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Archive for December, 2009

Sam Worthington (Jake Sully) -- Avatar

We’re always being told how moviegoers set new revenue records during the holiday.

Last weekend not only did the movie industry set the largest single weekend at the box office with three movies topping over $50M each, the blockbuster film from James Cameron, ‘Avatar’ set a new 10 day gross total of $212.7M.  Maybe that doesn’t mean anything to you, but how about the fact that the movie has more than 400,000 fans on Facebook?

And though no motorcycles were featured in the movie Harley-Davidson managed to secure a primo clothing promotion from Sam Worthington’s character (Jake Sully) who established an “outlaw” biker image in wearing a H-D logo laden t-shirt in a bar.  More than just a product placement it instantly helped create a rebellious tough guy tone with the audience.  To be candid, I’m not sure I would associate a biker bad boy image with a $35 t-shirt, but like I said it’s a movie.  More important it represents a rare opportunity for Harley-Davidson—a window if you will of opportunity—to be part of something successful and catch some PR/marketing buzz!

Sam Worthington is well known for movie parts with ties to motorcycles.  In Terminator Salvation he played a terminator with amnesia that had motorcycle killing machines based on Ducati’s Hypermotard.  Footage is featured on Ducati’s website, showing the motorcycle terminators being put through their paces during filming.

I’m a fan of James Cameron who is famous for writing and directing successful movies such as Terminator, Aliens and Titanic.  However, as people dropped $15 of their hourly income to absorb the 3D cinematography in ‘Avatar’ — I can’t help but think he’ll be remembered more for being an arrogant ass and reinforcing I’m “privileged” and above the fray.  TMZ posted a video of an alleged “fan” seeking Mr. Cameron’s autograph on an ‘Avatar‘ poster at LAX.  The man is snubbed, threatened and called an ass by the famous and privileged director.  Nice.  Way to put your fans first.

Trying to smooth over the situation musical artist John Mayer wrote a nearly 1,000-word essay on his blog standing up for Mr. Cameron’s a’tude and basically stating it’s okay to be above the fray and crap on the hoi polloi or just ignore the teeming masses… Homey don’t play that no more John.  Never having met the man who ask for Mr. Cameron’s signature, John Mayer quickly assumed he was an e-bay whore.  Now isn’t that fascinating.  Cool that you have an opinion, but talk about the pot calling the kettle black…did you ever stop to think that selling yourself out to corporations and shilling products works for more than just a musician?  Hypothetically even if the guy was going to sell it on e-bay.  So what?  Step down from your mega-million-$$ ivory towers and mix with the regular people.  How much do you think H-D paid Cameron to use that t-shirt?!

Celebrities and musicians are beholden to their audience, the public, and the consumers.  And despite the undeniable pain of the global recession we have been willing to plunk down hard earned $$ to keep you famous for another fifteen minutes!   We’ll forgive the mistake… make apologies and continue to try and get it right in the future.  If not, then we all live with brand new rules because it’s an era of immediacy and 24 hour news cycles.  You’re now in the pit with your customers and if you want to escape the groupies then you’ll have to live in a bathroom with the lights out!

Photo courtesy of Fox.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog
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Harley-Davidson is the only American motorcycle builder to survive the Great Depression and continue rolling today.

That fact and that the company has employed generations of workers as well as provided enthusiasts around the world with wind in the face fun has prompted lawmakers in Wisconsin to sponsor a bill to honor H-D as the state’s official motorcycle.

This seemed like a no-brainer to me, but an opposition group (Noise Free America) from Albany, NY issued a hysterical press release denouncing the legislation plan and comparing the “awful noise of Harley riders” to TERRORISM.  Huh?  One of the group members, George Atwood (email him your thoughts at: meteorite8877@yahoo.com) stated:

“The noise stresses people.  The noise ruins the quality of life in our neighborhoods and nation.  It frightens and intimidates people.  It leads to hearing loss, higher medical costs, lost productivity and loss of peace of mind.”

Geez, this group likely thinks Harley-Davidson is responsible for the lapse of security on Northwest Flight 253 where Abdulmutallab failed to explode the PETN?!  Maybe they think that H-D motorcycles are responsible for the coercion and torture tactics in Guantanamo Bay.   I’ll bet Atwood had a hand in writing the script for the recent South Park “F” episode?

This group creates more “noise” whining than what comes from the exhaust of my Harley.   I suspect they would complain about the sound of falling snow!  Talk about ignorant.   But, I’ve come up with a SUPER idea for the NFA group — don’t waste a breath and better yet help reduce the nation’s noise level by just waving this 11oz mug (see photo left) in the direction of those so called “noise makers.”

It’s nearly time to “ring” in the New Year.  Make some noise!!

Photo courtesy of WI State Journal and The Onion Store.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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It was the slogan of American Honda’s safety awareness campaign back in 1998.

The “Stupid Hurts” (.pdf) campaign was intended to create a lasting impression on parents and youngsters as the company was under a lot of pressure with respect to marketing and promotion of ATVs.  It was a multi-million dollar program to deliver straightforward, no-nonsense messages encouraging rider training about helmet use, operator-only use, drug and alcohol-free operation, appropriate age/vehicle size, and youth supervision.

But, beginning Jan. 1, 2010  “stupid is as stupid does”…the Oregon legislature has passed a number of new laws to protect YOU as well as increase the fines because in case you haven’t heard the state has a “revenue challenge.”  Many would debate that it’s a SPENDING problem, but what do we know?  For example, the fine for riding a motorcycle without a motorcycle endorsement jumps from $360 to $720. However, the law also requires the court to suspend the fine if the rider completes training and receives an endorsement within 120 days of sentencing.  Of course if you’re under 21 years of age you are required to complete a TEAM Oregon Basic Rider Training (BRT) course which historically has had long lead times.

But, wait there’s more:

  1. Oregon’s “Move Over” law in 2010 now means that you’ll have to move over for tow trucks and other roadside assistance vehicles. Under current law, drivers have to pull over from police cars, fire engines and ambulances rendering assistance on a highway having two or more lanes of traffic going in the same direction. The change also clarifies that if a motorist can’t pull over because there is a vehicle in the other lane, the driver must slow his or her vehicle to at least 5 miles an hour under the posted speed.
  2. There was also an amendment to House Bill 2040 to add roadside assistance vehicles and tow vehicles to the list of vehicles that require motorist to “maintain a safe distance.”  Failure to maintain a safe distance (ORS 811.147) is a class B traffic violation.
  3. For drunk drivers who are convicted with a blood alcohol level of .15 percent or higher — they will now pay a minimum fine of $2,000. Previously, the fine structure called for a minimum fine of $1,000 for a first offense, $1,500 for a second conviction and $2,000 for a third or subsequent conviction, without regard for level of drunkenness.
  4. And what about protecting the children?  Any under 16 years of age will have to wear a safety belt or harness when operating a Class I or Class II all-terrain vehicle used for off-road use or a Class II ATV legal for street use. The safety belt or safety harness must be used when the vehicles are used both on public roads and premises open to the public. The law holds the parent, legal guardian or person responsible for the child responsible for compliance.
  5. Operators and passengers of Class II ATVs who are younger than 18 must wear motorcycle helmets. There is an exception for vehicles that have a roof or roll bar and that are registered through the Department of Transportation.

Clearly these new rules will create a lasting impression and stop stupid!

Photo courtesy of Honda.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Ice Racing -- Franky Zorn

Yes, it’s been ten years!

Magazines and newspapers with decade-ending rankings have started to appear.

Over the next month, we’re going to be deluged with statistics.  Telling us who the winners were.  People who provided fodder for the system, that you consumed, and forgot.  Best movies, best athlete, best TV shows, best songs, best companies etc.  So, I thought it would be good to go back and compile highlights on the Harley-Davidson decade.

It wasn’t all good news—marked by the roughest economy since the Great Depression.  In pulling together the data I was reminded of a song by James McMurtry’s “We Can’t Make It Here”.  It’s a favorite and one I would vote as the “best” song of the twenty first century, yet it never seems to get air play.  But, this isn’t a rant about how they killed radio and now have us anesthetized in front of the flat screen, selling us products we don’t need, that we put on credit cards that charge 29%.  Sure, McMurtry’s lyrics are poignant, but there’s a hypnotic groove that hooks the listener.  It makes me want to play the song again and again.  But, I’ve moved a little off topic… here is a look back:

2000 — The Softail Deuce is introduced.  All 2000 Softail models have the Twin Cam 88B engine, a counter-balanced version of the Twin Cam 88.

2001 — The V-Rod is introduced for the 2002 model year. Inspired by the VR-1000 racing motorcycle, the V-Rod is H-D’s first motorcycle to combine fuel injection, overhead cams and liquid cooling.  It delivered 115 horsepower.

2002 — The all-new Buell Firebolt is launched.

2003 — Buell launches the Lightning XB9S.  More than 250,000 people come to Milwaukee for the final stop of the Open Road Tour and the H-D 100th Anniversary Celebration.

2004 – The Sportster family models receive rubber engine mounting, a new frame, and a wider rear tire. The Road King Custom is introduced with a low rear suspension and wide handlebars it brings a beach cruiser look to a classic motorcycle.

2005 — The XL 883L Sportster 883 Low brings a lowered seating position to the Sportster line.  H-D and the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) mark the 25th anniversary of their partnership.

2006 — The first of the 6-speed transmissions are made available on 2006 model year Dyna motorcycles. The 2006 model year includes the all-new Street Glide, a lower profile touring motorcycle. H-D appoints Beijing Feng Huo Lun (FHL) as the first authorized H-D dealer on mainland China.

2007 — Union rejected a proposed new collective bargaining agreement for employees and went on a strike at its final assembly operations in York, Pa.  H-D launch the Sportster XL 1200N Nightster. The H-D Foundation and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Mobile Service Offices (MSOs) launched the Harley’s Heroes Tour.  H-D celebrated 100 years of Police Motorcycle Sales.

2008 – H-D teamed up with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).  H-D holds its 105th Anniversary Celebration and the H.O.G. 25th Anniversary.  H.O.G. launched the Million Mile Monday ride. A H-D Softail stars in the new Indiana Jones movie. H-D acquires MV Agusta Group expanding presence in Europe.  The H-D museum opens to the public. H-D introduces the 2009 Tri Glide Ultra Classic motorcycle (3-wheel).  For 2009 touring models H-D introduces the all-new frame, swingarm, engine mounting system, wheels and tires and new chassis.   The H-D XR1200 is launched in the U.S.

2009 — CEO James Ziemer retires and is replaced by Keith Wandell. H-D reports decreased revenue, net income and diluted earnings per share and provides a new strategy and restructuring update. Buell named Official Pace and Safety Bikes of AMA Pro Road Racing. H.O.G. set a 5 Million Mile Monday goal, but falls just short of the goal. H-D launched the Ride Free II Guarantee program.  H-D rolls out nine new motorcycle models for 2010 across six model platforms. H-D formally enters the motorcycle market in India. H-D unveils long-term business strategy after poor Q3 revenue and announced the discontinue of its Buell product line and plans to divest its MV Agusta unit.  Erik Buell leaves the company to establish Erik Buell Racing.  H-D announced it will keep its motorcycle operations in York, Pa., that includes a restructuring plan which eliminates almost 50% of the workforce.

H-D Revenue: 2000 = $2.24 Billion (2000 was the 15th consecutive year of record revenue); **2009 = $4.08 Billion (back-to-back yearly declines — in ’06 revenue = $4.55B)

H-D U.S. & Canada Market Share (651+cc): 2000 = 45.9%; **2009 = 45%

H-D Gender:  2000 = Male (90%); Female (10%); **2009 = Male (89%); Female (11%)

H-D Median Age: 2000 = 44.2; **2009 = 48.1

H.O.G. Membership: 2000 = 582,400; **2009 = 1.3 Million

Unit Shipments: 2000 = 204,592; **2009 = 225,000

(** indicates estimates as final results not tabulated/reported and subject to change)

From record revenue and income to record downsizing and decline.  I didn’t mean to get you reaching for the Prozac, but it’s not all that bad.  Just like ice racing in winter months can be slippery with the occasional crash, H-D will continue to modify, adapt and adjust to come out on top.

Photo courtesy of Rutger Pauw;  Statistical Sources: H-D; H-D Investor; Google Finance and various analyst estimates.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Santa wasn’t good to the motorcycle industry in 2009.  A weak economy, company layoffs, a housing melt-down, credit freeze, higher manufacturing costs and an ever discriminating consumer to boot.  As Harley-Davidson executives ponder over what happen this year, I can’t help but believe there are some major things on their wish lists to Santa.  So I’ve taken a scientific (parody alert!) guess of what some of H-D’s top executives want for Christmas:

Keith Wandell, CEO, Harley-Davidson: I got the head honcho job with the industry’s most iconic motorcycle manufacture in history, that has a cult-like following, with vendors tripping all over themselves to copy what we’ve done and I didn’t even have a motorcycle endorsement. I can’t think of anything more to ask for.  Oh wait, all those government stimulus funds – listen up Santa, I’ve been to the White House twice for dinner.  Have I not been nice enough?  Please let the spinner land on my project.

Mark-Hans Richer, Sr. VP & Chief Marketing Officer:  What the ho?  Please, Santa send us Tiger Woods!  As the leader of the world’s foremost authority on brand marketing, our team of cutting edge hoo-ha marketers developed a new strategy with Tiger as the spokesperson!  It’s set to appeal to the outlaw in every man.  We plan to dump that “ludicrous” campaign in favor of “Night of the Tiger”…complete with an exclusive Elin ghost flame paint scheme…

Bill Davidson, VP Core Customer Marketing: Please Santa let 2010 be the year for H-D in professional motorcycle racing.  Nothing but wins – in the dirt or drag or NHRA Pro – whatever it says on my t-shirt. Wait, can you also help people forget about that botched firing of Anne Paluso.  Really our plan is to go racing – go “team scream” or something like that.

John Olin, CFO: Motorcycle sales!  Santa it’s not my fault.  Please let me milk this “new in my job” for just a while longer.  What do they expect?  Miracles on Juneau Avenue!  Doesn’t it matter that I’ve been here less time than Keith?  I do have a motorcycle endorsement.  And, my calculator is newer than Lawrence’s!

Matthew Levatich, President & COO: Santa please get the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to approve and recognize my heroic role in getting the special license plate commemorating Harley-Davidson through the political red-tape as the state’s official motorcycle.   Yep, 2010 is shaping up to be a good performance review!  Memo to Enrico… get the bottle of Chianti ready!

Lawrence Hund, President & COO of H-D Finance: A new platinum edition HP 12C calculator.  The minus button on my last one quit working.

Gail Lione, EVP & General Counsel: Santa please tell us who is behind that NWHOG?!  Send us that macrant email address.  We have an important legal document gift we wish to serve send over to Northwest Harley Blog.

Paul James, Harley-Davidson Company Spokesperson: Please let me graduate the training class called “If the dream is big enough, the facts don’t matter” — a.k.a. the Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf school of bubbling optimism to distract the media and bloggers with superfluous BS so they ignore our fundamental problems.

James McCaslin, EVP Corporate Product Planning:  Santa can you get me a copy of Keith’s industry information?  I’ve never heard of “vendors tripping all over themselves to copy what we’ve done?”  I do remember a blogger at the 105th Anniversary trying to take a photo of a plant tour and we ran his butt right out the building before he was able to take pictures of the lunch room.

Karl Eberle, Sr. VP Manufacturing: Please make Indian go away. We are tired of being embarrassed in our own back yard when it comes to American cruisers and we don’t want that company bragging about their superior performance anymore.

Enrico D’Onofrio, Managing Director – MV Augusta: I already got what I wanted. Thanks for the early Christmas present H-D!  That sale notification surprised Wall Street… as you say in your home land… my golden shute is priceless. All this talk about motorcycles when the grape reigns supreme here in the zone of Tuscany… please pass the Chianti.

Jon R. Flickinger, President & COO of Buell: A job!  Also could you unload some of those dusty Buell’s in the warehouse?  My exit bonus is on the line.

Thanks for your readership during this past year. You may not have agreed with what I had to say at times, but it made for some lively discussions nevertheless. Merry Christmas, happy holidays and best wishes to you in 2010.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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“…They may be disappointed now, but someday they will be able to look back and see what great things were accomplished this season.”

This quote from Harley-Davidson Racing Manager Anne Paluso who this past November was commending the racing team after Eddie Krawiec rode a Harley-Davidson V-Rod to win his fifth NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle event at the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway.

Anne Paluso was laid off Monday.  Harsh!  Ms. Paluso had been involved with H-D’s racing activities for the last 10 years and had been with the company for more than 16 years.  I’ve written about other budgetary racing changes HERE.

Harley-Davidson spokesman Paul James was quoted Monday afternoon to say, “I can confirm her position was eliminated today due to budgetary reasons and that she has left the company,”  and went on to say “Racing teams will continue to report to [Vice President of Core Customer Marketing] Bill Davidson. Our plan is to go racing in 2010 in dirt and drag racing, but final plans have not yet been set.”

At this accelerated budgetary reduction pace it’s unclear if H-D can continue to be an influential motorcycle in the professional sport.

Photo courtesy of H-D.

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By this time you’ve already heard that our President, Barack Obama, a man who ran on a platform of hope and change, is getting us deeper into Afghanistan.  Isn’t Al-Qaeda in Pakistan?  And, if the Soviets couldn’t win there, why can we?  A country owned by China with disastrous financials (that’s us, in case you didn’t recognize your homeland).

If you join the armed forces to serve your country, to pay your bills, you’re entering Hotel California.  It seems you can never leave.  You jumpily wait for people to attack you or detonate IEDs.  Coming home to a country that pays you lip service, but doesn’t give a rip because people can’t find a job.  If you come home at all.  And if you do return, you’re likely traumatized.

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs is paying record bonuses and their Chairman Lloyd Blankfein says the firm is doing God’s work.  Huh?  What deity does Mr. Blankfein pray to who wants to see the populace suffer?  Used to be Wall Street helped build America, now traders just profit off exotic investment instruments.

But there is good news (sarcasm alert!).  The enormous financial outlay of the 8+ year war has brought into sharp focus Bagram Airfield, where off-duty soldiers can obtain everything from Kyrgyz massages to purchase a BK burger.  Including a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.  According to AFP reports, the dealer for those away from the front lines sells about 4 motorcycles a month to U.S. servicemen.  With another 30,000 troops being deployed, and most of them set to take off or land on Bagram’s runway in route to fight the Taliban it means H-D should expect a sales increase proportional with the troop surge.  In fact, I just read a post on the H-D forum from a soldier who bought a 2009 Night Train yesterday.  Congrats Army_Train85 and thank you for your service!!

Obama’s speech wasn’t all that inspirational for me, but he did state (you can read the full text of his speech here) that sending the extra troops will cost the U.S. military $30 billion dollars this year — or $1 million for each newly deployed soldier.  That’s high-finance and hard for me to wrap my head around it.  In fact, it’s difficult for me to understand the cost ($28 a head) of each and every meal prepared for U.S. soldiers on the base cost more than most Afghans earn in a month.  That alone might explain the attraction to the Taliban-linked narco-terrorists.  Sigh. I wish there was a better way…

At any rate, as Bagram turns into a military “boom-town”…H-D is poised to take advantage.

Photo courtesy of Corbis/Shaun Schwartz.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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