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Posts Tagged ‘Bill Davidson’

Harley's line Lake front road

Harley’s line Veterans Park

Many of you know riding is all about the camaraderie of the group.  For many it’s the main draw of having a motorcycle.  Fortunately we’ve got a great group of riders with years of experience and haven’t had the kind of chaos that can be associated with large group-riding.

That’s important because navigating around Milwaukee is like being a pro-snowboarder on Black Diamond bumps that go up, and those concrete cracks that go down and then being shot out of a half-pipe to change directions in mid-air.  I’ve never, ever seen Interstate, streets or roads so bad.  They are horrible!

The 110th post card photo

The 110th post card photo op

I ask folks about the roads and they would claim “allocations for street repair have gone up every year.”  My question is where did all those funds go?  Harley-Davidson doesn’t need a test track.  They can just drive across town and based on the conditions of the road check to see what fell off, was worn out or destroyed!

But, I’ve digressed…

The only thing that could have drowned out the V-twin roar in Milwaukee was the music.  Wow, five years ago, 45 bands played the Summerfest grounds across two days.

Summerfest

At Summerfest for Kid Rock Concert

This year for the 110th, Harley-Davidson added an additional day plus 21 more bands.  The motor company also expanded the number of headliners. Instead of building a separate venue in Veterans Park, as it did in 2008 for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and Foo Fighters, Harley opted for more headliner options, with Toby Keith on Thursday, Aerosmith on Friday and Kid Rock on Saturday.  Then H-D leveraged the Marcus Amphitheater for even more musical acts to play on five stages.

Pano of Milwaukee Skyline

Pano of Milwaukee Skyline

And they say classic rock is dead?!  Sure, not only are the children of the baby boomers pushing thirty, but there’s a whole new generation of kids who have never experienced free-form radio or sitting in front of the stereo listening to full length albums, and if you’re even in the slightest into music then Milwaukee was nirvana.

Near the Art Museum at Lake Front

Near the Art Museum at Lake Front

I captured a video of ‘Wille’ G., Bill Davidson and Karen Davidson, thanking all 110th Anniversary attendees for coming and they provided an introduction to the exceptional Kid Rock concert which also featured John Fogerty, but there was so much more.

There was the Doobie BrothersZZ TopDierks Bentley and Brantley Gilbert.  There was Chance the Rapper and Springsteen-inspired punk group The Gaslight Anthem.  The “Sons of Anarchy” star Katey Sagal, performed with her band The Forest Rangers.

Group at the H-D Museum

The group at the H-D Museum

And many local area acts ranging from Celtic punk group Whiskey of the Damned to Gabriel Sanchez and the Prince Experience. There was even a Mexican pop rock band Moderatto, which played at the Miller Lite stage.  There were acts including Shooter Jennings and North Mississippi Allstars who were booked for performances at the Harley-Davidson Museum and the bands such as Sick Puppies and Puddle of Mudd who played at the free street parties.

Bridge near H-D Museum

Bridge near H-D Museum

I’ve listed just a few and if that wasn’t enough competing with itself, the local Harley-Davidson dealers had bands playing all 3-days, including Aaron Lewis of Staind at the House of Harley-Davidson and Grand Funk Railroad at Hal’s Harley-Davidson.

Our group went on the factory tours and talked with H-D reps about Project Rushmore, the 2014 model year touring bikes that received significant refinements to shortcomings that us owners have lamented for years. H-D has encapsulating over 2,400 new part numbers, and customers were sourced for input on updates that included liquid-cooling, touchscreen GPS, infotainment, improved venting, aerodynamics and ergonomics.  The new touring motorcycles have a lot to offer and props to H-D for rolling out enhancements beyond the typical new paint schemes!

Pano of the H-D Museum

Pano of the H-D Museum

We also pre-purchased tickets to experience the museum which featured the first known Harley model in existence from 1903.  The museum has a truly fascinating collection of bikes, displays and some curious homage to Harley’s influence on pop culture and racing.

Inside the archive area of the H-D Museum

Inside the archive area of the H-D Museum

The history tour doesn’t gloss over the AMC troubled times as they were as much a part of the motor company’s legacy as were the high points.

Prior to departing the city we stopped at the Miller Brewery and enjoyed the tour, refreshments and talking to one of the workers who was working the weekend doing a network upgrade.  We got the inside scoop on the number of cases each employee has for a monthly allocation as well as where the employee pub is located for afterwork libations.  Sounded like a fun job!

The brewery tour.

The brewery tour

If you were unable to make the ride home to Milwaukee it’s difficult to realize the full scope of the celebration from a couple of blog posts or photos.  Our group was fortunate to have participated in the event and being there provides a unique perspective on how welcome and appreciative the residents of Milwaukee made us feel.  Sure I ranted a bit about the roads, but the highways were absolutely jam packed with Harley’s of all shapes and sizes pointed towards “home” in honor of a company for the most part that has excelled for 110 years.  Not many can say that about their history!  Regardless of where we live or where we ride, there were a few days in 2013 that bonded us all together with the heritage of a HOG.

Since 1988, Harley-Davidson started throwing these hometown birthday celebrations every 5-years.  The 110th has to be one for the record books in terms of attendees,  fewest accidents, number of musical acts and from my vantage the number of smiles on attendee faces.

Thank you H-D for a great 110th celebration!

Thank you H-D for a great 110th celebration!

Thank you Harley-Davidson for a great celebration and here’s to another 100+ years!

The 110th Anniversary Homecoming – Part 1 (HERE) and Part 2 (HERE).

110th Anniversary Accident Stats:  The final numbers are not published yet, but I found these initial statistics encouraging.  Approximately 100,000 riders arrived in the Milwaukee metro area over a 6-day (Aug 29 – Sept 1) celebration timeframe.  There was an average of 4.9 motorcycle accidents per day.  There were 28 motorcyclists transported to the trauma center during that timeframe.  There were no reported deaths.  Wisconsin is a helmet-optional state.

Photos by author.

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This holiday season I want to thank all of you for your continued support and wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy New Years!

Below is a little poem I crafted for the Harley team…

December 24, 2010

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the Harley house,
Not a manager was stirring, not even a supervisor mouse;
Annual reviews were hung by the HR door with care,
In hopes year-end bonuses soon would be there.

Directors nestled all snug in their beds,
While dreams of promotion danced in their heads;
Ms. Tonit in snowflake sweater, and me in my suspenders,
We’d just settled down to write our year-enders,

When from the 3rd floor there came such a clatter,
I sprang from my desk to attend to the matter.
Clutching my iPhone I flew up the stairs,
Wondering what marketing-caused mayhem I might find there.

With the moon high above the Tomahawk facility
It cast a glow over Financial Services Billing & Eligibility,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a medium-height chap looking quite cavalier.

That glass in his hand, so clearly a Red Zinfandel,
I knew in a moment: Keith E. Wandell!

More rapid than eagles his lieutenants they came,
As he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

“Now Dasher, Now Dancer, & you Curator Bill,
On Joanne! On Mark-Hans! On Enrico! You work here, still?”
“Into my office! At the end of the hall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

Up they lined, like toy soldiers taking up residence,
It was a small army of regular and senior vice presidents.
And then Keith began banging on his shiny new laptop,
“Yes, Friday’s are Casual Day, but this plant absenteeism has to stop.”

I spoke not a word, and was turning around,
When out of his black-and-orange chair the boss came with a bound.
His eyes — how they twinkled! And this I must, say
His cheeks were like roses, all red like a football fan on a cold Packers day!

His Holiday necktie drawn up tight like a bow,
And the bald of his head was as white as the snow;
He had a broad face and the Harley t-shirt showed a little CEO belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

He wasn’t chubby nor plump, just a jolly old elf,
And I smiled when I saw him, in spite of everyone else;
A wink of his eye and a nod of his head,
Soon let us know that H-D VP’s had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but with fingers quite soft,
He started filling envelopes so fast it made him cough,
And laying a finger aside of his nose,
He gave a wave and twist, down the elevator he goes;

He sprang up on his motorcycle sidecar, to his team gave a shout,
“To Miller Park!” he cried, it’s time to chill out.”
And I heard him exclaim, as he throttled away,
“I have envelopes for all and for all, have a great Harley ridin’ day!”

Photo courtesy of Tom Queoff (USA Snow Sculpting Team)

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Think Snow Bumpersticker - HD Advertising (circa: 1972-74)

It was a big year for Harley-Davidson as they shifted from downsizing, labor agreements and weathering the recession to now looking forward to growth in 2011.  With freezing temperature and snow falling in many parts of the U.S., I’ve compiled some 2010 highlights to provide you some entertainment as you warm up with hot chocolate:

January
1.    Downtown H-D Renton, WA., one of the northwest dealers named among top 100 (Link: HERE)
2.    H-D reported its first quarterly loss since 1993 (Link: HERE)
3.    H-D announces the new, but “old” Forty-Eight Sportster (Link: HERE)

February
1.    H-D donates 28 new Buell and H-D motorcycles to assist in the earthquake disaster (Link: HERE)
2.    H-D marketing continues to pitch brand with young-rebel-with-tats ethos (Link: HERE)
3.    H-D internal documents indicate 382,000 absenteeism hours in the factories (Link: HERE)

March
1.    H-D promotes danger as Seth Enslow breaks Bubba Blackwell’s jump record (Link: HERE)
2.    H-D dealer (Shumate) in Kennewick, WA., closes under a mountain of debt. (Link: HERE)
3.    H-D CEO, Keith E. Wandell 2009 compensation package becomes public as the $6M dollar man (Link: HERE)
4.    H-D marketing pulls out all stops on innovation and launches Super Ride II (Link: HERE)

April
1.    H-D consolidates motorcycle testing in Arizona Proving Grounds (Link: HERE)
2.    H-D files mass layoff notice with Wisconsin department of workforce development (Link: HERE)
3.    H-D CEO, Keith E. Wandell is “encouraged” as Q1 motorcycle sales revenue declines 20% YOY (Link: HERE)
4.    After 26 years of service Bill Davidson is put in charge of the Museum (Link: HERE)

May
1.    H-D CEO, Keith E. Wandell states in interview that H-D is like GM…a fading American industrial might (Link: HERE)
2.    H-D threatens to leave the state of Wisconsin (Link: HERE)
3.    H-D CMO, Mark-Hans Richer is no man crush of this blog (Link: HERE)

June
1.    H-D launches XR1200 Refresh (Link: HERE)
2.    H-D launches Wii based-game: “Road Trip” (Link: HERE)
3.    H-D at the National Law Enforcement Museum (Link: HERE)

July
1.    H-D opens Hyderabad, India showroom to pandemonium (Link: HERE)
2.    H-D reports Q2 earnings with financial services being largest money maker (Link: HERE)
3.    H-D launches the 2011 model lineup of 32 bikes vs. 38 the prior year (Link: HERE)

August
1.    H-D announces closure of sidecar business which operated since 1914 (Link: HERE)
2.    H-D announces 1-MILLION fans on Facebook (Link: HERE)
3.    H-D sold back MV Agusta to its previous owners (Link: HERE)
4.    H-D announces that after 31 years they’ve parted ways with PR firm Carmichael Lynch (Link: HERE)

September
1.    Erik Buell releases teaser ads promoting a new street bike based on 1190RR (Link: HERE)
2.    H-D gives away free posters of any of their 32 models (Link: HERE)
3.    H-D under threat of moving out of state announces ratified 7-year labor agreement (Link: HERE)
4.    H-D “spins” the fact that massive branding efforts result in a 24% brand value decline (Link: HERE)

October
1.    H-D reports Q3 earnings with motorcycle sales declining 7.7% worldwide and 14.4% in the U.S. (Link: HERE)

November
1.    H-D management “negotiates” with Kansas City plant to accept a new labor agreement or we’ll leave state (Link: HERE)
2.    H-D turns down a $25M tax credit deal by Wisconsin State (Link: HERE)

December
1.    H-D never disclosed a $2.3 BILLION deal with Federal Reserve (Link: HERE)
2.    H-D announces first ever “Crowd Sourcing” for new marketing ideas (Link: HERE)

Photo courtesy of H-D.

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Posse at the 70th Sturgis Rally

STURGIS is STURGIS — Since 1938 the Sturgis Rally has been held every year, with some exceptions during WWII, for example the gasoline rationing in 1942.

And as a result, a lot about Sturgis remains nearly the same year after year after year.  There are the RVs, tents, vendors, concerts, people watching and lots of motorcycles.  And did I already say there is a lot of people?  Every year they try to make it bigger, better and fancier.  In fact, this year the musical lineup included folk icon Dylan to heavy metal pioneer Osbourne along with some Motley Crue and ZZ Top in-between.  Each of the big three camp grounds compete with each other to see who can bring in the more impressive talent.

But there feels like a bit of a metamorphosis at Sturgis.  It’s become noticeably more commercial.  Even the Hells Angels had a booth serving up (for a fee) a Sonny B. book signing along with calendar and t-shirt sales!  The rally has turned a corner toward a concentration of commercialized chrome with a sanitized or reserved atmosphere.  Nothing wrong with that.  It’s just about moneymaking which doesn’t interest a lot of folks.

Our group persevered through the changes in rally persona, and spent a couple days at the “humble rumble” (i.e. Sturgis) – enjoying all that the town and surrounding area had to offer up – I departed with only one t-shirt!  The Sturgis population of 6500 hosts a few hundred thousand biking enthusiasts and along the way the economic engine collects about $987M in state tourism for the little celebration.

Capitalism at its finest!  And if you don’t think there are many people in attendance… consider this: NYC has 26,402 people per square mile; Sturgis during rally week has 160,427 people per square mile!

In my estimation there are 3-types of people who come to the Sturgis rally. The CASUAL OBSERVER – who may ride, but most likely does not and spends most of the day in t-shirt shops buying “proof” they were at the ‘mayhem’ or event.  Next is the RECREATIONAL RIDER – some who rode there, but many likely trailered their $35K CVOs.  This group offers up the largest opportunity for the vendor booths as the biker subculture fantasy doesn’t come cheap.  The last group is the RODE MINE whose leather jackets patina match the sunburned faces.  You don’t get that bright red tan while sitt’n in captain seats in the Ford F-series pickup!

Willie G

There might even be another group, those who don’t own rain gear, sport offensive tat’s and do tune ups along the way.  They have a true pulse of the V-Twin and a real sense of brotherhood.  But I’ve digressed.  For most the celebration will come to an end and will need to shave and shower and squeeze back into the cubicle.  In other words, get back to work as were going to need to pay off the August credit card bill!

From my vantage a few highlights were: the Kid Rock concert at the “Chip” (Dylan was totally lame!); face-to-face with Harley executives (Willie G., Bill and Nancy); Mount Rushmore achieved the highest single day attendance record on August 10th; witnessing the ear blasting B1-B Bomber fly over on main street; “The Wall That Heals” (a ½ scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial); the AMD World Championship customs; free Macanudo cigars and the Harley-Davidson booth/crew.

AMD World Championship

Speaking of the H-D booth, I want to provide a shout out to the Milwaukee team for a job well done!  In previous years you’d have to commute to Rapid City to see the new model line-up which many riders passed over.  It was extraordinarily convenient to meander up from the Broken Spoke and talk up new features with the well trained H-D personnel who were genuinely interested in chatting it up with riders.

Now for some of the bad news: the 70th Rally saw about double the number of road deaths/crashes vs. previous year averages.  Nine people were killed in the Sturgis area during the rally.  There were no deaths last year.  This number doesn’t account for fatal wrecks in other states involving motorcyclists on their way as was the situation for an Oregon man who crashed on US 12 near Powell, ID HERE.   Granted the higher number of attendees does contribute to potential crashes, but in many instances the accidents seemed due to inattention.  Early stats indicate that fewer people were arrested for drunken driving, but more for drug violation.  Law enforcement responded to 73 injury accidents and 36 non-injury which was similar to previous years.  Total citations for the 2010 rally were down to 1442 vs. 1803 in 2009.

70th Sturgis Rally Travelogue – Part 1 HERE and Part 3 HERE.

Photos taken during the trip.

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H-D Museum - MilwaukeeI missed this news flash while on the road last week, but Bill Davidson, the current VP of Core Customer Marketing and great-grandson of the motor company founder was “promoted” to the flagship position of Museum Director.

Huh?  Twenty-six years at the company to become the head honcho of factory tours and the Harley-Davidson museum?

Personally I’d find it to be a cool gig, but can you imagine the conversation at the next family BBQ gathering with Willie G. and Jean Davidson?!  What’s next from the fancy-pants bean counters and marketers?  Put Willie G. in charge of re-styling the employee café?

Did the H-D museum not reach its full potential or is this a continuation of the “hack-n-slash” which CEO, Keith Wandell seems fond of as he moves the “old guard” out?  Maybe it was Mark-Hans Richer (Sr. VP and CMO) deciding a guy like Bill running the company’s core marketing just wasn’t throttled up enough?  Change is good, right?  Bill retains his executive management status as VP of the H-D Museum and Factory Tours.

More important is Bill’s replacement who starting in June, will be Stacey Watson.   Ms. Watson will lead marketing for ALL of H-D customer segments across N.A.  No easy task.  Ms. Watson will hold the title of Sr. Director of Consumer Segment Marketing.  Assuming positive results this is surely a segway to the board approving a VP title later in the year.  I’m not taking anything away from Ms. Watson experience or accomplishments as she was instrumental in the design, development, construction and launch of H-D museum.  Having visited this marquee facility I’m hopeful that Ms. Watson can do for marketing what she accomplished at the museum.

Let’s hope that Bill will continue to infuse the energy and passion of building out motorcycle exhibits, create educational programs and reaffirm the role of the museum with Harley riders around the world.  One suggestion is to replicate on a smaller scale a west coast museum in Las Vegas.  There are a lot of people visiting ‘sin city’ with disposable income and given all the motorcycle styling influences which came from nearby California it would be a unique showcase for them.

Photo’s taken at H-D Museum.

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Ambitious new motorcycles.

Nine in fact for 2010 as Bill Davidson (VP of Core Customer Marketing) stated at last year’s launch of the new models: “We are thrilled to offer our customers nine new models and a full selection of products… that lets their enthusiasm for enjoying great motorcycles continue at full throttle!” [exclamation point added for emphasis]

There were exciting features – sarcasm alert – like “slammed suspension,” “an optional flame paint scheme,” “a larger front wheel,” “a new tail light assembly,” and a lot of something called “light and lean extreme.”  Huh?  It’s massive changes like these that are really going to bring in the customers.  And with the unprecedented new plating process called “midnight pearl” used on the headlight cover, timer and derby covers, and fender struts young people will have these motorcycles flying out of dealers.

Now comes the introduction of the $35,999.00 MSRP Harley-Davidson CVO Ultra Classic Electra Glide.  The equivalent of two Honda Civics LX’s which cost $35,210 and money left over to install the optional Moonroof!  Or you could buy a tops down 2010 Lexus IS 250 Convertible for $35,495 and still have money left over for a kick butt pizza party!

My point?  Can a 107 year-old brand truly command these premium prices in this economy or are they pricing themselves out of business?  In Q3’09 Harley CEO Keith Wandell stated “… we are moving with the speed and decisiveness required to bring our business strategy to life…”, little did we know the change reference was how fast they can increase prices.

It’s only January and already been a long winter.   Not enough time has passed to pay-off the holiday credit card charges so, as cool as it would be to ride this motorcycle a $10K down and 11% interest loan for 60 months would leave little discretionary funds to ride it anywhere!

Of course I might reconsider if they’d throw in a toaster.

Photo courtesy of H-D

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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.

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