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Archive for September, 2008

2009 Ford F-450

2009 Ford F-450

Released just in time to haul your new Harley-Davidson Tri-Glide Classic to motorcycle events, Ford teamed up with Harley to produce the first ever F-450. 

Let’s call it the “Big Hog Daddy” trike hauler of the road!

We’ve seen the Ford Harley-Davidson editions in F-250 and F-350 versions, but never before has the colossal F-450 come in Harley style and trim. As with the other Harley versions, it’s all about looking good sitting still. Given the fuel mileage that might be all you can afford!  The new F-450 is downright intimidating with its massive grille. Its gigantic size would impress even long-haul truck drivers!  The Harley model has even more presence thanks to its blue flames leaping out of the side vents and dual rear wheels and fender flares.

There are many new “smart” features embedded in the truck.  Most notable is the “Tool Link”, a Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) asset tracking system developed with DEWALT, the power tool dudes, and ThingMagic, experts on embedded RFID technology.  This enables truck owners to maintain a detailed real-time inventory of the tools or equipment stored in the vehicle.  I suppose you can rest assured that as you ready to haul your Tri-Glide to the next motorcycle event you’ll have all the appropriate tools to wrench on the chrome accessories?!

It seems strange to me to create this sort of marketing mix to promote both brands.  Especially for a truck that has a MSRP of $59,560 and optioned up it quickly gets into the $80,000+ range.   Clearly not everyone can afford!  This class of vehicle and the fuel guzzling attributes seem very out of touch in today’s mortgage meltdown climate.  But then again if I think more about it, it makes perfect sense. In the U.S. 40% of Harley owners drive a full-size pickup truck – many of those are likely Ford F-Series.  So, what do two companies having sales and financial issues do?  Target joint customers with this massive truck and turn what used to be just a workhorse into a fashion statement for the rich and famous who are motorcycle enthusiasts.

All dressed up there’s just no way to mistake this “Big Hog Daddy” for anything else other than a Tri-Glide hauler.

Photo courtesy of Ford.

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HD Servi-Car

HD Servi-Car

Harley-Davidson built a Servi-Car (a three-wheeled utility motorcycle) from 1932 to 1973.  Then for the 2009 model year Harley introduced the new Tri-Glide Classic

Customers who are turned off by the thought of sliding atop a motorcycle have more options these days, but few options exist for small displacement (below 400cc) trikes.  

I’m speculating here, but Harley may be looking to change this and bring a more diverse selection to new riders entering the sport.  According to the Wired Magazine Blog, Harley is planning to introduce a “leaning trike” at the Intermot Motorcycle show in Cologne, Germany next month.  They surfed across information and images from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and posted the information which shows a trike with 2-wheels upfront and pivoting on an independent suspension to provide motorcycle-like “leaning” capability.

One could argue this is similar to the Can-am Spyder Roadster designed by Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) and that Harley is playing copy-cat in its effort to create a new category of on-road vehicles.  Who knows.

If indeed small displacement then clearly it’s all about sales of Harley products.  Scooter sales have skyrocketed in the first half of 2008.  Up 66% as compared to a year ago and at the same time overall motorcycle sales have only achieved a meager 0.5% increase.  Meanwhile Harley sales have decreased 8.7% so for them to go looking at other alternatives would seem prudent for the stockholders.

However, the last time I was on a trike I was 5 years old.  I had a neighbor buddy that stated the only reason to ride something with three wheels was that I was too scared to ride something with two…I reacted and went to two.

Clearly I’m not a motoring writer and just not connecting with these.  Is it closer to a car than a motorbike?  Do you steer it like a snowmobile and forget that the brake is on your foot rather than the handlebars?  Do you clamp your thighs to it like it’s a Quad in the sand dunes or did I lose you all with that semi-bikespeak and should be using horse riding metaphors?

Two-wheels up front or two in back, a trike is a trike and they have an image problem as a toy.  Even the fact that you don’t have to have a motorcycle license doesn’t make sense to me.  And if you are a biker who has reach that “certain age” and starting to think it would be nice to…these will look just as silly being trailered as the motorcycle’s do today.

Images courtesy of Wired and U.S. Patent Office.

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The story of Chicken Little is an allegory about alarmists, which concludes with an admission about ill-founded apocalyptic predictions.

Thinking about how “The Sky is Falling“…on my return ride from Street Vibrations yesterday…I couldn’t help but wonder if the speculation, rumors, concerns, worry and numerous citizen calls created an apocalyptic “environment” for the rally? 

SWAT

SWAT

I was in Virginia City during “Street V” and I’ve never witnessed (in the U.S.) so many submachine guns, stun grenades and specialized fire arms attached to so many SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) members… all of them willingly ready to perform dangerous operations.  They were there to prevent another motorcycle rally from going sideways or prevent a terrorist attack by stud-n-leather clad motorcycle riders! 

Talk about taking apocalyptic prevention measures… turns out that Virginia City pulled out all the stops (and city budget $$ too!) to have these specialized paramilitary tactical units “lurking” in doorways and engage any potential armed criminal or take down with steel reinforced boots any dangerous biker who ate one too many $5 combo hot dogs and beer.

Supposedly the apocalyptic predictions started just a few days before the Street Vibrations.  Rumors started about biker “club” tensions or retaliation as a result of the San Francisco’s HAMC chapter president, Mark ‘Papa’ Guardado who was shot outside a bar earlier this month. He was a high-profile figure in the motorcycle club.  A rival Mongols “club” member,  Christopher Ablett is a suspect in the case.  Since the funeral there has been a pipe bomb explosion in San Jose aimed at members of the Mongols.

Phone calls flooded the Nevada police lines with residents stating their concerns of biker violence spilling over into Reno, Sparks, Carson City and Virginia City.  As a result the law enforcement agencies beefed up and planned for the worst of the worst.  I didn’t see it, but it’s likely snipers with high-powered rifles and night vision optics were watching my every hot dog bite and beer burp?

Virginia City Police

Virginia City Police

There are so many analogies between motorcycle events and that of Chicken Little.  The first is that all the doom and gloom are unnecessarily alarming.  Second, they expose the inability of the average (non-motorcycle riding) citizen and their motorcycle hating followers to process relevant information and synthesize rational, appropriate interpretations.  The majority of people and motorcycles at Street Vibrations are recreational riders and this was overkill to the power of TEN.  An incredible show of AGGRESSION or police force which did NOT correctly interpret the situation or was supported by the facts. 

Yes, there was a large “Red and White” presence at Street Vibrations.  I saw a number of Vagos, Henchmen as well as many other “clubs”.  Many of the clubs have a no colors rule and were not highly visible, but you could easily tell if a group were part of some “gathering”.  I did not see Mongols.

I believe that law enforcement were tricked and fell for “the sky is falling” trap!  It’s another example of how the Outlaw Motorcycle “Clubs” behavior helps set the overall “tone” for many motorcycle events and the police agencies worked in cooperation to miss-interpret.

To be fair, the Sheriff reported that on Saturday there was at one point about 11,000 bikers in Virginia City and they arrested 6 people.  One for domestic violence, 2 for DUI, and the remainder for disturbing the peace and indecent exposure. 

Yeah, the sky is falling…

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Have we become immune to marketing ploys? 

Here comes another one in my inbox (slightly modified by yours truly).  Have you notice how Harley-Davidson has put the CVO operations in charge of advertising?  I speculate this is true because those Scream’n Eagle upgrades on all its advertising lately has me totally overloaded at how fast and how often they seem to come.

Simply put, advertising overload is what happens when you’ve seen so many ads, that you become desensitized. You lose your ability to think or differentiate what’s real vs. the “cool-aid…everything and everyone wants to attract your attention…obviously this will translate into you buying something!

Think back…..remember when you first realized that people could make money online?  Remember the excitement?  Did you “buy” into it all? The hype, the promises, and the exaggerations of riches beyond your wildest dreams. Did you actually wrap up that $5 bill in a piece of paper and mail it to the last name on the list in the chain letter?

We’re under siege by motorcycle advertisers, and the problem is more serious than just irritating dinnertime phone calls or endless ads during movie previews or commercial names for sports stadiums or e-mail boxes that are clogged by unsolicited emails.  So here is my public outcry and request to put me on all the “do-not-disturb” lists or delete my email address and I’m now smarter than a chain letter so don’t use “faux marketing” and SPAM’ers beware…pick your advertising term of the day…

As the Harley marketers re-jigger and focus on the return of their media campaigns and how to reach more and more of us please understand that the most effectively way to reach me is to not reach out at all….I’ll come to you when I’m ready for any transaction. 

I’m of the opinion that the tyranny of too much isn’t necessarily better in advertising.

Photo is courtesy of Harley-Davidson’s email blast with some “slight” modifications.

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It’s here! Street Vibrations 2008 starts Thursday … and at least for me, anyway I’m headed out on the road and the journey starts tomorrow. 

With part time hobbies of blogging and photography I try to “cover” the various rallies, especially any event I attend.  You’d think Harley-Davidson would comp an oil rag or an oil change…something for all the free publicity I provide the motor company, but they don’t and I really could care. I do my fare share of ranting about their dysfunctions and the arrogant dealer network so why risk a free oil change attempt to influence my semi-subjective reporting!

This year, I think I’ll be following the ‘shortest-distant-between-two-points’ theory and try and avoid the rain that wants to wreak havoc on our end-of-summer riding party!

I’m traveling light and will likely hold off on blog updates until I return.  I will get on the road early as it will be a most ambitious day mile wise, plus, I can’t wait to get rolling in the wind.

See you in Reno.  Travel safe my friends.

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Okay, received some feedback to “lighten up” after my post on the financial bail-out debacle.

I thought long and hard about some lighter topics and ideas — then it came to me — now that we know David Duchovny (of X-Files fame) has checked into rehab for sex addiction it’s no longer inappropriate to discuss motorcycle sex.   

No, I’m not talking about sex-education though the use of Miss Nix burlesque, song, puppetry and/or mythical creatures.  Nor am I talking about Proposition K – San Francisco’s hot-button on prostitution decriminalization that has reached the November ballot. 

I’m talking about “Sex on a Motorcycle” — the alcoholic drink, what did you think?!  For reference it includes one ounce each of melon liqueur, Blue Curacao, pineapple juice, coconut rum and sweet and sour mix.  Shake and pour over ice.

Tease enough I have…syndicated humor columnist B. Elwin Sherman has written a clever article about Sex On A Harley-Davidson and tackles the question of safety without giving up the thrills.  Not to be a plot spoiler (so to speak), but the subtle humor and innuendo’s are comical.

 

“Take your stimulating cues from Harley’s new 6-speed transmissions.  This gives you extra level of arousal, and an opportunity to include another plateau of delight….but, don’t lose sight of your RPMs.  Operating a motorcycle as a guide…making the right moves; throttle-up, releasing, clutching, shifting, re-engaging – and all the while increasing your overall speed and distance as everything else passes by…”

Check out Sherman’s post for an interesting and humorous read.  And remember to accelerate coming out of the curves!

SATC photo courtesy HBO.

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Harley-Davidson Survey

Harley-Davidson Survey

The first principle of creating a good survey is FOCUS.  By having specific objectives ahead of time you can expect to obtain usable information from a survey.  Those objectives drive the questions and every question will in fact tie back to the specific objective.

Disguised as a survey I was solicited by Harley-Davidson’s “research team” for feedback on the 105th Anniversary event.

Cool.  I figured they want to connect with their customers and engage in a dialogue to further connect the customer base with the motor company. 

Typical Survey Question

Typical Survey Question

And so you know…in full disclosure here…I don’t have a master’s degree in applied mathematics or a Ph.D. in statistics, but after six questions into the survey I realized -HEY- their jacking me around and vetting my responses (the customer) into potential sales leads.  It’s NOT really about encouraging feedback on the 105th event (well a little) or how to improve Harley motorcycles. 

Here are a few examples of the survey questions for you to make up your own determination:

  1. How likely is it that you will purchase a motorcycle for your own use in the next 12 months?
  2. How long from now do you plan to purchase a motorcycle?
  3. If you were purchasing a motorcycle today, which makes/brands would you seriously consider purchasing?
  4. And, which make/brand would you most likely purchase?  (Multi-choice: BMW, Honda, Yamaha etc.)
  5. Before taking this survey, were you aware that Harley-Davidson produces “anniversary edition” model motorcycles (e.g., 100th Anniversary, 105th Anniversary)?
  6. How interested are you in purchasing “anniversary edition” motorcycles (e.g., 100th Anniversary, 105th Anniversary)?
  7. How likely would you be to attend another Anniversary Celebration in the future?
  8. Which of these 105th Anniversary events/activities did you attend or participate in?
  9. Please rate each of these 105th Anniversary Celebration events or activities.
  10. How much do you agree that the 105th Anniversary … a). Has sped up my plans to buy a new H-D motorcycle? b). Has helped me decide which H-D I’ll buy next? c). Made me feel closer than ever to Harley-Davidson?
  11. What impact, if any, did attending the 105th Anniversary celebration have on your feelings about each of these co-sponsors? (Ford, Shell, etc.,)
  12. What was the best event and why that did you attend?
  13. What needs to be improved for next time?
  14. Which previous Harley-Davidson anniversary events did you attend? (Choose 90; 95th; 100th)
  15. How far did you travel from home to get to the 105th Anniversary in Milwaukee?
  16. Which best describes your accommodations/lodging while attending the 105th Anniversary?

I counted 7 of 16 questions probing on my purchase intent!  I would think in today’s somewhat depressed economic and highly competitive climate, it’s more important than ever to understand your customer and their needs.  Clearly this survey is about parsing 105th attendees into potential buyers. They are splitting us into “buy now” vs. “buy later” camps. And the buy later group means spend NO more time or $$ to acquire this customer. It’s all about the sales ABC’s…

Survey photo’s courtesy of HD Research web site.

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