I just received my copy of Harley’s 2017 Holiday Gift Guide in the mail today. After thumbing through it, I realized most of the stuff in the catalog is over-priced, cheaply manufactured, poorly designed, shit. Their designs are a throwback to some kind of derivative biker lifestyle nostalgia of years past or leans toward some kind of poorly executed design that is hardly trendsetting (faux old dirtbag henley for $75 anyone?). Their gift guide items can probably best be described as tacky. I think their 100% polyester, “imported,” $60 pink bathrobe is the perfect example of what I’m writing about. They have cheapened their brand with garbage trinkets and too many over-priced motorcycles. I’m not the only one who thinks this. Here is a web board where people are venting about the quality of Harley boots that can be purchased in dealerships.
I read two articles in the spring/summer about the ailing company. The first was about how poorly they’re doing. The second was about how they’re moving some manufacturing to Thailand because import duties into Asia are too high. Here is an email I sent to Harley after reading the Reuters article…
First off, I love you guys and my family currently owns two bikes. My family owns a 2016 48 and a 2015 Street 750. I just finished reading this article…
I have wanted to write this email for about two years, but after reading this article I felt compelled to make it happen right this moment. You guys need to stop making mistakes. To be honest, the auto/motorcycle industry as a whole has a sickening overflow/inventory problem, but your problem is particularly precarious. You need to really let go of nostalgia, reduce the number and variations of your products, and fully embrace electric motorcycles to remain relevant in the coming decades. You’re killing yourself with 3-10 versions of every motorcycle you sell. There’s 6 versions of sportster for chrissakes! 10 versions of touring bikes! That is ridiculous. If you don’t streamline your products and embrace electric bikes you’ll be a “zombie company” in another five years. Zombie, meaning dead but you don’t know it. Steve Jobs when returning to Apple cut their product offerings to just 9 items to return to profitability. Harley needs to do the same.
I really want you to continue to be a great American company. Please stop with the weirdness, get back to basics, and embrace that electric motorcycle as fast as possible.
Right now my family has two Harley Davidson motorcycles in the garage. I have no idea if Harley will be around in another decade. I was a big fan of Buell. They went the way of the dodo. In my opinion Harley never really gave Buell a fair shake. Harley can kill anything and they just might end up killing themselves as well.
Harley-Davidson forced Buell to follow the rigid product planning and distribution process beginning in the 1990s, with the philosophy that Buell was the starter brand, and customers would eventually trade up to a Harley. – Wikipedia
In my humble opinion, Harley needs to trim the number of variations of its bikes significantly, add an electric and a sport bike to its lineup, add standard features like LEDs and anti-lock brakes to all of its bikes, get rid of the cheap bullshit trinkets, and somehow find a way to cut bike prices by 15% or so.
In the next five years (I’ll be in my 50s, yikes), I might be in the market for a new car and motorcycle. I’ve been very interested in all electric vehicles. Amy has a new Jeep, so I can get away with an electric drive for both car and bike. If I don’t go electric, the new 2018 Honda CB1000R looks awesome—as does the BMW R NINE T PURE. Note the standard LEDs and/or ABS on the Honda and the BMW. If I go electric, bikes are still ridiculously expensive, but I’m partial to either the Zero-S or the Victory Empulse TT.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m hoping that Harley does a 180° and cuts the number of variations and comes out with their much lauded LiveWire project. In my mind, it is the perfect electric motorcycle: great design, quality features, and it looks fun as all hell. The two big factors will be range and price if/when it’s released. If they continue how they’re going and their rider base continues to age and decrease, they might be out of business in the next few years.
Update 1/31/2018: It would seem some bittersweet news is coming out of the HD offices. One, they are not doing well, sales are down, and they will be laying off workers. Two, LiveWire is alive and well and will, hopefully, be released sometime in 2019. You can read more about it on the Revzilla site.