Dec 12, 2006

Dealers Hold Key to Harley-Davidson's Future

There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that the king of the road – at least in the two wheel arena – is Harley-Davidson. But times are changing, and HD is once again returning to the one lever that has always been key to its market prowess – its dealer system. To sustain its stellar growth and market share, HD is asking its dealers once again to reinvent themselves – this time to increase the brand’s appeal to women and younger riders. Women often turn to BMW. Younger riders typically prefer Honda, Kawasaki and Yamaha.

  • Snider rode a Harley for many years before switching to a BMW and more recently a Honda Gold Wing touring bike. “Honda appeals to touring riders because of its strong dealer network and the comfort it's built into those bike. I can take off today for the Blue Ridge Mountains in western Virginia and find a Honda dealer probably every 50 miles.
Crain's Detroit Business
August 1, 2005

Attending to its dealer network is not new for Harley. Over the past two decades, the company pulled itself out of the ditch in great part by focusing on product quality and the experience, culture, and lifestyle aspirations consumer associate with a HD and its dealers. But its core market of aging baby boomers is maturing and growth is increasingly forecasted to come from new segments.

Key elements of Harley’s dealer network strategy:

  • Radical redesigns of dealer outlets to play up new consumer experiences
  • Dealer changes designed to appeal to women and new younger buyers
  • New motorcycle rental program designed to induce new riders into the experience
  • Expansion of local HOG user group activities and programs by dealers
  • New accessory merchandising and retailing programs
  • Huge investments in “destination” motorcycle retailing concepts
  • New entry brand (Buell) dealer programs
  • Aftermarket parts wholesale distribution improvements

Harley-Davidson’s CEO is crystal clear that the Harley-Davidson dealer network will make or break the company’s future results.

  • For the past decade, Harley-Davidson dealers have essentially been 'order takers,' making easy money opening a crate, overcharging customers, and rolling a motorcycle out the front door to rich urban bikers.
Jim Ziemer, Harley-Davidson CEO
Milwaukee Sentinal Journal
October 15, 2005

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