Now that most of us are poor and our credit cards hardly work anymore, Harley-Davidson has been desperately seeking to replace its poor, old customers with newer, richer, more cosmopolitan ones.
The whole outlaw Americana thing is so 90s, you know? Which is why there was a special Harley advertising supplement in last month’s Vanity Fair. It also, at least partly, explains why the motor company is outraged by the sign outside Iron Block Harley-Davidson in Watertown, New York.
Iron Block is owned by a man named Erik J. Dunk. And Dunk, unlike all the rest of us, comes with a few small items of baggage in his past and a few rude opinions he is foolish enough to say out loud. Dunk did seven days in jail in 1995 for “second-degree aggravated unlicensed operation,” which some people might not even know is a crime. He did three years probation for cocaine possession long, long ago and he had a drunk driving conviction in 1991. Ooohh! Desperado!
What Would Bruno Think
Consequently, deep in the dark heart of Milwaukee, a guy in a grey suit has begun to wonder if Erik Dunk is really the kind of dealer who can truly resonate with all segments of the ever-expanding, all inclusive, upscale, new, new, new Harley market. You know, like, what would Bruno make of this dealer?
Would Sacha Baron Cohen’s fictional, gay, Austrian, fashion reporter be offended that Harley has dealers like Dunk? Do dealers like Dunk drive expanding segments of the recreational vehicle market away from Harley and into the arms of Kawasaki?
Does somebody at Harley corporate actually think like this? Yeah. Somebody does. His name is Robert H. Klein.
Robert H. Klein
Klein is Harley’s Director of Corporate Communications and yesterday he was explaining to the Watertown Daily Times how unhappy America’s premier motorcycle manufacturer is with Iron Block Harley’s sign.
See, the thing is, Dunk does not like President Barack Obama. Some people do not, apparently. Amazing though that may seem. And, Dunk is one of those guys and probably he also did not like the speech Obama gave last week in Cairo. So, he put a message on his dealership’s electric sign that read: “Obama are you kidding? We’re not Muslim. You are not Christian!!”
This did not just start this week. Dunk has been trying to argue with Obama on his big electric sign since last November. The sign is visible from Interstate Highway 81. Most people just drive on by. The other day a motorist named Khuram Hussain saw the sign and he decided he was not going to just drive on by anymore.
Mr. Hussain was mad as hell. He is a Muslim. He is a professor of Education at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. And, he knows how to dial a phone. So, he called the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce and then he called Harley headquarters in Milwaukee.
As soon as Robert H. Klein heard about that sign he was also offended. Very offended.
“We believe signage of this nature is highly inappropriate,” Klein told the Daily Times. “We of course deeply regret any offense that the message posted by this independent dealer may have caused.” Klein went on to say that Harley-Davidson is committed to individual dignity and inclusion and “we take living these values very seriously.” And, Harley is “aggressively pursuing the removal” of the highly inappropriate message.
The sign said, “Obama are you kidding? We’re not Muslim. You are not Christian!!”
Does that message bother you? Really?
Maybe it is a little strange and weird, like the guy who once asked Dan Rather, “What’s the frequency Kenneth?” Maybe it isn’t the smartest thing to say out loud these days. Maybe, it is not shrewd to put this on your sign if you are trying to sell Harleys to people who just learned about Harleys by reading the special advertising section in Vanity Fair.
But, does this sentiment actually offend you? Should this dealer’s sign offend Harley-Davidson?