There was a time that riding a motorcycle only meant something if it was a Harley Davidson motorcycle. In order to get respect and be in a real motorcycle club you had to own a Harley. All of that is now changing and the once mighty symbol of freedom no longer comes with the automatic prestige. The company that was once king has started to take a back burner. Harley has no one to blame for this except itself.
There are still numerous celebs that won’t give up their hogs.
The name “Harley Davidson” became the name it is today from all of the hard working middle class folk that wanted to experience the freedom of the road and the camaraderie that can not be experienced in any other fashion. Since the company and their bikes started to appeal to a different class of customer, they started to forget about the core of who built the company and prices went up. The “bikers” became weekend warriors and Harley ate it up at the cost of risking the base that made them who they are.
When the reality T.V. shows revolving around motorcycles and the lifestyle it brings started to come about in the early 2000’s, it started appealing to a whole new class of customers. Next thing you know, you see all of the people that want a 50k chopper flocking to the nearest Harley dealer looking for the next best thing. Feeding into this frenzy they started pushing products you wouldn’t usually see at a franchise, and sticking a matching price tag with it. With all of this, they had lost site on quality of bike and started to compromise their reputation from the original faithful customer base.
Well what happens when a fad is over? What happens when everyone is done watching Biker Build Off and Orange County Choppers? How about when it is paired up with a recession? The used Harley and chopper market gets flooded which drives the value down on something that has already started to receive a lesser perceived value. Plus, why would a customer go buy a brand new Street Glide when they can buy a very gently used (if at all) one on craigslist for 10k less and then use the left over money to customize? All this does to new bike production is slow it down and cause lay offs.
Lets not forget the babes that ride, such as Pink on her blacked out Sportster.
It’s difficult to even count on the loyal base who were the ones that started the “you’re not a REAL BIKER unless you own a Harley Davidson” trend. More and more of them are switching to Victory’s and Indian’s and now going by the saying of “who cares what you ride, as long as you are on two wheels”. Harley, feeling this crunch, started shipping production over seas. As a result, the product quality suffered. Hell, according to The Wall Street Journal in October 2015 Harley had already recalled 312,000 bikes with two months still left in the year.
What does this mean for the once mega giant? The new generation of riders are steering towards the Honda’s, Yamaha’s, Indian’s, Suzuki’s, and Victory’s. Fact of the matter is, these companies are manufacturing a better product, which is providing Harley with a much smaller market share. Will Harley ever recover? We are sure they will figure out something but will it be enough? Will they be able to earn back the original “Harley Rider”? Or is the new way “just ride”?
As a Harley owner and rider, it all boils down to personal preference. Personally, I will always own a Harley! Can’t say for sure that I will own ONLY Harley’s, but I will most likely never buy new again.