By James “Hollywood” Macecari
All of the us bikers have been bombarded by the news that Harley-Davidson has been having some pretty extreme issues the last couple of years. The company’s sales started slipping in 2016. I would argue it started going south farther back to 2008 when the Great Recession started taking a toll on every significant business out there in America. But let’s remain at 2016 just for the example used by the Motley Fool.
In the last few days, a debate has been raging in the biker community about Harley-Davidson announcing it would have to shift some of its production overseas to Europe. This because of the Tariffs placed against it by the EU. If the Thailand plant was a kick in the nuts to the workers of the Kansas plant.The news Harley was attempting this stunt. Represent a knock out punch to alot of those who have remained steadfast behind Harley-Davidson for most of their adult lives.
“The Closing of the Kansas City Plant, all those jobs are going to York!” Sadly, this is not the case at all. It’s being reported only 150 to 200 of those jobs are going to the York Plant. The rest are being shipped over to Thailand. (USA TODAY)
Many will say in order for Harley-Davidson to compete globally they have to maintain some of it’s manufacturing in strategic countries to supply the demand. Here is the problem with that argument from my standpoint. Harley-Davidson has about a 50% market share in the Big Mile Market. It’s what they are well-known for. In fact many people will shoot that number out like it’s a determination of the companies health. What most will not say is the Big Bike market is merely that. Just one portion of the motorcycle market. They may be doing great in the Big Bike sector. But they are getting their asses handed to them in all the other sectors that matter. Example- The 750cc to 1000cc market. This market segment after-all makes up the largest segment of motorcycle purchases worldwide. This is one of the reasons Harley-Davidson finally came out with it’s smaller 550 and 750cc models. Even the company knew they had to get into that market segment to be viable.
In my own opinion, it was a clever move on Harley-Davidson part. The problem was Harley-Davidson came to the party late. One of the biggest issues Harley has consistently stuck with outdated lines of motorcycles. Year after Year it would push the same lines. Sure, it would improve something here or there. But in the end. It was the same look and feel as the model the year before. This doomed Harley-Davidson to what it’s considered today. “The Old Man’s Motorcycle” among the generation that Harley needed to bring into the lifestyle. Foreign manufactures like Yamaha, Honda and Suzuki have captured that market.
Before I go on. What the hell is Harley thinking trying to push off this new electric motorcycle? Sure, I appreciate the idea of the cost savings an electric motorcycle can provide someone. But the Harley-Davidson Livewire only has a range of 50 miles. WTF are they thinking even trying to introduce that to market? You can go out and purchase a Zero and go more than 250 miles. My advice. Put the “Livewire” back on the shelf until you can get the range worked out.
Let’s fast forward to yesterday. President Trump tweeted out that Harley-Davidson will be “Taxed like never before.” Article is actually above in the blue link. Take a look after this article. I agree with the President. Harley-Davidson has enjoyed loyalty most other brands could only dream of. Instead of returning that loyalty. Harley-Davidson stuck it to everyone with their sub-par motorcycle and extreme prices. If you’re a Harley loyalist take an objective look over the past few years. Has Harley Davidson been more concerned about you the customer or has it been more concerned about the shareholders? It’s a legit question. For all the talk of having to survive in the global economy has Harley-Davidson sacrificed who they are as a company?
Let’s all be honest. Harley-Davidson was a draw because the product was American Made and defined what Americana was supposed to be about. Freedom and a no-nonsense attitude to call out something that wasn’t right. Basically those two qualities define bikers. But they also define what it is to be American. In my opinion Harley-Davidson lost those two qualities long ago. Since the 1990’s Harley has done nothing but place the bottom line and interest of the shareholders first. It let customer service slip off terribly. It didn’t care about putting out a product line that would stay ahead of the competition and relied on past loyalties to carry it forward into the future. That kind of plan has now backfired and put the company into a terrible position.
Harley has no choice now but to abandon what so many loyalist liked about the company. The truth of the matter is the lack of foresight from the company has landed it in the position of trying to go overseas and sell the image. They will use the old marketing gimmick they used here in the states.Freedom and rebellion. Of course that gets old especially when you know it was built on the backs of hard working blue collar American Workers. But that’s what a company like Harley does. They feed off those who supported and stayed loyal to it all those years. Well until it was time to discard them to the side for the benefit of the Shareholders. But that’s going to be it’s strategy overseas. I can bet you.
Everyone needs to face the fact Harley-Davidson is American in name only. It’s joined the long list of other American Company sell outs. From Auto Manufactures to Textile companies. It’s all about lower wage costs. It’s not about Made in America anymore. It’s not about the blue-collar worker. It’s about wall street. Face it. Harley-Davidson sold us all out.
Can the quintessential American brand Harley-Davidson ride out Trump’s tweet storms?Outlaw bikers say they’re loyal to Harley-Davidson, even as Trump’s trade policies push the company to look overseas