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Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

H-D Reports Profits Up as it Releases 2011 Models

Super Low

The Bar-and-Shield is reporting more profits for 2010, but how it got there is perfectly illustrated by the lean lineup of new-for-2011 models. When sales are flat—or shrinking—the only way to bump profits is to increase margins by cutting costs or raising prices. To that end, the MoCo introduced a new low-cost model, some big-bucks high-end bikes and is still aggressively trimming fat in all of its operations.

First, the bikes. For 2011, the Motor Company announced three new mass-market models — one of which we already told you about — and a new CVO to tempt those of us not too badly damaged by the Great Recession.

Aside from the XR1200X, there is a second new Sportster model, the Super Low. Unlike its snarling, attitude-laden (and wicked uncomfortable!) 883 Iron brother, the Super Low is cute, friendly, and seemingly designed with an eye towards practicality to lure new customers into H-D dealers. The 883cc-equipped model has a 4.5-gallon tank, radial tires (on new five-spoke wheels), a low handlebar and a seat that somehow manages to be slightly lower than the already-low 26.9-inch saddle of the 883 Iron. It’s also 12 pounds lighter than the Iron at 536 pounds dry, and handling should be further improved by an extra .9 inches of trail built into the improved front end. A lot of stuff for a $7999 (in black; add more for the color or two-tone paint) cruiser from any manufacturer.

At $22,499, the other new model is less budget-oriented. The new Road Glide Ultra is Harley’s street-savvy tourer—basically the Electra Glide touring rig with a stylish dual-headlamp frame-mounted fairing—with the Twin Cam 103 cubic-inch powerplant found on last year’s Electra Glide Ultra Limited. That six-speed motor is good for 102 ft.-lbs. of torque, more than enough to haul around the 888 pounds of claimed wet weight. The new Ultra is also loaded up with all the luxury-touring features you need. Aside from the PowerPak (which is the 103 engine, ABS brakes and the keyless Smart Security system), the bike gets a giant Tour Pak top case and hard saddlebags, a lower fairing, a redesigned one-piece seat, cruise control and an 80-watt Harmon/Kardon audio system complete with CB, CD player and two headsets.

Street Glide Ultra

For the truly high-end Harley enthusiast, there’s a CVO (Custom Vehicle Operations, Harley’s hand-built line of limited-edition models) version of the Road Glide Ultra. In addition to having the 115 ft.-lbs. 110-cubic-inch CVO motor, the CVO Ultra gets even more touring goodies, like a Zumo nav system, bag-mounted big-bass speakers (in case your neighbors are able to sleep though your aftermarket straight-pipe symphony), heated seats and remote-entry trunk and saddlebags. It even comes with an 8-gigabyte iPod. The price? $35,999, and I’m sure H-D would like to point out that the cost of building the CVO on your own via its Tokyo phone book-sized parts and accessories catalog would greatly exceed that figure. Remember: you can sleep in your truck, but you can’t ride your house to Sturgis.

Not a lot of new models, but that’s to be expected in the current market. But there was a glimmer of hope in the Motor Company’s second-quarter statement. Though sales are down 5.5 percent worldwide, profits are up sharply, thanks to what CEO Keith Wandell called “restructuring and continuous improvement activities.” That means job cuts, cuts in production, consolidation of manufacturing and other activities, and of course the crushing of the Buell sportbike division (as well as selling MV Agusta, which H-D is still trying to sell).

Street Glide Ultra CVO

But apparently those savings aren’t enough. There is a new labor contract in negotiation with the goal of closing “cost gaps” in Harley’s Milwaukee-area factories, and if a deal isn’t struck by September, the company will move production away from Milwaukee (but stay in the U.S.). Let’s hope something gets worked out and Milwaukee can continue to be an industrial city.


  1. Mailman says:

    These profits are a mirage. They only exist because HD, like many other companies also reporting profits, have laid off so many workers.

    If you notice, in Harley’s case, bike sales are actually DOWN, but profits are up.

    The same is true of various other companies; sales of their product is down, but profits are up.

    How can this be ? Workforce reduction, simple as that.

    And obviously, such “profits” are not self-sustaining; eventually you run out of people to unemploy.

    Nice try Harley, but you’re still in deep, deep trouble.

  2. Joe says:

    A Harley is the equivalent of a PT Cruiser or a HHR, looking 1940s, nice and shinny on the outside but with a 1940 era engine and chassis. Sure the engine does have electronic Ignition and Fuel injection upgrades and the chassis has disk brakes, but unlike the PT Cruiser or a HHR, besides just looking like it’s from the 1940s, it also performs and handles likes it’s from the 1940s.

  3. Tom says:

    Harley Davidson has a monopoly on Harley Davidson bikes. If you want a Harley, you need to buy it from Harley. Why mess that up? There is enough nostalgia, style, fashion, Americana, impulse, whatever you call it, surrounding Harley that at some point in most bikers’ lives they want one. Then they need to buy one. Same goes for Ducati and Moto Guzzi. It’s smart that they stick to what they know best, and wait for the bikers and even non-bikers to come buy one. Heck, even I want the “Dark Dyna” or whatever it’s called.

  4. Bob says:

    I almost bought a Buell in 2009. The cafe racer with the optional high bar. Great ergonomics, a fine European engine made by Rotax. Thank God I found out before I signed up that the engine has to be dropped to adjust the valves. Uhhh, fellows, didn’t you learn anything from the the V-Rod? Guess not. I don’t regret the KTM that I bought instead.

  5. rob says:

    average age of harley owners is now over 60 year old, and getting older.

    I ride a UJN with full riding gear. for weekend rides i wear my track gear. crashed in it 3 times and shows them experience well.

    this past weekend i stopped in a out of the way lunch/bar place. for a late lunch and coffee.
    place was full of h/d riders. full of riders with no gear, drinks in hand, mid 40’s to 60’s and not a clue of what to make of me.

    for the most part h/d riders do not ride motorcycle for the sport aspect of it. not tied to racing in any serious way. i’m 48 years old. i don’t feel comfortable on a sportbike anymore so I ride a sport/standard.

    in no way am i interested in a $25,000+, 700 pound, underpowered, poor handling bike – so i can ride from bar to bar for poker runs.

    • Scottie says:


      If you ever get in a cruiser frame of mind, test ride a Star Stratoliner or a Victory Cross Roads or Cross Country. Those bikes will surprise you.

  6. cosmic says:

    So you say elsewhere your favorite is Suzuki (I like them too, I have three).
    That said, what pray tell is so exciting from them?
    No 2010 models except a couple of mx bikes and a handful of 2011s with no changes other than colors.

  7. Tom says:

    Could Harley make a taller Dyna or Sportster where I sit upright and my feet are directly below, with a long distance between the seat and the pegs? Then I’d be very comfortable and could stand up when crossing railroad tracks or potholes. I guess that would be a BMW GS1250, or an old Japanese standard bike. If Harley made one, I’d buy it.

    • cosmic says:

      They could make anything they want but they prefer to make stuff they can sell. And they want to sell thousands of them, not one or two to some tiny niche market.

    • RC says:

      Look at the XR1200 Sportster, sit up position and feet slightly rearaward but looks very comfortablefor long rides…

      • Tom says:

        You know, you’re right! That XR1200 does look like a nice ride. Maybe raise the seat a tad and it may be quite the standard bike.

  8. Eric says:

    Hmmm. I’m 46. have been beat up by life, sports,motorcycling, and have the crunchy joints and body parts to prove it. I find that the Harleys are the only bikes offered that fit my deteriorating condition. It’s sad, really.. Regardless, I would never buy one.. so I got a nice DL1000 (it’s liquid cooled, has 2-3 times the suspension travel, great HP.. 6 speed.. blah blah..:-) Harley sells bikes based on marketing for the ‘good old days’, not for the here and now.

    If Honda is reading this – please bring the CB1300 to the US.

    Ride safe my brothers..


  9. Mike D. says:

    How much does a “Run of the Mill Plain Jane Sportster” have to weight in order to “Justify” double disc brakes up front as standard equipment, 800 pounds ?

    I would think that any 400 pounds + motorcycle would be more than enough xcuse ?! No…? Apparently so…for Harley…anyways…(o_O )?

    • Josh C says:

      My 400lb+ GS500E stops on a dime with just one rotor and a couple non-opposed pistons. I and many other road racers purposely drop to single disc on many FAR FASTER ULSB machines because the bikes stop just fine with one rotor, so why bother with that extra spinning mass? Brake design has improved a ton, you don’t need dual rotors in most applications now.

  10. Steve says:

    Some strong opinions by some…. I ride a Road King & I like it. IT is not a Ducati 1198 nor do I even imagine it to be. There are a number of things H-D must address in my opinion… # 1 is HEAT! This thing will fry a passengers right leg extra crispy! They really need to do the revolutionary thing & have Rotax or Porsche or somebody design a liguid cooled V-2 or V-4 least for the touring bikes (including my RK). Also, the suspension is junk plain & simple… no reason not to have an adjustable front end with cartridge forks oe better yet, the new big piston fork. Same with the rear… air shocks were great in the late 60’s & 70’s on your GTO so your L60x15″ tires cleared the fender wells but they are worthless on a bike. H-D needs subcontract with YSS or Penske or somebody & replace the air shocks with fully adjustable gas charged rear shocks. I think if they did this without raising the price of the bike, they would attract many more riders & offer a great bike for what it is made for.

    In ref to Buell…I think they made a huge error… the problem was not the looks in my opinion… it was H-D refusing to allow the bikes to be sold anywhere BUT a H-D dealer… they should have allowed them to be a wholly owned but separate company & sold the bikes in multi-brand dealerships. I think unloading MV Agusta is another big mistake… shows who is running the company… bean-counters. If a motorcyclist was running it, might never have happened…

  11. ryan says:

    Harley has never had anything exciting since 1905!!

  12. I suspect that most of the people that are critical of the H-Ds have never owned one. They have their niche just like sport bikes have theirs. These big touring bikes are hard to beat for practical long distance transportation!

    • ryan says:

      Practical 35k?

    • Marc says:

      While it is true I have never owned a HD but I have ridden many and ever time I do I am reminded why I have never owned one. They are expensive,heavy, underpowered and have marginal handling. I ride daily in a variety of conditions from rush hour traffic to tight canyons and HD doesn’t make a bike that would meet my needs. The only niche I see in the LA area with most HD’s is to head to the Rock store or Cook’s corner and drink beer. Not my niche.

      • kpaul says:

        I haven’t ridden that many HDs, only 3 Sportser, Fatboy and Geezer glide have to agree to agree with you Marc. What holds for the LA area is true here in Seattle as well. Especially the closer you get to the city of Seattle itself. Seattle Gen Ys prefer Ducati Monsters, Triumphs, Hondas, Buells etc.

      • cosmic says:

        Then you probably ought to buy something else.

  13. Neil says:

    That standard low Sporster has crap for suspension. New England roads can be like off-roading. There is no excuse for that in 2010. I rode a standard Sporty and then an XR1200 at Daytona and the XR blew the doors off the standard. I know a bunch of guys with the new BMW 800 bikes and they love em. I don’t think bikes need to be 900 pounds and all chromed out. The Harley guys from the 60s are getting old. What new Generation is going to buy Harleys en masse? It’s the 21st century and I think people are going to look more and more at 21st century technology. My brother sold his Sportster for a Ducati. I do like the XR1200X.

    • kpaul says:

      You make a great point Neil! I totally agree Neil Gen Y just looks at HD bikes as old. Bikes for old men. The don’t look at them nostalgically. Because they are living their youth now. When they are in their 40s and 50s (with the money to burn) what they will see as nostalgic will be totally different than what boomers thought. Many have pointed to the muscle car resurgence here as evidence that HD will survive. Big difference is that the current muscle car generation has modern technology and retro styling vs HDs ancient technology and old styling. That’s a big but subtle difference. Additionally the muscle cars of today aren’t as popular with Gen Y as the first gen was with boomers because they don’t fit the budget and lifestyle of Gen Ys. Gen Ys prefer Honda Civics Sis, Scions, etc. Gen Y has to deal with high gas prices and lower incomes vs what boomers had. Go rent the movie Fast and Furious or drive by any high school to see what Gen Y thinks is cool. All of my two Gen Y daughters boy friends have had bikes like Ducati, Honda, Triumph etc and cars like Civics, Scions etc.

      • cosmic says:

        Maybe HD doesn’t really give a crap about Gen Y people if they don’t have money to burn, thus does not market towards them.
        I for one am glad of this. I see them running around with their nasty sounding little Civics and Scions. Sound like crap and look like a box on wheels. If this is their idea of style and desirable, you’re welcome to them.

        • Scottie says:

          I live in the quietest part of Manhattan and I can hear one of those pieces of crap going by my place every morning while I’m IN THE SHOWER!! I’ve seen it when he gets a parking space near me and he boots it like someone is going to steal it.

  14. Scottie says:

    Anybody else think that a Glide with a your pack toally loses its cool status?

    Would love to get my wife riding on a Spotster or Star 950, but she’s happier with me as the pilot.

  15. jimbo says:

    OMG, sorry, scratch “early 80s” and replace with “early 70s”…I can’t believe that was that long ago………

  16. jimbo says:

    The finish and overall design looks good on these Hogs in the images, as best I can tell. I sure need more than that kind of power on an 800 lb touring bike though.

  17. jimbo says:

    Am I the only one remembering about twenty years ago the several professional moto-journalists writing the epitaph for the air cooled motorcycle engine?

    That’s right up there with BMWs “Final Edition” air-cooled boxers circa early 80s, each bike having a special commemorative plaque. Remember a few years later it reappeared? Don’t you just love the marketing guys? Such great senses of humor!

  18. Jim says:

    Where’s fanboy Mack? Did he lose his way in the Victory thread?

  19. Tom says:

    Welcome to 2010 HD! The new Superlow Sporty gets radial tires, whew! I think the earth may possibly spin off its axis now.

  20. Trpldog says:

    Hey HD listen up – yeah you! I know you read Motorcycle Daily…
    I had 2 XBR Buells, a 9 and a 12, and I tell you what – love ’em or hate ’em, they were a couple of the best bikes I have ever had since 1973. Once set up correctly, they handled great, tons of personality and torque, low center of gravity, NO maintainance etc etc.
    The Poser tough-guy types are currently dying off and then what?? I’m 55 years old and ride a Triumph Speed Triple daily now, but because of your inability to think outside the box and take hold of something (like Buell) that was such a great move in the right direction, I wouldn’t own a Harley if my life depended on it. All my riding friends mirror the same feeling. I think your headquarters building would look really good draped in one of those skeleton masks the Posers wear riding their Flintstone bikes that don’t go, stop, or handle. Get used to crow, because sooner than you think, I believe you’re gonna be eating it. None to soon for those who see it all for what it really is. You had the chance. Bye bye.

    • kpaul says:

      I think the Buell 1190 RR was prurrrrtty like the original Firebolt. Buell was getting there.
      I think Mack you aren’t looking at the future trends i.e. the demographics and recent sales figures that people will continue to buy big Harley bikes. Trpldog is right the Posers are dying off…Harley screwed up killing Buell. A penny wise pound foolish short sighted decision.

      • kpaul says:

        Should say “The demographics and recent sales figures don’t support the idea that people will continue to buy big Harley bikes.

        • Trpldog says:

          I don’t want to get into an oil squirting contest, but we can’t unscramble eggs. Harley pulled the plug on Buell and whether I like it or not, that’s the way it is. If a company is bleeding out cash by the second, you gotta do something – and Erik was the something. It was a uphill battle in many ways. Selling a sport bike through a Harley dealership was an impossibility for the most part. I say to the HD salesman, “What tire compound should I use?”. The HD salesman says, “Chrome.” I say, “How should I set up my suspension?” the HD salesman says, “Chrome” Tough stuff. The XB Buell shook my eyeballs out at idle, shifted like a John Deere tractor with a blown up trans, and was as as hot and uncomfortable as a potato bug in a microwave, but man, that ugly thing had stump-pulling torque, and would carve up a twisty road like a hot Ginsu knife cutting through Land-O-Lakes.
          Hoo-Doggie! Anyway, good to be here enjoying the new MD format with other crazed motorcyclists. Crumpets to all!

    • Gabe says:

      Something to think about: if H-D’s sales shrank 80% they would still outsell Triumph 5-to-1 in the USA. H-D’s go, stop and handle just fine for its customers’ needs.Critics of the MoCo have been saying the same thing for decades, and it’s still here. H-D will eat its crow and go on eating crow long after you and I have passed into the next life.

      • kpaul says:

        Will see 🙂 My bet is that Gen Y won’t look nostalgically at HD bikes but just look at them as old. Bikes for old men. Now some say look at the resurgence of the muscle car. Well the muscle cars of today all have modern technology with retro styling. Harleys have ancient technology and old styling (not modernized retro). Big difference Gabe and Mack! My prediction is HD goes under by 2020.

        • cosmic says:

          A lot of people predicted they would go under by 1984 back around the end of the 70s.
          Gen Y people will get older too. Hard to imagine nostalgia for a Honda Civic or a Honda CBR.
          Some things become timeless, some things just become old.

          • Justin says:

            “A lot of people predicted they would go under by 1984 back around the end of the 70s.” Yeah, apparently the FTC came to the same conclusion.

            “Gen Y people will get older too.” Gen Y is sufficiently image-obsessed (think: ‘sleeve tatoos’) to keep Harley afloat. No need to wait for them to get old, lots of the ones with jobs already have Harleys.

            “Hard to imagine nostalgia for a Honda Civic or a Honda CBR.” Outside of Japan, you’re right about the Civic. But there’s plenty of people who got their start on a ‘GOOF2’, and the 900RR is already a nostalgia bike for Gen X. I don’t know, maybe you’re just talking about the newer models…

  21. Marc says:

    Super Low = Super Chick bike

  22. MAX says:

    Nice bikes, but GOD can a 2011 lineup get any more BORING!?! No Buells to look forward to, and as the Europeans continue to pour new product into the market, the American and Japanese conpanies buckle-down and do next to nothing, losing sales and market share along the way to the Europeans. Real bold, guys. Yawn.

  23. Pete says:

    Harley is afraid to do anything that deviates perceptibly from the old format, for fear of alienating their customer base. The few experiments they’ve made in that direction have not been notable successes, in terms of sales (think Buell, & the liquid-cooled models with Porsche-designed engines). Harley will never design a modern standard (non-cruiser)motorcycle as long as they sell enough of the cast iron lifestyle accessories which are favored by their base. Why anyone would want a bike like that has always baffled me – but, hey -that’s just how it is. There are plenty of real motorcycles of modern design out there to choose from, so no reason to complain.

  24. Ward Bond says:

    Don’t wish Harley to go out of business, but they need new blood in the R&D. When they bought MV Agusta, I thought that was the end of my favorite bike. They sold Agusta thank goodness before messy that up. Buell is dead, go figure. Victory builds better bikes. Cruisers aren’t selling and Europe gets the best bikes we’ve never seen. Hmmm….makes you wonder if the rest of the world thinks we aren’t worthy to ride awesome bikes from all categories. All I need is a simple naked bike with technology flowing through every nut and bolt!

    • kpaul says:

      Great point Ward! You are spot on. If you every watch Top Gear on BBC America you see the same thing with cars. Ford and surprisingly GM build some nice cars in Europe and Australia that we never see here in the U.S.. Fortunately, Ford CEO Alan Mulally, of Boeing fame, see things globally and is bringing some of those cars here to the U.S. e.g. Fiesta, 2011 Focus, and hopefully the Ford Ka

    • Gabe says:

      What’s an example of Europe getting “the best bikes we’ve never seen?” We have over 250 models we can buy here. 125cc and 50cc tiddlers desgined for Euro-only beginner licenses don’t count.

      • Tim says:

        Yamaha Tenere, Super Tenere & XJR1300; Suzuki GSR-600, (naked GSX-R600); Honda CBR1000R, CBR600F &
        CBR600N, Varadero & Transalp

        • Ruefus says:

          The fact of the matter is that on several occasions, bike makers have brought formerly ‘Euro-only’ bikes to America. They didin’t sell worth a crap and were received with a yawn.

          If the bike actually SOLD over here, then they’d bring more of them. But they don’t – so it doesn’t make sense to import bikes that simply hold the floor down.

          • kpaul says:

            Actually a lot of European bikes started as sold only in Europe and then were brought over. Ducati Monsters, all of the Triumph bikes, etc. Come on boys Triumph’s only bike that was probably targeted to the US market was the Rocket. Ducati and Triumph bikes weren’t originally targeted to the US market. So your premise and the challenge is just a little flawed. Ducati and Triumph do well in the U.S especially with Gen Y. When Gen Y gets more money Ducati and Trimph will do even better but HD won’t. Will Ducati and Triumph be around in 2020 or will be HD be around in 2020. My money will bet on Ducati and Triumph. I sold all my HD stock back before the crash. I did well but my timing was perfect. I am not buying HD stock now. The demographics and HDs high manufacturing costs are just too stacked against it.

          • Tim says:

            The question was, “What’s an example of Europe getting ‘the best bikes we’ve never seen?’” Not, “Why won’t the mfr’s bring Euro-only bikes to the US?” However, since it’s been brought up, there have been occasions where Euro-only models were brought here and sold very well, (FJR1300 comes to mind). So what? The fact that TDM’s gathered dust in US showrooms 20 years ago is not an indicator that that type of bike will never be popular here.

  25. kpaul says:

    Profits are only up because the HD Financial Group is making money again. i.e. they wrote off all the bad loans last year and last quarter. HD is still on a down hill slide sales slid 8.4%

  26. Rotten Randy says:

    New model? They haven’t released a ‘new’ model for 50 years. Harley makes America look like crap. Can’t wait for that company to fold once all the boomers die.

  27. ryan says:

    Could someone please help me understand what makes a Harley worth 35k??Any takers??

  28. Gary says:

    The bottomless cow gets milked once again. When are we going to see an actual new model. Harley fans have been waiting almost ten years now for a liquid cooled bagger. And for next year the 1200 superlow as a new model, and the shocked look on my face,I would have never guessed it. Nice bike’s really but I’m starting to think they never will.

    • Scottie says:

      I doubt your statement about a liquid cooled bagger. The vrod has water in the block and it’s not a very popular bike, though I did have a salesman tell me he sold every one he got. Then I asked him why he had four of them in the showroom, and he didn’t have a answer.

  29. MGNorge says:

    The Super Low is so cute it almost makes me consider a Harley….almost!

  30. chefbr1 says:

    Just last year they were a bit under water. Now profitable I doubt this is from getting rid of Buell. Too bad every new model has some chrome or retro look to it. The engine technology has not changed. It really is a shame what they had to do to erik buell. Very innovative designs not all my taste but were ahead of their time. Keep selling t-shirts and everything will be okay

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