Biker Lifestyle

Motorcycle Powerhouses hold summit with purpose of trying to figure out how to stay afloat: Harley, Indian, Scatter to find answers

All the major manufacturers of motorcycles are scrambling and stepping over each other to figure out how to save their brands. It’s got so bad, industry leaders are holding summits, meeting behind closed doors, holding off the crises from their employees so they don’t panic. So after all the secrecy the best they could come up with is the manufacturers are not reaching women, minorities, old dealership models? Well, we can see why the industry is in peril now, can’t we? These bunch of geniuses forgot the biggest problem of it all, the core base of its entire business. It might not be politically correct to say, but hey, this is Insane Throttle and we really don’t give a rats ass. The problem is these companies are not focusing on the WHITE MALE blue collar worker.

Women have never made up a big portion of the biker lifestyle, never will. If they are laying all their plans on trying to bring in more women, all those companies will have a rude awaking. It’s still taboo for women to ride a bike, it still makes no sense for women to be on a bike, well of course if you have one modeling on one. Women will never be a savior for the industry, they don’t have the attention span, but hey, that’s just my opinion.

No, the problem is and always will be these companies inability to recognize that their products are too damn expensive to buy. That right there kills the millennial generation, the kids can’t get off Xbox, less buy a $20,000 bike. Companies like Harley Davidson (And Yes I own one, 2001 Fatboy) dug their own grave starting in the mid 90’s when they decided to get away from their core and cater to the White Collar Professionals. When companies like Harley decided to do that, they drove their core base to cheaper and quite frankly, more reliable bikes from their competitors.

I’ve owned a dozen of Harleys. Mostly because I had to because that’s what was required to be apart of a club. If it wasn’t for the club requirements I would’ve long ago sold the Harley and switched over to a Shadow or Midnight Star. Personally, I like the ride, don’t have to worry about vibration and tightening down nuts and bolts once a week. I like the reliability factor and I sure the hell love the price. The days of having to own just a Harley is gone, people could care less, shit even most motorcycle clubs are changing their tune because even they see, people don’t have the taste for expensive shit like a Harley. Clubs are making the choice, go with the flow and evolve, or continue losing tons of membership.

The other major factor affecting the industry is these bunch of ass-monkeys in their 3 piece suits, they sit up in their office’s circle jerking each other into believing they have a clue what a real biker wants. These people have no idea how to spot trends, no idea of the behavior of those that are the core of their whole business model. Nope, they rely on ol Willie to go out there and give them an inside look at the industry. Ol Willie doesn’t know shit about what being a biker is about, he grew up with a silver spoon and just had the last name to ride on. If ol Willie had a clue, dumbass would buy as much stock in the company he can and take it off the stock market, get it back in the family and center it’s business model on the core. So Willie is just as much the problem as the suits, problem is, we real riders bought into the company putting him on the front street thinking he was one of us.

Technology is increasing every day, the companies better start getting ahead and incorporating it into their products, God Knows, that’s the only way to get these millennials into riding. Maybe putting a portable Xbox on the bars instead of a radio. Maybe that would get these kids off the couch and riding, doubt it, but just maybe something like that would work lol. Or better yet, price your damn products where people can actually afford them.

Source: LA Times

Their comments, made anonymously for fear of offending employers and business associates, paint a dire picture.

  • Sales are flat or falling in almost every area.
  • Baby boomer buyers, the most consistent motorcycle consumers, are aging out of the industry fast.
  • The industry has failed to increase sales by making new riders out of women, minorities and millennials.
  • The old dealership model is broken and needs a makeover.
  • The arrival of autonomous vehicles may push motorcycles off the road entirely.

“The message is, ‘We are in trouble, and there is no silver bullet,’ ” Pandya said.

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Among the key findings in the report, which can be read in its entirety here:

The motorcycle industry does not need better product, but its marketing and advertising methods are failing to attract new riders in part because they are too focused on selling bigger, faster, more expensive machines to veteran riders.

“There has never been a more compelling and interesting time in motorcycling,” the report said. “It’s clear … that the bigger issue is lack of general interest in riding.”

The industry also has failed to appreciate the importance of the female rider, losing sight of the concept that mothers who ride tend to produce children who ride. Instead, manufacturers focus too tightly on the more typical male consumer and, when it comes to women, rely on the careworn “shrink it and pink it” approach to apparel and gear manufacturing.

“There is clearly a path to attract female ridership that does not come from traditional motorcycle marketing and must be explored,” the report said. “The increase in female ridership will have a huge influence on young riders’ access to motorcycling.”

The panel faulted motorcycle dealerships for being outmoded and unimaginative, and for employing sales personnel primarily interested in selling top-of-the-line products to well-heeled buyers while ignoring the entry-level beginner.

“Dealers still often do not know how to sell to women, couples, families and non-traditional customers,” the report concluded. “Being enchanted by motorcycling can quickly be dulled by a poor, confusing or dismissive dealership experience.

Even more worrying, Pandya’s report said, is the approaching widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles, whose prevalence on public roads may leave no safe space for motorcycling.

“There is a very real risk of motorcycling being completely cut out of the conversation for future vehicle infrastructure systems,” the panel concluded. “The single biggest threat to motorcycling overall … will be the incompatibility between autonomous vehicles and existing motorcycles.”

Though the panel’s conclusions were bleak, its members did have ideas for slowing the erosion in sales and enthusiasm.

The paper called on the power sports industry collectively and riders individually to self-correct, self-police and work together to improve motorcycling’s image.

Manufacturers must “promote motorcycling as an activity for everyone,” “tell a compelling story about the benefits and joys of motorcycling” and “affect acceptance of the positive aspects of motorcycling.”

Riders, in turn, must be better ambassadors for the sport they love and better at sharing the message.

“If just 20% of existing riders were able to bring a new rider into the mix every year, the shift would be dramatic not only in sales but in camaraderie,” the report said. “Motorcycling can no longer be our secret.”

Blaine Schuttler, managing director of Husqvarna Motorcycles North America, said a major challenge is in simply identifying consumers and connecting with them.

“Our marketing activity plans are geared toward people who are currently in the sport, and toward trying to attract returners to the sport,” Schuttler said. “At the same time, everybody in the industry is trying to attract people who haven’t been exposed to motorcycles or have never ridden motorcycles before.”

Some companies, the report charged, have failed to produce enough motorcycles that are appropriately sized and priced for new riders, or have failed to make them sufficiently attractive.

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But even those who have built splendid lineups of starter motorcycles, like Honda, are having trouble capturing the attention of potential riders whose free time and disposable income already are occupied by online gaming, streaming video content and other popular outdoor activities such as cycling, mountain biking, hiking or RV camping.

“There are so many options for that audience in terms of transportation and recreation,” said Lee Edmunds, national motorcycle advertising manager for American Honda. “I don’t see anything approaching what we need to do with that audience.”

The problem is made particularly acute, the report said, because many millennial consumers were “bubble-wrapped for safety in their youth” or raised by overprotective parents who discouraged risk-taking.

“Adventure is not at the top of the list,” said MotoQuest tour company founder Phil Freeman. “It’s more about comfort and security.”

Industry consultant and former Honda executive Chris Jonnum, who was not part of the panel but endorses many of its conclusions, observed that the thrill of motorcycling alone should make it an easy sell.

“What we have is cool and fun and genuine and appealing,” he said. “Everyone who does it knows how great it is, and how fun it is. What we’re trying to do here shouldn’t be impossible.”

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5 comments

  1. All this talk about what a real biker is or should be is exactly what’s wrong with the industry sales. Most people do not want to be associated with or linked to a group of thugs or assassins. The Sons of Anarchy I believe although completely Hollywood did more to help than hurt in the long run. It sparked interest in a certain group but enough to turn an industry around. Harley is always searching for that magic fix, the perfect bike or what ever sells. The local Harley dealer has a sign outside stating, we will accept anything in trade, so what does that say? I believe the Harley brand is fading quickly due to the market being flooded with so many choices. Harley needs to have a price roll back to trigger interest in their product once again.

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  2. I tried to buy a Harley. The sales people ignored me when I walked in. I walked across the street and bought a Victory. I’m glad I did. I have a superior product. Faster, more comfortable, and more reliable. Indian made a fatal mistake by discontinuing Victory. No one wants an overpriced “old man” bike anymore. Hopefully they will incorporate the performance genetics and modern styling into their lineup, or they too will die a slow death.

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  3. I have owned between 25 and 30 Harleys. I paid $2,000 for my first new one in 1970, and $20,000 for the last new one I bought last year. I believe that calculates to a 1,000% increase. The other issue is overproduction. When I started riding most bikers knew each other, even in large cities, because bikers were a few and far between. ALL the manufactures succeeded in expanding their markets at least in part by the creation of the RUBs (rich urban bikers), most of whom had never ridden before. While catering to this market was a temporary boon to their bottom line, now that they had bikes sitting in garages with very little use, this market has all but vanished. That coupled with the baby boomers aging out has caused this scramble to find the next untapped market. Word of advice to Harley, as the saying goes, “dance with the one that brought you.”

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  4. White male blue collar workers have seen there REAL income decline drastically over the last few decades as Harley prices have increased. They can have all the meetings in the world, but it won’t change the facts.
    The price of housing, health insurance, and cars/trucks has risen far faster than wages. Of course this results in less disposable income.
    Harley does have some of its “Mystique” remaining. Whether or not this remains when (not if) Harley moves all there manufacturing overseas is a big question.

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  5. I have agree with part of what you said today. I bought my first new Harley in 1977 and my father rode Harley’s. In fact his last bike is in my garage waiting for my grandson to grow into it. But the moco forgot about legacy families like us. In the 90’s I sold 2 used Harley’s for a ton of cash and went into the dealer with over 10 grand cash in hand thinking I’d buy a new bike. Hell he wouldn’t even let me sit on one. I don’t recall him having any motorcycles that were even for sale on the floor. He did want me to leave a grand in his possession to get on a waiting list with Yuppies willing to pay retail plus dealer installed options at the dealers discretion. In other words I could have it his way! Needless to say I bought a Triumph for much less money. Kept it a couple years and traded it in on a new Honda Valkyrie, which I still own, along with several Harley’s and a few metrics and another Limey. But I never bought another new HD and never will. There are too many like new American motorcycles out there for a song. I guess I should swing by the dealership and thank him for not selling me a new one in 96….. Nah

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