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FortNine Does an In-Depth Look at Harley’s Slow Suicide

FortNine Harley-Davidson

There’s Still Some Hope for HD

Harley-Davidson is struggling through a very tough time right now. I’ve written about it and so have countless others, but FortNine has done one of the better, in-depth looks at The Motor Company and its predicament. It recently posted a video to its YouTube channel that illustrates Harley’s current situation. 

By looking back over the last several decades and looking at what HD is currently doing with its stock prices, the below video paints the picture of Harley’s struggles and future challenges well.

Harley is a victim of its own strategies and past successes, and it appears to be dying a slow death. It has a huge image problem and a move to new kinds of bikes and products seems to be a strategy that will simply take too long when it’s bleeding out. The new CEO of the company is shaking things up with a new corporate strategy, but that is fraught with its own challenges.

Whether you love or hate Harley, you have to admit the company is an important force in motorcycling worldwide and especially in North America. It’s my view that we should all be rooting for Harley to succeed, but it has a very tough road ahead of it, and as I’ve said before my confidence that Harley can do the right things has long since disappeared. I hope they can pull off a comeback.

  1. The entire North American motorcycle market is dying by inches… being killed off by egregious insurance rates, endless safetycrat/media attacks (EVERYONE KNOWS motorcycles are dangerous) and Vision Zero running media interference for Tesla, busily making roads safe for Autonomous Vehicles.

    When I started riding in the late 1970’s, used bikes were a cheap form of transportation that were also fun to ride, easy to park just about anywhere they would fit.

    North America has become a hostile society towards motorcycles. The last MIC survey I can find of the US public found that about 75% of US citizens had a negative or “don’t care” attitude towards motorcycles. Parents all over the US wouldn’t let their bubble-wrap kids get on a motorcycle for anything.

    There’s yer problem.

    Harley missed a lot of opportunities, but they did try to go small-bike, buying Aermacchi. The “real” Harley types said they weren’t “real” Harleys, and Honda’s “nicest people” weren’t in a hurry to go to a Harley dealership to see if the rebadged Aermacchi bikes were worth the trip.

    A bit of a Catch-22 building on the Outlaw image, then wondering why Joe and Jane Public don’t rush to buy.

    1. You nailed it AP! I agree with this more than Ryan F9’s assessment although I see his point about relying on tariffs to limit competition.

      I also disagree with Ryan when he says Harley shouldn’t innovate with new products. I just think they should do it right instead of at the wrong time and in the wrong way as they did with the VRod, Buell, XR1200 and the Livewire.

      I think the Pan America could really be good if they spent the proper effort building it like how Triumph has their 1200 Scrambler.

      1. How else can you explain multiple consecutive quarter-over-quarter declines in both sales and market share?

        It sounds to me like the “Harley Haters” are putting Harley to rest…

    2. Completely right AP!! I´m European and live in Europe, being riding for +30 years, follow the USA motorcycle scene and that´s the problem with the Americans regarding motorcycles. (I drive in your country a lot !) Here in Europe, it´s the other way round, motorcycles are a needed form of transport and very well received. Now with the pandemic it´s being even more promoted and accepted.

  2. My suggestions for HD gleaned from my past years on two wheels.

    1. Take care of your customers. Stop weaseling out of warranty coverage at the first hint of non-Screaming Eagle slip ons.

    2. Work on your quality control. I’ve owned 6 Asian bikes without a hint of trouble except for a flat tire. My one FLH was sidelined for half a riding season waiting for a backordered transmission bearing from China. My new Electra Glide’s rear shocks started leaking oil before the end of year two. You can do better than that. The big Asian four do.

    3. Do keep making the magic machines you make, but when you want to build something for the young folks with KTMs on their minds, ditch the V-twin lawnmower under square stuff and offer a fresh modern power plant. Look to Triumph’s success with their no-nonsense 3 cylinder sport bike sold along with the vertical twin heritage Bonnies. Too bad Eric Buell isn’t around to help you now.

    Please do not fail. Nobody wants to see HD disappear.

  3. I don’t want harley to disappear, I want them to become inaudible. Sick of the noise – if they go down I will not miss the racket.

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