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Harley-Davidson Didn’t Wrap Up 2019 on a High Note

2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire

Some Stinging HD News for the End of 2019

Nobody expected Harley-Davidson to have a great 2019. However, the year was a little worse than expected. The company saw an 8.5 percent decline in revenue, according to Reuters. That includes motorcycle sales, merchandise, and accessories. All told, the company still pulled in $874.1 million.

The company has seen sales fall in the past 12 quarters. This is forcing Harley to make some tough decisions. Revenue was not helped by tariffs that have been imposed lately. These tariffs made it harder for Harley to see a profit on the bikes it does sell.

As you can imagine, none of this is very inspiring for the company’s stock. Looking a little longer-term, the stock price has dropped by 44 percent over the past five years. The fact of the matter is that the industry is down and Harley has been losing customers to age and not able to get new ones for years.

To its credit, Harley has made efforts to change its image and attract new buyers. The company has the LiveWire and an electric bike push, and it has the Pan America and the Bronx coming soon. The question I have is will it be soon enough. I don’t ever see Harley dominating sales like it once did, but the company needs to stop the bleeding. It’ll be interesting to see how things go in 2020.

  1. Harley needs to focus on there touring line. Rather than updating one thing at a time, build a complete package that can truely compete. GM did it right with the C8, rewarded with sales that exceed production.

    Focus on what made Harley before trying to compete in the highly competitive adventure bike markets, sport bike markets and extremely small electric bike markets.

    Put quality first! Reduce production to rate of sales.

    Stop putting the stockholders ahead of your motorcycle customers.

    It’s not just about Harley customers aging, it’s also about long term customers buying other brands. I’m one that bought a BMW K1600B after 28 years on 12 new Harley’s.

    I’m still pulling for Harley, hope they figure this out. It all comes down to product in a competitive marketplace.

    1. Can’t they do both?
      I agree they should put quality first and update their tried and true models (touring), but I think they can only do that after the Harley purists are willing to see Harley as a modern motorcycle company instead of a traditional one as I think they are now.
      Why did you buy the BMW? Because it’s a better motorcycle when it comes to tech and performance. I see hints that Harley is heading that way gradually, but the typical Harley fans don’t like change.
      I think they need to figure out how to build a really affordable bike that equals the Japanese and European bikes in performance too. Once they do that they’ll be right there with anyone.

    2. I agree with Jim here. It has to be both. The touring models are a huge thing for HD, and they need to make those models the best in the world.

      But that only addresses part of their problem. The company also needs to put out other models to attract new riders. They can’t live only on touring models alone.

      Get a rider riding a Harley from the start and then keep them on HD their entire time on a bike. That means adding some new and interesting models to the lineup that are affordable and on par with the competition.

      1. And I disagree with you both.

        Harley does not need to convince purists of anything. They need to make their brand appealing to Milleneals and Gen-Z’s, many of whom view their products as old, outdated, and for a demographic/culture that they don’t understand or relate to.

        Remember Hot Topic? Remember how they catered to “goths” and “scene kids”? Remember how goths and scene kids don’t really exist anymore? Imagine their fate if they didn’t change with the times.

        Harley has not yet learned this lesson despite 12 consecutive quarters of declines and losses.

        Revitalizing their product range is a big part of the equation, but it’s only part of it. They have to solve their brand problem, or soon enough they will no longer be a brand.

  2. Young people may or may not be interested in the classic H-D scene. But they can’t afford what Harley dealers are charging for the bikes. Until that changes, H-D has nowhere to go but down the tubes at least as far as US sales are concerned.

    1. Harley appeal is largely with aging baby boomers although there are many younger people who will buy one and within a few months you will see the bike on Craigs List or cycle trader. While many models look good after you spend a small fortune to buy one you expect more and just is not there. Harley is not marketing to a changing population who want smaller bikes to putt putt around urban centers or a long weekend. I owned one Harley and rode police Harleys for 5 years. I will never own another.

      Honda F6b

    2. Buying something with “Harley” on it means your going to pay more, a lot more. Be it gloves, shoes, jacket, bike. Over priced and not better quality. Being a member of the “club” cost too much for me. When I compare what came on my FJR1300 to any Harley then look at the price it’s a no brainer. Those I know who want to get into riding don’t even consider Harley because of the price first off, secondly they don’t want to have that label put on them. Don’t know what it’ll take to turn it around, and I sure hope they do cause I really like the bikes, putting all that other stuff aside. But I’m afraid it’s too late. I don’t see them dropping their prices by 35% to get buyers and don’t think anything else will work.

      1. FJ1300 costs £4000 more than my Sport glide, here in the UK. Okay, my SG may not have the various electronic gadgets and full fairing, but is still cheaper and will get you the same places. So price is not really a deciding factor. I do agree with you about all the other over priced items and these could easily be reduced in price.

    3. You nailed it Christopher.

      Their image isn’t appealing nor is their product line and price point.

      They introduce an electric bike and then price it like it is an SUV.

      Clueless management and even worse marketing has just about doomed HD.

  3. I was new to Harley in 2018. I liked the look of the new Sport Glide and fortunately I chose correctly. There are still some young people that like the looks of Harley, but shy away because of the expected price. When people say to me they are expensive, I reply, ‘so are plenty of other bikes. Just look at BMW, they have always been expensive, but they have a great quality expectation’. BMW’s are not brilliant quality and have always had their faults, I know, I have had a few. I was the same, always fancied a Harley, but wanted something less agricultural. The new M8 ranged all that, but at the loss of the Harley sound. I am now 70 years old and can just about afford, my Sport Glide. My problem with it is, that after spending £15k, I have to then start spending on a comfortable seat for my wife and a backrest to keep her on. So there is another £900 gone. The luggage bags are good for the odd shopping trip, but are too small for a couple of weeks holiday, plus they are so flimsy. BMW bags are superb and do not cost any more than HD. They even come colour coded. A big HD tourer is silly money compared to a BMW, and probably a Gold Wing. Although I class a GW as a two wheeled car, rather than a bike. It would help a little if HD reduced their accessories in price, considerably, as the cost of them outside the US is silly and restricts sales. The major problem with HD outside the USA is the perceived tractor like heritage they have, compared to Japanese and European bikes and until that comparison diminishes, they will not be increasing their worldwide sales much. Improvements now, will take years to show in sales figures.

  4. They need to get costs and pricing under control while developing new models to address the changing demographics and EPA regulations. Why would someone spend $28k on a Road Glide, or Indian Challenger for that matter, when the BMW K1600B comes in at ~$4k less depending on options for both. I’ve owned two Harleys over the past 10 years and have not had an issue with quality at all. However, I would be lying if I told you reported issues with the M8 don’t concern me (sumping and tranny fluid transfer). I have an M8 Road King and have yet to see any of these issues in the 10k miles I’ve put on it but it does concern me.

    I think in general Harley gets a bad rap for poor quality so I guess I’ve been fortunate. I’ve also owned two Ducati’s and had more issues with those two than the two Harley’s.

    With new models on the way that address some of the demographics, they need to get pricing under control.

    1. I definitely had a major issue with Harleys reliability.I bought 2 brand new ones first a’17 cvo streetglide 110. I had a stage 4 put on it to even keep up with my gold wing buddies.First day out I hit the starter button and destroyed everything inside the primary case. Four days in a hotel while everybody else was enjoying their ride. Then I bought a brand new 114 FatBoy loved it but the whole speedometer would fog up and rain inside.Harley wouldn’t warrant it.I immediately traded it in on a ‘18 BMW k1600b and couldn’t be happier.Performance in spades ,handles ,stops and loaded with options for 25,000. I’ll never throw a leg over a Harley-Davidson again.

  5. For decades, Harley thought they’d keep their customers for ever, and new generations would simply join the ranks.
    There are more manufacturers offering loads more choice nowadays, and taking HD customers by the bunch.
    HD have only just started to adjust, but it may be too late.

  6. Harley sh*t the bed when they refused to take a serious interest in properly marketing the Buell line that they took a 51% control of. Only a handful of HD dealers embraced the Buell’s and wanted to sell and service them. I owned 2 after a metric cruiser. Those bikes are what they needed to focus on for growth. Performance bikes to compete with the Japanese manufacturers, and a capable sport ADV in the Ulysses. Once HD folded the Buell brand in 2010 they took a huge step backward. I kept mine until parts were becoming harder to source. I’m on a 2016 KTM 1290 Super Adventure now. Talk about performance and features for the price, great bike. I’d never consider a Harley product again. Not everyone wants to ride a $20 – $30,000+ couch that weighs a ton and doesn’t handle.

  7. By waiting too long to look ahead, they are now looking back, back at the glory days, which are gone for good.
    It’s a shame.

  8. 1.Harley needs to stop china making HD parts,
    2.Harley needs to focus on price to compete greed is not nice,
    3.Harley needs to get the reliability of other makes have,
    4.Harley needs to realise that things change & must keep to,
    5.Harley can not expect the same $ for parts made in china,
    6.Harley had a reputation well people can have reputions to but as they become old younger fitrer models like to boost their own reputations by taking hasbeens if you get my drift.

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