Fresh from a weekend 120th Anniversary celebration in Budapest, Hungary…Harley Davidson fans would be correct in thinking that all is well with the mighty American motorcycle brand. Surely there are too many owner riders having such a great time riding their bikes and holding events that there would never be a whisper of discontent or early signs of troubling times at the motor company?
The problem here is threefold for the company and simply put, there is a growing divide between the loyalists and those who would grumble and leave especially where being reactionary to modern day prices, product decisions and the future directions the company is heading towards.
For the most part, people will choose a motorcycle to ride and enjoy it for what it is rather than be so concerned about the company that made it, however many Harley Davidson fans do tend to have a stronger connection.
However, whilst the connection with the brand of motorcycle is undeniable and it lives strong in Harley Owners Groups, motorcycle clubs or independent riders, the problem is whether existing owners will continue to buy brand new motorcycles or will new customers even head towards expensive brands such as H-D?
2023 was always going to be a troubling year for the automotive world. Some would undoubtedly thrive but others would suffer with growing hesitation in the marketplace. Could Harley Davidson be one of those companies stumbling over the masses who are opting to hold fire rather than pull the trigger?
We are just a couple of weeks away from Harley Davidson releasing their second quarter results of 2023. Whilst there were some positive aspects of the Q1 results, it was stark that motorcycle sales were down and there were substantial credit losses too.
Would any lingering doubt over the economy or the brand ever impact the balance books? Well early indications would appear to demonstrate that it has. The stock price has failed to substantially rise above its year low…currently trading at $33.41 at the time of writing, there have been probings and questions of who owns the stock and what is influencing the decision making from within. The LiveWire ‘experiment’ appears to be at risk of becoming a monumental disaster for the company, an embarrassment on profit and loss and another tool to drive a wedge between the Harley Davidson vibrating, thumping, petrol engine appreciation society.
Let alone the questionable PR campaigns that have returned to rub salt into open wounds and alignments with other faltering brands that are making consumers wondering if their once firmly held brand loyalty is as strong or even being reciprocated.
Harley Davidson are not only facing the economic battle with other manufacturers to win the hearts and minds of new motorcycle consumers but it is fighting with itself to keep the company ‘on brand’ and not become some fashionista producer that sways in the wind without care of upsetting the deep rooted connections.
Of course any company must look towards the future and their movement into EV and smaller engine bikes has to be a good thing, but it is how they achieve this transition that will be the deciding factor. Will they produce small EV bikes that masses will want to buy or will they remain boutique in their approach? Will they sell the small engine bikes in greater markets or keep it to those who are most welcoming?
Even if the Q2 figures do not ease concerns, it is not necessarily the end of the band but rather confirms an increasing disconnect and greater movement towards other types of motorcycles…ones that H-D do not currently sell.