Maybe the Harley posers finally had a look in the mirror and realized how silly they look all dressed up in their "bad guy" cloths. I would consider owning a Harley but i'm too worried about getting caught up in the "bad guy" image. Imagine seeing yourself dressed up like a complete goof once a week when most of the time you wear a nice suit to work? Can you imagine actually setting out on a shopping trip to look for a jacket with fringes? I also think the metric cruisers are starting to become more desirable each year as the Japanese catch onto the needs of the cruiser riders.
A couple of weeks ago when HD decided to update the financial forecast and reduce the unit sales by 10k bikes people paniced. I still think they're in panic mode. Just how do economist and the rest of the educated world think that a company that sells motorcycles can sustain a 350k bike a year sales projection. It was smart for HD to redirect now. They will increase revenue no matter what happens to overall sales. The market shifted to high-end bikes in the 90's- now it's time for a shift again. The custom bike market will crash within the next 5 to 8 years. Companies like Titan, Big Dog and Vengence will be done within a decade. That will allow the market to re-align and less expensive bikes like the SV650 and VTX1300 will take major market shares again. The commuter generation of bike riders will be back and manufacturers of low-cost bikes will benifit (Look at Hyosung).
Before folks start writing off HD. Just remember HD''s P/E Ratio is 16 today. A traditional rule of thumb is that the norm for a manufacturing company is 20. So at this point HD stock is undervalued based on this old rule of thumb... (this rule took a vacation during the internet boom of the late 90s i.e. AOL, Monster, Yahoo etc had P/E ratios over 100 I think )
I think Buell has a lot of potential for younger buyers if they updated to a modern liquid cooled V-Twin. V-Rod is doing well right? I don't think HD needs to get into the race replica business like Triumph did.... Minor tweaks to products I think is what in order and HD is the master of that...
I find that I like the look of the Softail duece and the Dyna Low Rider. As well I think the Street Rod is pretty cool. I just think the pricing on their bikes is a bit too high for me. I would probably get a Ducati or BMW first. As well, I would probably look weird on a H-D with a full helmet, gloves , and a jacket.
They need a good naked bike, perhaps under the Buell name. with a powerful liquid cooled V-twin. An under 400 pound, 100-120 hp bike that costs under $10,000 would go a long way at getting me over to that side. The current buell just doesn't do it for me. For just a little extra money I like the Monster better.
IMHO, the V-rod is the best thing Harley has in it's inventory. It hasn't been a big seller here, even though it's well over-priced, but I hear it sells well in Europe. I'd agree that the Buell has tons of potential and - yes, it would be nice if it were updated to the 21st Century.
For over a decade, Harley has had what's amounted to a free pass. As I see it, Harley will do fine as long as they don't compete head to head - using performance and value as the yard-stick - against manufacturers like Honda. However, if the day ever comes and the Emperor is found naked, Harley had better be ready with some unbelievable R&D.
Harley's management has to be smart enough to realize that their string must run out eventually, after all, that's why they have Buell. Maybe it is time that they reevaluated their strategy. They have been pricing their bikes very high because they can. If they were to drop prices significantly, which they can do and still make a profit, they would attract more riders. They need to actually compete with the metric cruisers, which have gotten better over the years. Or maybe they should expand their range and offer a good, midrange street bike which is not a reworked sportster. How about their building a world class street bike based on their 750 engine?
The company has a lot of cash and a lot of options. They just need to make the right moves. As for the comment one person made about being able to support selling 350,000 bikes a year, I think we should remember that Honda sells in the range of 5,000,000 units a year, maybe more.
Harley can continue to support their graying audience and add some excitement for the younger set. Ducati has made an astounding recovery. Harley can learn from them.
I'll throw in my 2 cents. I don't think that Harley has, or probably ever will reach my demographic. I started riding at age 11 on a Yamaha, and have owned Japanese bikes ever since. The Harley name just doesn't mean and much to me as other people. I've had a chance to ride a few and wasn't really that impressed. I know that the reason people like them goes deeper than the bike itself, kinda like a brotherhood or fraternity.
I noticed this after talking to my Dad. After my Mom died he decided to get a motorcycle to pass the time and partly because he had to give it up when we were born. He immediatly liked the dresser type bikes and bought a Suzuki C50T. He really enjoys riding the bike and has put probably 2500 miles on it. But after telling people that he bought a bike they always ask if it's a Harley, when he tells them what it is their reaction ranges from disapointment to disgust and at that point they treat him like a second class citizen, so he's already decided he wants a Harley. I talked to him about it and even though he's happy with his bike he still wants one. I think it's a shame that he cares that much about what other people think. Strange because he's a very smart man that started a business from stratch and has done well in life, paid for his house, cars, etc in cash.
I think that where I have the biggest problem with Harley, it has more to do with the mystique, the image, the perception than the actual ride. Plus I feel like they've sold out and watered down the brand by selling dog clothes and stuff like that. It's almost like teenagers the way the Baby Boomer Harley guys try to fit in, always wanting to have the latest and greatest to show off to others and try to feel like they "fit in"
I think that Harley has a lot of ground to make up. It'll be hard to compete with the Japanese on their own ground. To me the Harley name means something different than to all the baby boomers. It's the brand that caters the retired, and the guys who won't wave back on a ride. The guys more interested in image. Not a lot of younger guys interested into buying into that. I think Harley chose their path and now it will be hard to backtrack.
If you have such a low opinion of Harleys, what kind of opinion do you have of the Big 4 Japanese manufacturers spending the last 20 years trying to copy them? Sounds like it's THEM that are trying to "fit in", doesn't it?
A few other things hurting Harley is that it doesn't have a full range. You go to honda you can get a 4-wheeler, cruiser, sportbike, standard, personal watercraft, dirtbikes. etc, etc, etc. As well they have any kinda motor you can think of. Harley makes cruisers with air cooled twins, nothing else. As well they really don't have an "entry point" bike. The sportster 883 is still expensive for what you get.
FWIW I think for the most part they cater to non enthusiasts. Most guys that buy one only buys it because of the name, most don't know that much about motorcycles. All the people that say imports suck can't tell you why Harleys are better, they just think they are because Harley says they are. Eventually it won't hold water. Someone will question why they're so expensive and why they should want one above a VTX or Vulcan, etc.
I think they saw a market for cruisers and went after it. I'm talking more about the riders, yes I know squids try to "fit in" too. I condemn them in the same breathe. What ever happened to riding just to ride, riding for fun and not caring what everyone thought. Also the Japanese makers are running a business, they make in many cases a better product at a lower cost. Just like Toyota/Honda did to GM in the 70's..
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