Harley-Davidson boss Matt Levatich (above) has called on motorcycle journalists to help the industry’s future by not just explaining the product but telling readers what it’s like to ride.
Harley and the motorcycle industry are facing a slump through trade wars, ageing riders, tough finance, impending recession and a lack of interest among millennials.
The finger of blame for the sales slump has been pointed at everyone from government and motorcycle manufacturers all the way down to dealers and customers.
This is the first time motoring journalists have been included.
Matt was talking to a bunch of “motor noters” at the recent media launch of the Low Rider S in Sydney.
“What we need to do as an industry — and I would include all of you in this request — is start leaning into what it’s like to ride,” the company president and CEO told us.
“Why should people ride? What is it that people get from riding? Why is it worth the trip?
“Because it’s hard: It takes a lot of energy, it takes a lot of commitment, it takes a lot of time and it costs a fair bit of money before you actually realise all the things you get from riding.”
The boss Hog says many in the industry, including journalists, have forgotten what it’s like to learn how to ride because we learnt so long ago.
“It’s intimidating, it’s hard, it’s challenging, but it’s an achievement,” he says.
“We need to help people understand why riding is worth the trip and what’s on the other side of becoming a great rider.
“What is the feeling? What’s the transcendent moments you have on a motorcycle that you never have in any other part of your life?
“If we can all collectively start to do that we’re gonna … start to light up people who might be on the outside looking in and wondering why.
“Start thinking about how you talk about what it means to be a rider, not just about what it means to have a great product to ride.
“If we all do that, we will all be stronger as an industry and we will all have a great future.
Matt was only in town a couple of days and was limited to talks to staff, dealers and two media agencies; sadly not us.
We were not allowed to ask any questions, so after his talk I rushed up to ask a quick question before the minders could lead their boss away to safety.
“What does Ewan (McGregor) think of the LiveWire (Harley’s electric motorcycle)?” I asked.
He laughed and said: “Yes, I’ve seen the spy photos too.”
Matt was referring to Instagram photos of Ewan and Charley Boorman on LiveWires for their Long Way Up ride from Tierra del Fuego in South America to LA.
That’s when he was led away before I could ask about the effect of Trump’s trade wars and when we would start getting Thai-made Harleys in Australia.
Shame he didn’t talk about Ewan and Charley’s adventure because that could inspire many future riders just as their first two Long Way instalments inspired thousands of adventure riders.