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You're all wrong. Er, or maybe you're all right, sorta.

I'm going to disagree with all of you. And agree with all of you at the same time. Not that anyone should really care.

A Buell cruiser is a bad idea. If Buell has something to hang its hat on, it's the fact that they build a super-nimble sport chassis. To make a cruiser would not only be an infringment on Harley, but dilute the Buell brand. Now, if you're saying that maybe Buell should develop a chassis for a Harley tourer/bagger, that might be an idea as long as its badged a Harley. The problem with that is the R&D money H-D would have to pay to develop this new chassis when, by their estimation, they've got perfectly good touring bikes already. H-D is not known to do a lot of R&D and that philosophy of keeping those costs down and keeping their product line virtually the same for decades has made them a lot of money.

However, I do agree that Harley is reaching market saturation (and have stated it ad naseum--Jungkvist is too new to have suffered through my ramblings). Remember, everyone, H-D was almost dead in the early 80s. And they got themselves in that position as a result of decades of indifference to changing times, technology and attitudes. Don't think that this couldn't happen again. It certainly could, despite H-D's marketing might. The H-D tune is starting to sound a little old, now. And H-D's core constituency is getting older. They're going to have to replace all of those riders as they leave the sport. And it's a big number. And then they still have to try to grow. While I know some 30 and 40-somethings who would still like to own a Harley, I know more who would never own one.

Plus everyone and their dog seems to own a Harley now. The cool factor is kind of warmed over, don't you think?

With their success, H-D has also gotten themselves in a bit of bind. They've been so successful at branding the Harley experience, they're going to have a tough time changing the perception of what a Harley is when, and if, they ever need to. Not a bad problem to have right now, but in two, five or ten years, they may have to reconsider their strategy. One of the cardinal rules of marketing is to always keep evaluating your position in the market and to never rest on your laurels. Times change, and they better figure out a way to change with them. A great example is what Cadillac has done.

They've completely remade and upgraded their product and image while still keeping some of their traditional brand essence. But it took a lot of money, a few false starts and over 10 years to do it. That's why you've got to think ahead.

That is where Buell could come in. But I've got to disagree with my friends Sarnali and Buz. The worst thing H-D/Buell could do is to fold the Buell bikes into the H-D nameplate. Very few sportbike/naked/non-harley buyers would consider buying a Harley sportbike. In fact, Buell is already suffering from being percieved as H-D's red-headed stepchild. What H-D really has to do if it really wants Buell to succeed is to separate the Buell brand farther from the Harley brand. That means separate dealers, separate sales forces, separate R&D for all the bikes' components, etc. Then as the Buell brand grows into maturation as a technology/image leader on it's own (with H-D's largely unseen backing), they could use the new-found Buell cache to help H-D transition into the future--in essence bringing Buell back to the H-D fold. Or, to put it another way, the child helps the parent to be reborn.

I think that's a good strategy for both H-D and Buell. I just don't see H-D skimming from the current gravy train to finance the strategy. But what do I know?
 

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Re: You're all wrong. Er, or maybe you're all right, sorta.

You're probably going to kick me out for this. But what the hell.

The fact that Harley separated the Buell stores in a couple of places does not a strategy make. They would have to make a huge committment to Buell to do this properly. They would have to provide lots of financial and materail support to get it right, and possibly, suffer through some losses. And they'd have to commit to a long term strategy. I doubt their shareholders would like it, but shareholders are very often wrong. They look at quarter to quarter results, understandably. But pandering to shareholders has killed many long-range strategies.

If the Buells were to become H-D's, they'd really have an uphill battle trying to sell them. I essence they'd be attempting what is known as a "line extension." And line extensions that overreach the relevant are usually not accepted. I would argue, that with Harley's current market position and brand image, sportbikes are a stretch. I'm pretty sure this is why Buell is still just a niche manufacturer--they're still considered Harleys by many. Another rule of thumb: You can't stay a niche manufacturer forever. You either have to move into top 10 or so in the market, or you are going to die eventually. The only way around this is to create your own category, which is exactly what Buell has tried to do with the "streetfighter" label. Problem is, they're still in Harley dealers, with Harley salespeople (who don't really give a crap), with Harley stuff everywhere around them. This is not how you build a sustainable brand. Kind of ironic since H-D has been so succsessful cultivating their own brand.

Point 2: You're right, Harley did suffer with poor quality during the 70's and 80's. But that was really only part of the problem. Harley sold a good amount of bikes, but their market share and positon was completely ravaged by the Japanese who were building bikes that were more desireable. Better performance, better reliablity, and better price. Plus they were different than Harleys. I was too young to ride streetbikes in the mid and early 80's, but I remember people talking about how they loved their Japanese bikes because they were so powerful, reliable and"refined." No one really taked about "character" then. Then a funny thing happenend: Tastes began to change for a large amount of people. Harleys started to become more desireable. Everyone seemed to have a Hondakawasukiha, but a few wild ones on the fringes still had Harleys. That was alluring. H-D wisely capatalized on this. Hence the cruiser boom was born. Let's also remember that that was only about 20 years ago. Not really a long time. So the claims that "people have been predicting the end of the cruiser boom for decades" don't really hold water. It only seems like a long time.

To put the time frame in perspective: In roughly the same period, Volkswagen went from being the world's most successful car maker, to near-extinction, to boom again. Now they seemed to have leveled off some. To say that Harley's fortunes are now set in stone forever is a mistake.

Now it seems like everybody's got a Harley. Hell, even Harley owners make fun of the "newbies and sheep." I'm not saying H-D is going to go away, I'm just saying that to maintain relevance, it is entirely possible that they may have to evolve in the not-so-distant future. We look at H-D as this unassailable monolith. No one is unassailable in the marketplace. Other companies are always working on ways to chip away at you. And things will always change. You only have to look at H-D's entire history for proof of that.

Lastly, I didn't say that Harley spends no R&D money. I meant that it takes a lot less money to refine their designs that to completely revise their models every few years. The spend a lot less R&D money relative to other high-performance manufacturers. Cruisers, especially Harleys, are relatively low-cost, high mark-up and profit items. Currently, there's no need for them to spend a lot in R&D.

Oh, and you may think that Cadillacs are ugly, but there's no doubt about how successful they've become.

Maybe this only got me probation?
 

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Re: You're all wrong. Er, or maybe you're all right, sorta.

If you care to, see my reply to Buz above. The Harley boom began again only about 20 years ago. They were also in a funk for about 15 years. Things can change, and usually do. Trends burn out. I'm not saying Harley's going away, nor do I wish them to. I'm just saying that they may need to evolve in the future. They were smart enough to see that in the 80's. The future may require a different change to maintain their position in the market.

And I think you would agree that even Ford and Chevys are light years ahead, relative to the competition, than they were 20 years ago.

By the way, I don't think Harley's are crap, either. They're fine for their intended purpose. I just don't think that, as they are, they will continue to hold the same allure. We'll see.
 

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Re: If I may interject here....

I don't love it, either. But guess what? It's working.

But I think their success has more to do with a good product that is marketed well than just Led Zeppelin.
 

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Re: Well said, all of you...

Very true.

But what I'm talking about as everything to do with the irrational, not the rational. I'm talking about perception, not reality. Although, as you know, in marketing, perception is reality.

However, as you say, markets are screwy.
 

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Re: You're all wrong. Er, or maybe you're all right, sorta.

Believe it or not, the new Cadillac drivers, at least around here, seem to be just the opposite of what you described. Of course, I live in a pretty affluent suburb (not that I can really afford it); you wouldn't even necessarily know it's pretty close to NYC. But I'm around New York quite a bit, so I do notice who's driving what. Then again, I don't travel to Sheepshead

Bay much.

Actually, I think Buell did fairly well this year. But they're going to have to continue to grow significantly to be viable. In a marketing sense, they've actually done quite a few things right. It just seems H-D is not fully behind them sometimes where it matters.
 

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Re: Judicial correspondence to Chief Justice Pdad13

No kids. And, thankfully, no law degree.

You should talk to my brother (yea on the law degree). He'd really drive you nuts, Justice Jungkvist.
 

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Re: You're all wrong. Er, or maybe you're all right, sorta.

Nah, I'm just really facinated with the whole Harley/Buell thing. It's like a big puzzle to me. I only go on about things I'm really interested in. On most other topics, you'll just get some kind of wiseass crack.

I'd really like to see Buell flourish.
 

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Re: You're all wrong. Er, or maybe you're all right, sorta.

Understandable. I rode an XB12R for three days this spring, and aside from its quirks, I really liked it; even the engine had its charms. But I couldn't help wondering what it would have been like with a different motor.

And, of course, I think the price of admission is just too high.
 

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Re: You're all wrong. Er, or maybe you're all right, sorta.

I've noted the same trend several times. It's no knock on H-D bikes. It's just simple supply and demand. There's a much bigger supply of new and used Harleys than there was 5 or ten years ago. Who's going to continue to pay those prices?
 

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Sort of like giving a breast job to a woman with a big a$$, isn't it?



Why compromise that nice chassis to fit that engine? It's still too heavy for a sport bike, anyway. I doubt a Buell would feel much like a Buell with all that extra weight and a significantly longer wheelbase.
 

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Re: Peebad he is wrong RedState idiot

Wow. You should really get at least some facts straight. I think I've been around here long enough for you to have picked up that I live in New York, you buffoon.
 

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Re: Making Jeebus cry, redux

Yeah, just as a goof, I finally decided to click on one of his "truth" links--it goes right to the W.J. Clinton web site. I decided not to address it. You can't reason with a madman...or a grapefruit.
 
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