Harley-Davidson Concept Bike – Source Harley-Davidson Facebook Page
This ad caught my attention because the bike that HD was promoting was vastly different than anything I had seen before. Generally, when you think of HD motorcycles, what comes to my mind is the big bikes that are often customized by their riders. These have been the backbone of HD’s business for decades.
But this new bike was not anything like the traditional HD products. The FB post said, “Although we’re still committed to staying a leader in heavyweight touring and cruisers, we’re working to develop new ways to reach even more riders, like our lightweight electric concepts.”
As younger generations have come of age, they are not buying as many HD’s as their parents and grandparents did. HD has had four straight yearsof declining sales. In 2017 they had a 10% drop in sales of motorcycles. Numbers like this are simply not sustainable if the company is to survive.
Recognizing their problems, HD has decided to develop and enter into the electric motorcycle market. HD has a goal of adding two million new riders in the US over the coming decade. In many ways this is a company returning to their historical roots. HD as a company evolved out of the bicycle market when William S. Harley and Walter Davison put an engine on a bike in 1903.
The Facebook comments were harsh and critical of HD by many of the “traditional” HD riders. As in typical social media fashion, most of the comments were without fact and mostly based on farfetched non-sense. Many didn’t want anything to change and felt that HD was losing their mind my trying to do something different.
HD is facing reality head on. They are balancing new ventures while staying true to their more recent traditional markets of the bigger bikes. Company leaders know if they do not change and adapt to the current market conditions, they will be out of business. Period. Simply trying to hang onto their legacy, will not be the means to a bright future.
WB Gregory J. Knott is the Worshipful Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 in Ogden (IL) and a plural member of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 (IL), Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL) and Naval Lodge No. 4 in Washington, DC.