It would seem H-F-D is on the verge of being screwed again. Surprise! It's for the same reason they've been screwed several times before: A steadfast refusal to innovate and market to broader demographics.
Some of the pundits are trying to liken this to the overall concept of: Younger people don't like motorcycles. Uh, guys? Search youtube for "motovlogger" or "supermoto". Then go take a look at the sales numbers for the Japanese and European bike makers. While I'm pretty far removed from a millennial, I do play one on TV, and let me tell you: There is no shortage of them willing to shell out ten grand for a fast, reliable and visually interesting motorcycle.
The key parts of that equation are: fast, reliable and visually interesting. These are words that H-F-D has been tone deaf to for decades.
Let us review the various market trends the company has entirely missed out on:
- Sport Bikes
- Adventure Bikes
- Muscle Bikes
- Retro Cafe Racers
- Cheap/Silly Microbikes
... and I'm probably missing a few. Sport bikes became a thing on the early 1980s fer chrissakes. That was fourty years ago for those keeping score at home. Every other market segment listed has been a thing for at least a decade, if not two or three. Yet Harley apparently thinks that like color TV and the internet, those things will never catch on. Aside from the fact that other manufacturers move tens of thousands of units every year.
Nope. Don't want to offend the 65 year old graybeard who bought a Road King from us two decades ago.
Now, to be fair, Harley has occasionally at least taken a passing stab at modernization. While Buell was roundly panned by everyone who took sport bikes seriously, they did at least make an attempt at the sport bike market. A half-assed, entirely stupid attempt, but an attempt none the less. The V-Rod was the first cruiser I'd actually sort of maybe want to own, at least if it didn't cost over 20 grand, and if Ducati hadn't come out with the massively superior in every way Diavel a few years later.
But generally speaking, Harley is utterly tone deaf to the youth, or hell, even the enthusiast market. I would love to own an American made motorcycle. I really would. But in order to get me into a showroom, you're going to need to at least be roughly close to on par with Ducati, KTM and the Japanese Four, guys. And you very much are not.
Yes, it would require a significant capital investment on the part of H-F-D to, say, develop a sport bike and a streetfighter. They would need to build two modern engines, and modern chassis to go with them. The rest-- suspension, brakes, etc, etc are all available off the shelf. Everyone else uses Ohlins, WP and Brembo for a reason, guys: They work. But there needs to be some hot sauce, and there needs to be some value, which are two things H-F-D seems to not only not understand, but be violently opposed to.
When I was a kid, they made shit like this:
As a result, I mocked them relentlessly. They made cars for old men. Slow, ugly, boring boxes that a young man wouldn't be caught dead in.
Today, they make this:
Do I want one? You bet your ass I want one.
It really isn't rocket surgery, guys. Build an interesting, quick, fun streetfighter and sell it for ~$8-10k. I'll buy one.
posted by Mr. Lion | 07/18/17 @ 09:50 | comments (2)