Harley Davidson is Getting Bigger? And Better!

Okay, I’m not a stock and bonds kind of guy. I’ve got a working knowledge of it, but it is far from my specialty. But a few weeks ago, Harley Davidson released its first quarter results and they were somewhat enlightening.

H-D sold 83,000 bikes in the first quarter.

H-D saw the biggest increase in sales in Canada.

Internationally, H-D saw improved sales in nearly every market.

H-D actually made less money than they did the year before.

All that makes me smile. Why? Because it tells me that not only is Harley looking to expand internationally, they are also looking at building riders, not profits.

We’ve seen that trend reflected in some of the offerings from Mother Davidson in the last few years and I for one am glad for it. I’ve talked about it over and over again with riders and from this page – Harley Davidson has to get younger riders or all the old timers will die off and leave nobody left to buy bikes.

Let’s face it, the baby boomers are buying their last bikes and my generation still has one or two left in us, but those younger riders still have a lifetime of riding in them – and buying – if you can get them to have brand loyalty. And that is exactly what Harley is doing.

Now, the real irony is that this strategy is really just a remix of the one that really saved the company in the early 1980’s. They embraced Japanese design and workmanship and finally built a bike that didn’t “need” a tool kit just to ride on the weekend. Say what you want about the Evolution motor, but that entire design was done to boost the quality in workmanship to those levels that, at the time, were only expected from the Japanese builders.

Now, 35 years later, Harley is finally taking the battle offshore and to a more international conversation about brand.

I love it! For those of you that can’t remember those heady days of the early Evo motors, suffice to say that H-D put all their resources into quality and came out on top against their Japanese competition. Will we see more of that in the future?

I’m willing to bet on it, despite my quiet dislike of some of the quality-control and planned obsolescence that I see in the current offerings. I think that we are all watching a very interesting power play from H-D and the real fun will be not in how riders are attracted in North America, but how riders are attracted around the world to a brand that is a legend.

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