did the “Victory” go? OK, I will agree Polaris is doin’ fine, but it is because the make a lot more than motorcycles, and have for a long time. I will also concede, the Harley Execs are not very bright!

  29. Brad H Says:

    For those who don’t ride, don’t want to learn how to ride or any of what Bone Head referred to, Harleys next new model will be the “Garage King”.

    It won’t have an engine, just a carbon fiber and plastic replica. You can go to any HD dealer and, for a nominal fee, down load copyright protected “Sounds of the Road” to play on the overpriced stereo system included on the accessories list.

    Included in the “Bad Boy” package will be a biker in a bag accessory pak consisting of a factory oil douched pair of originals, a greasy dew rag complete with braid (or pony tail if your tastes lean that way), and a faux leather vest with butterflies pre-mashed onto it.

    The new model may be rolled onto the neat and clean concrete driveway next to your condo or time share to be washed. Just turn on the stereo and the neighbors are guarenfuckingteed to call code enforcement with a noise complaint, once again making you the heathen you’ve always dreamed about. Once washed, just roll this bad motherfucker back into the garage, take the premixed road grime and bug guts bag from the Bad Boy kit, sprinkle over said machine and oolala, your on your way to biker heaven!

    The best part of this new package will be the price: only half of what you’d expect to pay for one of those bikes with that engine thingy! Just think of the savings on extended warranties, uninsured motorists insurance, oil changes and those pesky round black things (tires? Nah who need ’em). The only recalls will be for installing ground effect lighting for that festive Christmas look.

    What’s mother gonna think of you now, you SOA wanna be beast, you Genghis Kahn of the highway! The girls will run screaming thy name (the smart ones in the other direction).

    I really hope the motor company doesn’t read this and get any new ideas. Thanks to ALL the regular posters for your insightful posts, informed opinions and all the jokes at the saloon.

  30. Paladin Says:

    “This is a Harley problem. This isn’t necessarily a cruiser motorcycle problem. Harley’s competitor, Polaris Industries, seems to be doing just fine.”

    Polaris Industries is doing just fine, because they build a better product. It’s how capitalism works. Imagine that! I have every confidence that whatever new models Harley Davidson debuts, they’ll still be the same warmed over crap and overpriced at that. Harley Davidson may actually go broke by over estimating the stupidity of the American motorcyclist.

    Paladin

  31. Curbside Says:

    The only thing the overpriced and underpowered Harley has in its’ corner is an American-made bike that doesn’t use 50-year-old styling. If Indian ever starts making a bike that doesn’t look like it belongs on the set of Happy Days, HD really will be in serious trouble.

  32. Bone Head Says:

    Harley can build new models. New technology. And finance it all for you.

    Harley can teach customers the mechanics and physics of operating a motorcycle.

    What Harley cannot do is teach you to breathe the wind. To let those pulses run through your hands, wrists…and out of yourself. To chase the white lines into the darkness.

    They can’t teach you to feel. You teach yourself.

    Fucking executives. Somebody teach them to work a broom. Please?

  33. Jimmy Joe Says:

    Good luck! People I’ve talked to inside the company say it’s in trouble. I’m forever hearing about recalls,and the bikes aren’t getting any cheaper. I’ve ridden the Indian Chieftain, and if I ever buy new again, I might be more inclined to go that way.

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