Archive for December, 2008

riding_happyIt’s been a roller coaster of a year. Full of accomplishments, but also a collision with the economic crisis has left many of us feeling cautious, nervous, and frustrated.

When I was younger there was little emphasis placed on making New Year resolutions. Resolution taking wasn’t actively encouraged yet as I progressed in years the concept became more interesting to me.  New Year resolutions seem too much about self improvement, attempts to try to change an aspect of oneself that one is not happy with (weight, personality, career etc.).  However, I’ve tended to look at resolutions more from the perspective of how to improve my motorcycle riding year and if I do look back at 2008 rides I review what could have gone better with the trips to improve future adventures.

I know that I’m NOT the only person in this country who’s fed up with what’s happening and have ranted my displeasure.  But, one conclusion I have come to for 2009 is to try and reject more of the negative thoughts that enter my head like mischievous demons.  Sure narrow minded customer service employees simply do not listen to what I’m saying because their bosses only give them 10 seconds to categorize me into the correct enquiry channel – ‘new orders’, ‘complaints’, ‘refunds’, ‘accounts’ etc. Or irritating advertisements for products that no one needs, or are so generic that they simply do not need advertising like electricity or soap.  Yes we have a bunch of clueless bozos steering the ship and corporate gangsters are stealing us blind.  But these situations shouldn’t prevent us from admiring the great things we’ve accomplished over the year in all its wonderful, and occasionally painful, glory.  My hope is that colleagues, family and friends will notice the [blogging] difference. Not only for the first month of 2009, but for the whole year!

In thinking of my motorcycle New Year’s resolutions I want to…

  1. Write more articles on rides and riding.
  2. Write about northwest motorcycle legislation directions.
  3. Ride more even when weather is less than cooperative.
  4. Make some major modifications to the Harley.
  5. Plan another multi-week adventure – and write about it.

What are you thinking about for your New Year’s resolutions?


Photo courtesy TLCGraphic


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santa_reflectionIndependent of which list you may have ended up on this year, may your Christmas holiday be filled with peace and joy. 

Thanks for spending time with this blog over the last year and I want to extend best wishes through-out the New Year.

Be good to each other…

Northwest Harley Blog

Photo courtesy Pedal Car.


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paradisehd_snowYesterday was the first day of winter.  Fierce winter storms and unusually cold temperatures smothered the northwest these past few days.  Portland, OR recorded the most snow fall on record since 1968!

Sure it’s not like the -40 degrees which northern Maine is experiencing, but none the less it’s cold with gusting winds, power outages, more than a foot of snow with ½ inch of freezing rain crust across the entire metro area.

I fired up the 4×4 and drove through the wintery mix to Paradise Harley-Davidson and took the above photo.  A memorable photo as it’s not something we see unless you’re in Montana or Northern Idaho!

Clearly this does not help the motorcycle sales situation…but does make for a great snow filled Christmas.


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finviz1Harley-Davidson Inc. (ticker symbol HOG) is cashless in Milwaukee.

The BizTimes Daily reports Harley-Davidson Warehouse Funding Corp. and Harley-Davidson Credit Corp. subsidiaries’ received $500 million last week in a loan advance from its lenders, which included JPMorgan Chase Bank (recently purchased WAMU) because of their inability to securitize bike loans.

Harley has burned through $221 million for the 9 months ending 28th September.  They borrowed over $1B (yes, BILLION) in that same period and paid out $225 million in dividends. 

bailout_appHarley-Davidson Financial Services Inc. (HDFS) continues to carry some significant bad debt.  UBS analyst Robert Farley estimated that HDFS will require $1.5 billion to continue funding its loan operations for 2009. The loan last week only provides $500 million thru March 31, 2009. Indicators suggest that HDFS has not reduced its lending to subprime borrowers (25 to 30 percent of loan portfolio) and the issues will only deepen.  Is this a sign of the future and one where HD needs to apply for a bailout?  Nearly a third of the people holding retail loans are subprime borrowers.  The default rates are increasing and HDFS can no longer sell risky loans as it once did.

HD may also be suffering from similar issues as GM — too many dealers (857 according to the dealer locator) and too many models available (6 Sportsters, 8 Softails, 5 Dynas, 3 VRods, 8 Touring, and 4 CVOs — that’s 30 bikes built off just 4 main chassis/engine combos).  Add in the Buell models and MV Augusta line-up and you start to get the picture.

Motorcycle dealers are struggling to cope with tightening credit and fewer lending sources.  With the exception of BMW, Harley and Honda who have their own financial arms the others rely primarily on HSBC and GE Money to underwrite loans.  In fact, Sparta Commercial Services Inc. announced it completed its first commercial fleet leasing transaction exclusively for Harley dealers.  Leasing has become popular with some Harley dealers as they can avoid having to buy the motorcycles and free up cash flow.

Is inventory of used motorcycles stacking up and dealers will be forced to stop taking trade-ins?  In the Northwest, dealers get some benefit from the unknown Spokane, WA repo auctions.  It’s clear the sensible days are over as we live in a rapidly changing financial world. 

Disclosure: author owns no HOG.

Photo courtesy of Finviz


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davidsonsMen have dominated the world of motorcycles.  Sure women on Harley’s date back to the early 1900’s and the first women’s motorcycle group in America was Motor Maids, which started in the 1930’s.   However, in the past 10 years or so women riders have skyrocketed.  Women love motorcycles, it’s a fact! Women riders during the last 20 years have gone from 4% to 12% of all motorcycles registered in the US. Women represent 10% of the U.S. motorcycle population, and nearly 12% of new Harley-Davidson purchasers.  The Motorcycle Safety Foundation estimates that one-third of students in the rider safety courses are female.  Harley has clearly figured out women are a growth market for a number of reasons and in that process they also discovered that following the money trail in a household often leads to women.

Karen Davidson

Karen Davidson

One individual who has shaped and dramatically influenced women riders is Karen Davidson, the great-granddaughter of HD co-founder, William A. Davidson.  She is the daughter of Willie G. Davidson, yet doesn’t seem to get a lot of press unless it’s about participating in a charity event.  As the Creative Director for General Merchandise and responsible for Harley-Davidson MotorClothes I found that somewhat peculiar.

Karen is “4th Generation” and one of three children by Willie G.  She studied fine arts and fashion design in college and was employed in the NYC garment industry for a time.  She began a free-lance leather design business in 1985 and joined HD in 1989.  The company created a new, branded line of apparel and accessories for its customers at that time – MotorClothes.  She is involved in most everything from creative direction of the leather collections to design of diamond rings.  She is an active rider and involved in charity events from the Women’s Day Ride benefiting Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), Film contests to the Love Ride.  She has been a key company “booster” in support of women motorcycle riders.  Second only to Leslie Prevish (Women’s Outreach Mgr) who is also very involved with women in motorcycling.

Karen’s influence was noticeable in 1991 when the runways in Paris and New York looked like biker rallies.  Harley-inspired emblems were on everything and Bloomingdales had a “Bad and Beautiful” shop devoted to women’s motorcycle jackets.  That year the Council of Fashion Designers of America gave HD a special award for its influence on fashion.  In 1998 she was involved in a Patent and Trademark trial (and appeal) over the mark “BIKER BLUES” for clothing line which Harley ultimately prevailed.

Beside owning and riding motorcycles, women have formed a presence within the industry that has gone way beyond being umbrella girls or trade show booth babes.  And in no small part thanks to Karen Davidson’s continued efforts to promote women in motorcycling.  I prefer to think of it as a gender-neutral activity, but I get the marketing angle.

Avis and Effie Hotchkiss might have been the first women to ride across the U.S. in 1915, but I’m sure they’d be pleasantly surprised at how far women have come from the motorcycle race track to urban streets.


Photo’s courtesy of HD (Family Picture L to R: Karen, Michael, Bill and Willie G.)


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terminator21All right motorcycle movie fans, here’s your chance to weigh in.   

Since first watching McQueen flea the German’s in The Great Escape I’ve always been intrigued by motorcycle chases.  So, I’ve pulled together this little poll where you can select what you think is the greatest motorcycle chase in movie history?

Photo courtesy of Sony/Tri-Star Pictures.


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couillard_dressRemember Julie Couillard, the woman who never received the Attire 101 memo and exposed a significant portion of her cleavage during the Canadian government swearing-in ceremony at Rideau House?  Her upper torso made all the newspapers. 

Previously I posted about Ms Couillard’s arrangement with Stéphane Sirois (Hells Angels) and how resolutely she brought down Maxime Bernier (Minister of Foreign Affairs) after he left secret government documents pertaining to Afghanistan in her apartment HERE.

Anyway the former “biker chick” moved on with her life.  Like many stiletto and Louis Vuitton wearing women before her she cashed in on the notoriety and published a tell-all memoir/book about her affair with the disgraced Mr. Bernier.  She secured a job at a Montreal radio station, and obtained invites to the so-called A-list parties to fill those long, cold nights.

julie_couillardAfter fading from the spotlight she has now decided to sell the provocative blue dress.  Yes, the same dress she was wearing as Maxim Bernier’s “date” (photo above) during the Conservative government’s swearing-in ceremony.  In the fashion industry this event has to be second only to the Lewinsky blue dress!  What is it about blue anyway?

I have no insight into motivation, but Ms Couillard’s new cause is a fashion show in the name of epilepsy.  It’s been reported that at the age of 12 Ms Couillard was diagnosed with epilepsy.  I’m no fashion expert, but it’s safe to assume the dress will sell for more than she paid for it and what great way to draw attention to herself (again), if that is her intention, and auctioning the dress off for a good cause.  Despite my opinion, what a stroke of genius it was donning that dress for her boyfriend’s swearing-in ceremony.  A brilliant marketing move on her part.  I can’t say that I blame her for exploiting her Outlaw Motorcycle “Club” relationships, her love affair with Bernier and others for fame and fortune. 

Is publicity a much too valuable commodity to be wasted on wannabes?

UPDATE: April 29, 2009 – Ms Couillard’s dress is auctioned for over $1000.

Photo courtesy Macleans.  A very detailed overview of Ms Couillard’s book is HERE.

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hd_stockWe all know that winter places an icy grip on motorcycle purchases and often chills sales.   It’s just a slow time even in a good year let alone during the “mother” of all financial deep freezes.

But, along comes a motorcycle sales concept that I don’t understand.  Buy any 2009 Harley-Davidson motorcycle from Chaz Hastings Milwaukee dealer and they’ll give you 50 shares of HOG.  At today’s market price you could convert it (before taxes and fees) into $812.00.  If you buy a 2008 model you’ll receive 100 shares!  Will this promo really increase motorcycle sales?

A sales promotion attaching a manufactured product to its stock with a financial meltdown makes no sense?!  Harley stock has lost more than 60% of its value (like most stocks!) in the last 3 months.  It might be a good buy if you can predict when things will turn around, but the financial news has been downright depressing and looks to continue.  News on any given day is “bail-out de jure”.  I would think Harley would want to distance themselves from topics that remind customers of just how bad the financial market is and stick to exploiting the bad boy or naughty vs. nice image.

Free is free, but why the dealer wouldn’t offer up a year of free fuel or any number of other worthwhile promo’s (free motels, free fly-n-ride, interest rate buy down, free 110cu in kit, free clothing, Toy Run donations, etc.) which help reinforce motorcycle riding rather than “drive-by” broker management…defies logic in my view.

Disclosure: the author owns no HOG.

Stock certificate courtesy of HD


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jim_ziemer1Harley-Davidson announced that Jim Ziemer (CEO) informed the board he will retire in 2009. 

A 40-year career that started by pushing a broom and running an elevator at Harley-Davidson at the age of 19.  He is one American CEO who started at the bottom.  However, Ziemer elects to retire at a time when the motorcycle company is grappling with a brutal economic climate and is selling fewer bikes while posting lower profits. The news comes on the heals of a loan advance of $500 Million made earlier today from it’s lenders.

Mr. Ziemer received compensation in 2007 valued at almost $4.1 million.  More salary information is available HERE.  Mr. Ziemer has been President and CEO of Harley since April 30, 2005 and served as VP and CFO from December 1990 to April 2005. He has been Director of Harley since December 2004 and Textron Inc., since March 1, 2007. He also served as President of The Harley-Davidson Foundation Inc. from 1993 to 2006.  Ziemer’s was named by President Bush to the Advisory Council for Trade Policy and Negotiations. He also served in the position of vice chair of Junior Achievement, membership on the campaign cabinet of the United Way and was a past committee chair post with the Next Door Foundation.

Mr. Ziemer met his wife, Yvonne during his Milwaukee High School graduation.  They had never met before that day and were seated next to each other. You can read much more about this interesting man and get a personal sense of his accomplishments and philosophy in the May 2008 University of Wisconsin commencement speech HERE (pdf).

Jim will be trading his worries and cares for the adventure of the open road.  Enjoy!

Photo courtesy University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.


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steedHarley-Davidson announced earlier this year that they were looking for female film makers who could capture the sense of empowerment, freedom, and adventure that is inherent when women get behind the handle bars of a Harley in a short film. The winning film maker would win: $5000 cash, a hi-definition video camera, a Harley-Davidson leather jacket, and a Los Angeles premiere party for her film.

Victoria Sampson’s (Need for Speed) was the grand prize film contest winner.  Harley rolled out the orange and black carpet for the gala event in L.A.  You can view her short film HERE on Facebook.  Melissa Kosar and Marta Masferrer each were selected as First Prize winners.  Congrats to all!

Victoria’s film is a well crafted short, but I can’t address whether it inspires women to get behind the handlebars of their very own motorcycle.


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