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At Harley-Davidson, The Old Formula No Longer Seems To Work (Opinion)


It has been widely reported that Harley-Davidson stock is performing poorly as a direct result of declining sales and profits. Take a look at this Chicago Tribune story, for instance, or this Bloomberg article. The Tribune details the closure of Harley’s Kansas City plant, together with the moving of Kansas City production to York, Pennsylvania. The result will be a net loss of roughly 260 U.S. jobs.

Long term, the bigger problem for Harley is a declining demand for its huge, cruiser motorcycles … the mainstay of its business for decades. Before an industry-wide slump beginning in approximately 2008, Harley was making money “hand over fist”, and making efforts to diversify its product line – internally with Buell and through the acquisition of MV Agusta. In 2009, Harley decided to pull back and focus on its cruiser business … dumping both Buell and MV Agusta in the process.

What Harley-Davidson is left with is a product line that has appealed, almost exclusively, to a generation of riders that is disappearing. If you have been to the Sturgis rally in recent years, you will know what I mean. Harley riders (and their passengers) are typically old … some of them very old. They have the disposable income, but not the life expectancy, to keep the brand afloat.

Harley-Davidson’s recent efforts to bring younger riders into the brand, including the introduction of smaller-displacement, less expensive models, haven’t borne enough fruit to keep investors happy. Now, Harley is touting an aggressive move into electric motorcycles as an element of its recovery.

A Harley spokesman has said it will spend $25 million to $50 million per year over the next several years on electric motorcycle technology, with the aim of becoming the world leader in the electric motorcycle market. On seeing this, I literally laughed out loud. While Harley clearly has a strong brand, that brand is associated with a somewhat distinctive sound (remember “potato potato” and the efforts to trademark it?), and a culture bedded in ICE.

Frankly, the move towards electric motorcycles sounds like an act of desperation, rather than careful calculation. I think that Harley will be, in effect, abandoning the core of its brand by this effort, and, instead, heading into the teeth of fierce competition with more aggressive, entrepreneurial players. I don’t see any advantage accruing to Harley in this fight from the loyalty it has developed with ICE cruiser riders.  I hope Harley proves me wrong.

Perhaps, just about any effort Harley makes at this point is “too little too late.” While the entire industry struggles with the aging demographic of motorcycle enthusiasts, and the question of how to bring younger riders into the fold, will the Harley-Davidson “lifestyle” that appealed so strongly to a dying consumer base attract younger, entry-level riders? Bandannas, leather and an exclusive (us versus them) attitude – an attitude that “we are a real cool club and you’re not a part of it” – an asset, or heavy baggage going forward? Time will tell.


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301 Comments

  1. Sparrowhawk6 says:

    I have owned all sorts of machines in my years on and off the road. Everything from Busa and K1200S to 800GS and 1190ADV_R. Last year my lovely 67 years young wife who had never been on a motorcycle told me if I got a flying couch she would like to go with me. I bought a H-D Limited and off we went. She did 15,000 miles with me last summer. I had not been on a Harley since the mid 70s and had never owned one.

    I have to tell you I own a fine motorcycle (2017 Limited). The dealership (Paradise Harley) is by far the best I have ever been in or dealt with. Yes, my newby wife was treated like a rock star! I still wear leathers that sport GSXR logos(no bandana), and would not ride around the block without full gear on. I have ridden to Deadhorse AK and all over the US and Mexico. Great people on bikes are everywhere! Sure there are some pricks….I wave at those SOBs too!

    Will H-D survive? Hell I don’t know. I figured this whole corrupt shootin match we live in would have folded many years ago. I will ride till I can’t go anymore, the country will roll till it can’t go anymore- worse comes to worse- we are all sitting around a fire barrel sharing whiskey and tellin lies about the old days when men were still a little bit free.

    Ride hard, stay lucky….tomorrow is promised to no one.

  2. Curt says:

    The move to electric bikes for HD is ludicrous but I understand why they are ignoring the obvious. They’d rather go electric than admit that their reluctance to add sporty, lightweight chassis to their brand was a major mistake all of these years. I remember a kid in PHX had a HD MX-250 when I was competing in MX with my Husky 360CR during high school and everyone thought, Cool! But the bearded, chap wearing execs couldn’t handle the thought of the brand becoming “diluted”.

  3. ADB says:

    What Buell could have done with “$25 million to $50 million per year over the next several years.”….

  4. kjazz says:

    Part of the problem is…..the REAL owners of Harley Davidson are simply trying to make money via their “ownership” in the motor company and that HD stock is up against Financial, O&G, Google or whatever else the “owners” hold in their portfolios. So the forces (investors wants) imposed upon HD management and creative staff really have little to zero “give-a-shit” concerning the boutique motorcycle product that HD is. Really it’s a motorcycle product or hand towels, or pharmaceuticals etc. as far as the investors are concerned. They want a return…NOW. So ditch this 100+ year product line and try something that may be the biggest fad ever seen in motoring. Wow. If HD was allowed to right size itself, remain nimble etc. they could eak out another 100 years building a boutique product that catered to HD enthusiasts; or whatever they become over the next era. But current scale and appetite for earnings are gonna force them to fuk-up.

    • gary t says:

      Wow , this thread keeps on going.
      kjazz seems to voice my concerns about the company.
      I feel it is difficult for a publicly traded company to have the passion needed to be very successful in todays motorcycle market. I’m guessing the bikes on the showroom are different than the bikes in the designer/engineers garages.
      I just saw the 2 “new” sportsters with the AMF era paint designs. Not sure what to think about those, as custom builders have been doing that for at least a year or two now. And the “Tallboy” handlebars? nope. nope. nope. not for me.
      Come on HD, please lead the trends don’t follow them.
      Lastly, any rumors on an updated sportster?

  5. Jerry says:

    I think if the Harley Riders were more welcoming of other brands, they could start to turn riders into New Harley Riders. In my area it’s Harley or nothing. I started riding my Honda with some Triumph guys, and guess what. I started to want a Triumph. Guess what I just bought.
    A Triumph. Pretty sure if those Harley riders that told me to go away could have influenced my purchasing decision. I love to ride, and have friends to do it with makes it even better no matter what they ride.

  6. Nick says:

    I’m 32. Made the transition from sportbikes to a V-rod Street Rod at 24, then a new Street Glide at 27. I am about tired of the lack of effort from HD. They must bring something to market that actually makes power…something EXCITING before I bail ship. I don’t want to leave but they sure are making it hard to stay. I’ve ridden all of the latest 107/110’s, M8’s, etc. at demo days and it just isn’t cutting it any more. They almost had something with the V-Rod’s Revolution engine but handicapped it with a 5 speed transmission and negligible improvements over its’ 15 year lifespan. That platform could have been so much more…a little more power, an extra gear, and any chassis OTHER than a power cruiser. My Street Glide is a turd and I’m not interested in spending $10k to make it exciting. Develop a modern, water cooled engine and use modern materials to minimize weight. A Harley that accelerates, brakes, and turns with some vigor. Market it hard enough for customers to recognize the benefits so that the air cooled boat anchors are considered 2nd best. Just look to Ford Motor Co…despite all the nay sayers their engineering and marketing efforts have effectively pushed the Ecoboost V6’s to be considered the superior engines in their product lines. I’m not saying I agree but my point is that it can be done despite the obstacles (peoples’ resistance to change).

    • Neal says:

      Sounds like you need a second bike. The street glide is great for light traveling but not for dynamic riding.

      Try a Z900.

      • Nick says:

        Hi Neal,

        I agree with your comments. I’m an open minded person with motorcycles of various disciplines. I own a second street bike for sporting and it’s not an HD. I also have ridden the Z’s and no doubt they are lightweight and powerful but the buttery smooth I4’s lack a bit of character. My point is the most exciting news HD has had to offer is a “new” engine with 80 WHP in a “new” chassis which weighs 700 lbs. I just don’t see how that helps bring in a new customer base or keep customers like me buying new motorcycles…unless I just must have that new NAV screen.

        • mickey says:

          I just rode 100 miles and my hands and feet don’t tingle from vibration…. This motorcycle has no charachter at all.

          • Nick says:

            Read what I said again s-l-o-w-l-y. It wasn’t that. Go ride your Z. I’m here to discuss what isn’t working at HD…the topic of the article

  7. Dan says:

    The pessimism regarding Harley’s situation is also being felt by just about every other manufacturer and as other people have pointed out, Harley has a long way to go before they are in any kind of financial trouble.

    There is one problem that may be unique to Harley though, and that is their dealer network.
    I have listened to Buell owners many times describing their dealer experience, treating Buell products like an after thought, probably because they didn’t bring sales profits that were anything close to the traditional line. I suspect the same thing has happened to the Street product line, so regardless of the next generation product, Harley will have to ensure their dealer network is “on board”.

    • gary t says:

      Our dealer (Surdyke in Festus MO) gets it, my 17 year old daughter gets rock star treatment there. Someday she hopes to have an 883 iron. One condition…..(Dad says “no tattoos”)
      I have owned 2 tube frame Buells and one Rotax powered 1125. No dealer problems at all on my end. Staff at Widman HD in St. Louis seemed to really like them back in the day. I’m surprised at all of the “HD should have never gotten rid of Buell” speak currently. That certainly wasn’t the chatter a decade ago.
      Random thought: Does HD really want, or need to come out with a hugely successful “value” bike? It isn’t what the companies’ success has been based on in the past. They are in a tricky spot moving forward. If history repeats, they will get it figured out, then their biggest problem will be other companies copying their designs. Oh yes,I just went there!

  8. Dave says:

    I am 60 years old and there isn’t a Harley that interests me even a little

    • paul246 says:

      Same here. I’m 63, can buy what I want and am not interested in H-D bikes. I have gone to numerous H-D demo rides, I’ve ridden every model they offer. I wish them well, though.

      • mickey says:

        Same here I’m 67.. however they certainly could offer something I might ride, they just refuse to do so.

    • gary t says:

      I’m 53 I would love to have a Roadster….no wait, a Fat Boy with those awesome wheels….Or a Fat Bob with those fat aggressive tires and dirt bike style bars.
      Or a CVO 117 Road glide in gunship gray!
      I guess I aint dead yet!

    • Scott says:

      I’m only 54 😀 … But honestly, the Livewire electric concept is the only Harley I’ve ever seen that made me think, “Hmm, I could own one of those…”

      And before I’m accused of judging without trying… I’ve ridden everything from an XR1000 to a V-rod Muscle to a Road Glide (as well as a couple of Buells), and they just don’t do a thing for me. Sorry.

  9. Joe says:

    I too think of the Harley Davidson brand as ‘my father’s bike’, even as I turned 50 years old myself. In my mind, they are the Lay-Z-Boy of motorcycling – you love them, but you’re not ready to sit in the sleeping chair.
    When it comes to younger riders, I am waiting to see if the 20-somethings latch on to Honda’s new Rebels. If they can customize those, MAYBE they will step up to ‘a real bike’. Better yet, I wish Harley would challenge Honda and create a Sportster with comparable size and price point. A relaunch of the 500 and 750’s would help. It would be so much better if they actually grew their own customers.

    • joe b says:

      I have had similar thoughts, for years “I wished, Harley would make”, but those models never materialized. Instead, it just another version of the same old-same old. I have friends that own them, “You gotta ride my bike”, when I do I am not impressed. I dont get that whatever it is, I am supposed to get. Possibly because I have owned hundreds of motorcycles, and was a factory trained BMW HONDA SUZUKI line tech, I dont know. Perhaps I am not their audience. I wish the best for HD, they worked hard to put all the other American manufacturers out of business, now the sole surviving American brand, figuratively speaking.

    • gary t says:

      When a guy is dragging the back fender on a 12 o’clock wheelie on a big twin, would that be considered the “reclined” position ? My fav is the dresser using the hardbags as wheelie bars
      Search Harley wheelie. These Lay-Z-Boys are gettin it done.

      • Scott says:

        Yeah…

        You can search “gold wing wheelie” and get similar results. Doesn’t mean it’s the best tool for the job…

  10. Mark says:

    Harley’s problem is they’ve gone all in on the “dress like a pirate” lifestyle crowd. If they want to follow a workable, successful model, they should follow Triumph’s lead. Triumph still has their classic line with their Bonnevilles, etc. Then they have their modern sportbikes with the Daytona 675s, Street Triples, and Sport Triples. And they have adventure bikes like their Tiger line and cruisers with their Rocket and Thunderbird lines. They’ve successfully kept their classic roots while expanding their consumer base.

    Harley needs to take a page out of their book. For goodness sake, Harley’s original claim to fame back in the day was actually having fast bikes and racing. All of that seemed to foolishly get thrown out the window around the 1960s.

    • Snake says:

      “Harley’s problem is they’ve gone all in on the “dress like a pirate” lifestyle crowd.”

      It’s not that, really, and you show it with your example of Triumph.

      What Harley is selling, is NOSTALGIA. The *problem* is the the largest demographic for that full-on nostalgia feeling, the Baby Boomers, are one foot in the grave (thankfully…). The Baby Boomers represented a demographic that was willing to accept the nostalgia with all of the fixings: the old-style look, the old-style feel, the old-style ‘lifestyle’ and the old-style expectations. That included expectation of product performance.

      Triumph is also selling nostalgia with their Modern Classics line but, as that name actually implies, they are selling “today’s nostalgia”: it *looks* like yesterday’s iron but it is expected to perform much closer to today’s levels of expectations. This has attracted a younger crowd than Harley, those into a cool old-style look but not willing to accept the penalties that said look might have as baggage.

      So, while Harley continues to market to the same demographic, a DYING demographic, selling their similar, and familiar, legacy experience, Triumph looked to their history for inspiration but NOT for rules.

      Harley is currently so stuck in their own legacy that they can’t get out, even as their legacy becomes of less interest to modern buyers. We keep saying that we’d buy a more modern Harley, but their management simply doesn’t want to give it to us – they believe that their core values, their core branding, is 100% sound.

  11. Pablo Escobar says:

    IMHO: performance water cooled V-4 engines. Pushrod air-cooled tells the newer demo: old technology.

  12. Scottie says:

    The current crop of teenagers has a petty large and useless segment that believe games, online porn and personal automated flying cars are real life. There is however another group that does extreme things that it make my triathlons look pretty lame. Reality is that neither of these groups will be on H-D in the near or distant future.

    So should H-D roll out sport bikes, scooters and standards? Probably not. Everyone else has got that covered.

    So I’m a critic without a solution.

    • Neal says:

      A muscle bike with a “standard” frame set up would fit right in. Like a Kawasaki Z bike with American finishing. The Roadster, Fat Bob, and Street Rod are almost there but the frames just weren’t designed for standard foot placement. I take that back, the Sportster frame works just fine with mids with a thick seat.

      • adam says:

        its called a buell cr1125. they already made it

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          And it flopped, so they kind of need something else.

          • adam says:

            they finally put a good motor in a buell (rotax) and it was actually very competitive at the time in the class. they dropped buell the following year. hd motors are a joke. they put out hp numbers like a single 450. charge 20 grande for a bike that cant get out of its own way and cant stop either. not a good formula for success.

          • adam says:

            check out the indian 1200 ftr. it puts out reasonable hp numbers its not to heavy and it seems like it handles pretty well. have to wit and see what its like when they drop it. i guy like me that grew up on street bikes might actual throw my leg over something like that. currently own a triumph speed triple

  13. Rustee Nuttz says:

    I think “Tank” has a great idea if they made it into an adventure bike with spoked, tubeless rims. Keep the weight under control and concentrate on reliability. I have been riding for sixty years and had twenty-three bikes, all Japanese of various sizes and types. I cannot buy into the Harley lifestyle. I am a motorcyclist, not a biker. I wish Harley well but they are not for me.

    • Grover says:

      I’ve owned two Harleys and currently ride a Road King. I’ve never bought into the “Harley Lifestyle”. It’s not a requirement to ride a Harley Davidson. I have no tattoos, no bandana, wave to everyone, never been to Sturgis, have no pot pot belly and have a little wife that’s in great shape. My bike has stock pipes with a stock motor and no garage queen (2014 with over 30,000 miles). I know I’m in the minority but there are many other Harley riders with similar qualities. I’ve also owned many Japanese bikes and am considering adding an adventure bike to my fleet as no single machine will do it all. The Harley gets me and my passenger to far away places in total comfort, just like a BMW or Goldwing would. I hope the Motor Co. makes it and adjusts its product to appeal to a new generation as it would be a shame to lose all the history behind Harley ( not to mention many jobs) because of poor foresight and planning.

  14. J Wilson says:

    While I’ve always been a fan inasmuch as I admired H-D for the several back-from-the-brink turnarounds they’ve made in my lifetime, they were never for me, just not my thing. Two random thoughts:

    1) I once was stopped at a light and a couple pulled up on an obviously brand new, expensive H-D bagger, I’m guessing some ‘Lectra Glide variant. Gorgeous paint, metric tons of chrome, nice looking bike . . . . . and as they sat there waiting on the light to change, it just shook like a paint shaker, and I kept wondering why would I ever spend that kind of money to do that?

    2) The H-D myth is just at odds with reality. When most people, including riders who prefer other makes, think of H-D, all they visualize is the ‘typical’ beer-belly, half helmet, vest and open finger glove dude with a beard, and all the Doofus Gone Wild images from Sturgis or Daytona Bike Week. And that a Harley is cheap to own, and customize, like those CroMagnons on TV. This is a ‘brand identity’ that’s just not sustainable, but it’s kept H-D painted in that corner my whole life. And in light of their current pricing, model range, and a changing world, a recipe for the spot they’re in.

  15. gary t says:

    I do not find a billion dollar a year company investing 25-50 million a year in future technology so laughable. Nor do I see the “excitement” in an American company downsizing.
    In the near future I think HD needs to give 10 Street 500-750s to custom builders and see if they can do anything with it. If not, abandon it, start over. They need a killer, entry level affordable bike. (They cannot control the baby boomers getting older, riding becoming more dangerous,the way their customers dress, or choose who to wave or not wave to. But they can control the bikes they build and price.)
    While I love the company’s history and really think they make a great bike, It seems profit seeking may have watered down the passion of the Street design team.
    After they build a bike that newbies want and can afford, offer the new rider course for a cheaper price. I remember the success of the $3995.00 Sportster. Do something like that again guys. Make America great again!

  16. Greeny says:

    I wonder how many “Harley is failing” articles have been written over the past one-hundred years. I wonder, out of those articles, how many of those authors thought that they were delivering some brilliant prophecy in their rants while they pontificate. Yet, I continue to see brand new models continuously in production. I’ll bet the author will be dead before Harley-Davidson.

  17. Joe lewis says:

    Don’t cry for Harley Davidson quite yet. While their base is aging, they still OWN motorcycle business in the US. They made over $692,000,000 in net profit in 2017. There total sales were up over 2016, not down. They did just about $6b in sales.

  18. Fred says:

    There will be no Christmas Cards for the HD Board for your POTUS Trump.
    All week he has been pumping up US Industry with increasing jobs in Manufacturing with those 4 words Made in the USA.
    HD well knows that the writing is on the wall for old V twins cruisers. But they have the same problem that loggers have when the last stand of tree’s is left in the forest. Same for fishermen when they kill the golden goose with continuous over fishing, They know that they have to stop and find a new business, but take the old way till the Bank forecloses.

    The Market of loyalists declines due to the Son’s wanting a new path from the Fathers. This is Human nature, hence the turn to Polaris bikes. HD have to hang in till the Grandchildren of the HD ‘rediscover’ the big V twin interstate, with the electric motor and loudspeaker exhaust popping out potato, potato.

    • mickey says:

      That clientele is getting old and not buying as many motorcycles is hardly the presidents fault no matter who is in the office. The president can’t make younger people love and buy motorcycles. Just like he can’t make them love and buy spinache or baggy jeans.

  19. Dan says:

    My brother in law in the midwest is a blue collar electrician die-hard Harley guy with a HD tattoo even, recently sold his bagger and just bought a new Victory. That can’t be a good sign for HD.

    • Bob S. says:

      The fact that there are still new Victory motorcycles in the showrooms is very telling. Given the state of current motorcycle sales volumes, I guess it will take a while to get all of them off the showroom floors.

  20. tuskerdu says:

    The only HDs that really appealed to me were Italian – aermacchi! I owned two.

  21. Frank says:

    The above pictured Harley is a classic, and beautifully styled bike. I’m hoping for the health of all existing brands, room for new companies, and their continued improvement and evolution.

  22. Artem says:

    So. We are thinking about Honda CB?
    I’m

  23. Mike says:

    With Porsche announcing $7.5 billion in electric vehicle research spending over the next five years, I don’t know what HD thinks they’ll accomplish with $25 million a year. I mean, it’s better than nothing, but that is not a serious effort.

    • Austin ZZR 1200 says:

      I’m sure they are investing more on hard-candy paint schemes

    • Bob S. says:

      I’d venture to say that the scope of Porsche’s electric vehicle research will be vastly broader and deeper in depth than that which would be required for the comparatively simple task of developing a production ready electric motorcycle. I’d think they’ll recoup much of their investment by patenting and licensing new technologies that result from their research, which I’d guess would be beyond Harley’s goal.

  24. Michael Haz says:

    Harley has problems, but it still remains the largest seller of motorcycles in the US, by a very big margin. The MoCo isn’t going away.

    It has – let’s call it a Willie G problem. It is fully locked into its classic design themes, and good as they may be, they are also limiting. Polaris, on the other had, had no design history with Indian that stood in the way of introducing a smaller, less costly liquid cooled model line. HD could do that, but the traditionalists would scream, as would the dealers and salespeople accustomed to selling big bikes with big profits.

    An HD touring bike costs the same as a nicely equipped Accord or Camry. That is too much money for most riders. And the HD Softail line is nice, but it, too is pretty pricey. HD has a high cost structure, as to its dealers. Dealers sell only one product, unlike many Polaris shops whci sell other motorcycle brands and non-motorcycle powersports stuff.

    It isn’t going to be easy for HD to fix its problems. They can’t wait around for the demographics to swing back, and the product line is pretty limited.

    • mickey says:

      Don’t think that is correct Michael. I think you’ll find that Honda is the number one seller of road going motorcycles in the US. Harley sells the largest number of bikes over 750cc. Harley’s total unit sales volume is not that large. I’d have to dig to get the total numbers.

    • todd says:

      Michael, it’s not total volume that’s the problem, it’s the fact that they have sized their company to produce a certain level of profit. If that drops, they will find them selves having to lay people off, close down plants and cancel some key contracts. Since HOG is a publicly traded commodity, it has to remain profitable. It cannot show losses and retain a reasonable valuation. Smaller organizations might have a little more margin and may not be so easily influenced by investors so they can weather a downturn.

  25. Don says:

    As the Boomers age out of the game more and more bikes go on the used market. How are all those used bikes going to work their way through the system without seriously affecting new bike sales? Especially with folks complaining that the desirable new models are kind of pricey?

  26. mickey says:

    Well if Gunner gets his wish in the electric bike thread, Harley may be eating cake and champage if they outlaw gas engines by 2025 and Harley has invested in electrics. On the other hand I believe ice engines have a few more years than that where they will still be viable. In which case Harley and the other manufacturers as well need to start figuring out what those coming behind us are going to buy. We ( we being of retirement age or slightly below that.. Say 46 years old and above, can carry them for maybe another 25 years ( at 67, more like 10 years for my age group) but we can’t carry them forever. Then there is the autonomous thing looming in the future. Interesting times in the motorcycle industry.

  27. Mick says:

    I certainly don’t think that they are going to get anywhere with the current electric that has been making the internet rounds.

    Harley doesn’t go outside their comfort zone very well at all. They tried to update their line with the V-Rod. A company who sells motorcycles to people with who are looking for a certain aesthetic, should not be in the business of designing an ugly engine that they had to send to Porsche to make work.You can design an ugly engine OR farm it out to make it work. You can’t do both. You just make yourself look stupid.

    So now the company is putting together what looks like a full sized version of a cheap plastic electric Harley blob that you would buy a four year old. I wonder if they will start calling it a blobber?

    • RyYYZ says:

      H-D totally dropped the ball with the V-Rod. They had an opportunity there – a new, modern engine. They could have put it into something that us non-traditional-HD buyers would have considered. A standard, a sport-touring bike, something, anything other than the long, low drag-inspired thing that they did put it in. No reason they couldn’t have had that market as well as continue to sell to their traditional buyers, but no, H-D was too short-sighted to envision anything other than cruiser buyers. And while there are traditional cruiser buyers who appreciate performance and modern engine design (note the boatload of Scouts and Scout 60s that Indian has sold), the V-Rod was unappealing to them in many ways (styling, mostly).

  28. joe b says:

    The elephant in the room, is difficult to describe, but in part this is happening to other manufacturers. Honda, has long been criticized for loosing direction, making bikes no-one asked for. Some of the others have had their small crevice of sales opening attacked by other brands, now with stiff competition, see what they once had as their little corner of the market disappear. Motorcycle market is saturated with too many products, too many used bikes, too little new buyers.

    • Austin ZZR 1200 says:

      Harleys now list for less than equivalent metric bikes on Craigslist.

      • beasty says:

        Generally speaking, no they don’t.

        • Selecter says:

          Depends on the model. I can pick up a pretty minty, low mileage ’03-’06 VRSC model of some sort for $5000-$6000. This is roughly the same (maybe a -bit- more) than the equivalent Warrior or other big “muscle bike” model.

          H-D tourers do carry a premium over the metrics, except for the Gold Wings, whose resale beggars belief, frankly.

          Oddly, I think the model I’ve seen around here in that age bracket going for the most money is the Rocket III… for whatever that’s worth.

        • Austin ZZR 1200 says:

          check again, the HD bubble has burst

          • beasty says:

            I check every day. And while I’m sure you wish it was so, HD’s, generally, still sell for more than an equivalent metric. I’m sure, nationwide, exceptions can be found, but they are few and far between.

      • red says:

        In my neck of woods, not what I’m seeing and it’s not really close. Especially if you’re talking big twins.

        of course they cost ~25-50% more to start with, but the used price percentage diff roughly holds.

  29. Curtis says:

    HD is in bad shape but the motorcycle industry in general is in bad shape. In the U.S., motorcycle sales are 1/2 of what they were 10 years ago. Motorcycles are too expensive, riding is too dangerous with distracted drivers, and young people don’t seem to have the interest they once did.

    • cinderbob says:

      That’s it in a nutshell. I have been riding for over half a century, and at 69 I probably don’t have many riding years ahead of me anyway, but today’s drivers have so many distractions that it is really making me question whether I should keep riding. For example, studies show the average text requires a driver to take there eyes off the road for five seconds. Folks, that is an ETERNITY for a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed to be pilotless! Sadly, it has become much more dangerous to be on a motorcycle on today’s streets and highways, and the older I become, the more precious life is. I have no intention of letting some distracted fool cut my life short. At least a cage affords some degree of protection.

  30. Vrooom says:

    Harley screwed up with MV Augusta and to a lesser extent Buell. With MV they had a known brand, dealership support finally well established, a great bike. But the Harley dealerships were not a friendly place for those looking for something that wasn’t a cruiser. Interestingly, a few local Harley dealerships here have taken on Triumph. The rumor is they sell more of the Scramblers and Bonnevilles than the rest of the brand line, but still that’s exactly what Harley should be selling itself. Honestly I’ve owned one Harley, and despite having 7 bikes, I don’t see another one making it into my garage unless they design something lighter, better handling and more reliable for long distance riding.

    • HS1... says:

      That is so true. My local Harley dealer represented Buell, and for some reason, Ducati. If you went and asked about either of those two brands you were insulted and then ignored, well, until you walked the gauntlet through all the Harleys and the learing to get back to the exit. Beats me why a business wouldn’t want to sell expensive inventory. The experience kind of made you think that a 350lb guy might eat you on the way out.

  31. Fred says:

    HD is suffering from aging riders and competition from Indian. HD’s and Indian’s fate seem parallel however – wonder how Indian will fare?

  32. Kitty says:

    My very 1st motorcycle, back in the late 60s, was an H-D. I’ve been riding ever since, but that was my 1st and last H-D. One was enough for me personally. I’m not an H-D hater, and I don’t care what anyone rides, but for me personally lots of other brands and models have kept my 50+ year ongoing riding career vibrant.

  33. i drove a V-ROD for a weekend, wow what a piece of … it vibrates like hell its heavy.. come on!
    viva M109 R

    • I tried to test ride a V-Rod once. The check engine light came on before I got out of the dealer parking lot. Too bad, it was the HD I thought I might be most likely to enjoy.

      • Austin ZZR 1200 says:

        Traded a GF’s v-rod for a week. Traded it back after two days for my ZZR. Couldn’t stand it. Rode like crap and I felt like a d-bag riding it.

  34. SausageCreature says:

    Here’s something that’s always puzzled me. HD has, for the most part, staunchly avoided making bikes that don’t appeal to their core customers/fan base. I’m not sure if HD themselves have ever said why, but it seems that most motorcycle journalists and forum posters claim that HD wishes to avoid angering it’s core customers, and therefore is afraid to try anything new or release updates to existing models that deviate more than a tiny bit from what was offered before. Basically the theory is that they’ve been too afraid of losing their existing customers to try and lure any new ones.

    But this reasoning never made sense to me. Is your typical hardcore Harley guy really going to say, “What? In addition to my favorite FLXHLXFLHXTXLHWTFBBQ UltraLowWideSoftSpringerTailGlide, they also built an upright standard bike with liquid cooling and a seat height over 26 inches? THAT DOES IT!!! I’M BUYING AN INDIAN INSTEAD!!!” I don’t think so. They would probably just shrug, ignore the new bike (just like they do with Buell, Street, VROD, etc) and carry on as before.

    • sherm says:

      But sausage, how can they get to it when you just gave them a terrific idea for their next model. Maybe after the WTFBBQ goes to market, they will have time to think about that liquid cooled thing, but not if you come up with another terrific idea.

  35. Ricardo says:

    For all the Harley haters out there, HD had a great motorcycle nobody of you haters wanted or cared to give it a chance. The V-Rod with 9000 RPMs red line, 115 to 125 HP and handling to match it, and the looks that some other companies copied too!.
    So PLEASE don’t say Harley did not try hard enough, the company did, the public just didn’t care to give it a chance to change the image of the hard core leather wrapped rider.
    And yes, I am a V-Rod owner, great bike that I can keep up with riders on sport bikes, I also own a Ducati 999, a Cagiva Alazzurra 650 and a couple of vintage Hondas. I like all types of bikes as you can see…

    • Selecter says:

      Handling to match? That was the VRSC’s biggest vice, aside from the awful seating position on every single model they built! The engine was the only good thing about them… they turned like a truck. Actually, the brakes weren’t half-bad IME, either, so there is that, too.

      What Harley-Davidson had was a great place to start building a bike, and enough complete lack of know-how to execute.

      A lot like the XR1200X… it made less power than an XB12S, weighed over 100 lbs. more than an XB12S, had poorer brakes than an XB12S, and, like the VRSC, handled like an oil tanker with no rudder. I still don’t get the love for that “sporty” Harley-Davidson. Buell did it right; H-D did most definitely not.

      What’s even more insane to me is that H-D can make a 900-lb. touring barge with great steering feel and nice, linear response. They could not make their “sporty” models do the same. For chrissake, why not?

      • fred says:

        When I rode the XR1200 (XR1200X? – it’s been a few years), I thought it was the best HD I’d ever ridden. Much better than the V-Rod or any of the others. I can’t compare it to a Buell, as I never rode one.

        I never had any motivation to buy a Harley, but I liked the XR1200/X.

        • Mark says:

          If you thought the XR1200 was nice, you should ride a Buell XB12S sometime. Great bike, pretty crappy support by most HD dealers.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      The Vrod is the motorcycle no one asked for. It didn’t check the right boxes for the Harley faithful, but it was still a clumsy, overweight cruiser with more focus on form over function – the opposite of what those of us who could appreciate the engine for would want the motorcycle to be.

  36. paquo says:

    a$$less chaps, a scowl, does not wave and goes really slow in the left lane lol

  37. Tank says:

    A 700cc single cylinder bike- 6 speed, 4 hydraulic valves, center stand, upright riding position and no plastic, something like a Royal Enfield (not another Blast). Make it look and feel like a Harley. They need a bike that will appeal to new and older riders.