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Posts Tagged ‘MV Augusta’

motorcycle fashion historyNo one can deny the huge impact that the American motorcycle and biker sub-culture has had on the fashion industry.

Motorcyclists spend a great deal of money and effort to find protective gear that looks fashionably good, but there is a small minority who tarnish the sport.  You know the type…  stick-on bunny ears on the helmet or the camouflage trousers and the faux Mohawk that should’ve stayed with the 90’s punk bands.

I’ve been on a clothing hiatus for a while, but back in 2009, I blogged at length about motorcycle fashions with… Limited Edition Clothing; Motorcycle Style; Dressed For Summer and the FXRG Jacket Road Test.  For all the hype fashion gets, it’s truly irrelevant and a way for the untalented to stand out.  Because if you’re talented, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, right?!

This week my friends over at Bennetts provided me an interesting visual graphic on the Evolution of Motorcycle Fashion & Clothing.  Check it out HERE and take a tour through motorcycle clothing history.  Who knows, it might even help you distinguish between clothing features that are pure fashion and those that have some genuine protective merit.

If however, you wake up in the morning with the desire to stick on a Mohawk or those bunny ears then it’s probably best that you hand over your motorcycle keys because you are about to make a motorcycle fashion faux pas.

Photo courtesy of www.bennetts.co.uk

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Keith Wandell Resignation Letter

The news was expected.

Harley-Davidson CEO Keith Wandell, citing the pressure of obtaining a motorcycle endorsement and regularly commuting with “cagers”, today announced he is retiring at the relative young age of 60.

It’s through my privileged relations with some of the major actors of the motorcycle industry that allow this blog to offer you an exclusive first look of the resignation letter below:

Date: April 1, 2010
To: Harley-Davidson Employees
From: Office of the President and CEO, Mr. Keith Wandell
Subject: A Letter To My Colleagues

This morning I am announcing my intention to retire by the time of our next board meeting.

It has become clear that in light of the continuing leadership doubt, and the unprecedented level of negative attention about my compensation package, the company – and each of you – has had to endure, that the best thing I can do for you, our dealer network and our shareholders is to retire.

Some of you have done an extraordinary job serving our customers despite the almost daily media distraction.  I feel strongly that the attacks about my riding experience and eight month compensation package of $6.4 million are unjustified, but unfortunately, they show no signs of abating. A simple reality check tells me that people are spending more time reading about the acrimony and not enough time buying our motorcycles from the newly reduced product line up.

What matters is not what happens to me, but it’s really about the remaining employees of Harley-Davidson, our employed customers and our shareholders. The whole is greater than the sum of any 2 parts and clearly more important than me “feeling good about where we are” as a company.   Even in the midst of the first quarterly loss in 16 years, the HDFS liquidity freeze, the India expansion, the Buell distractions, the union worker delinquencies in PA., and the MV Augusta sell-off strategy… my main regret in this short, but well paid, tenure, is that I will not be here to realize the potential of this bold strategy to return the company to a “new” normal.

I will retire when my successor is appointed. The Board has begun a high profile and expensive search for a new CEO, led by the head of the Board’s Compensation, Management Development and Succession Committee. I, of course, will do everything I can to assist in this transition. I will make sure that the company firmly “stays the course” until my successor is chosen.

Let me say that it will not be easy for me to leave. I take enormous pride in obtaining my motorcycle endorsement and I’ve met a bunch of new lunch-time riding buddies.  It’s been said that the true test of a leader is the performance of the company he leaves behind. On that score, I feel my short, but well paid legacy and public record are available for all to read.  The Board has asked me to assure you of their full support as we go through the transition and into the future.

To some of you, I offer my heartfelt thanks for the extraordinary opportunity to work with and lead you during this short tenure that I’ve been in Milwaukee. Of course I will continue to see some of you in the H-D Brewers suite and have enormous faith that the best of Harley-Davidson will be lived in the days ahead.

Sincerely,
Keith “Scooter” Wandell
President and CEO, Harley-Davidson

Happy April Fool’s! Enjoy the day even with all the faux news.

Photo is courtesy of H-D.

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TTTI landed on the Discovery channel the other night and watched a rare look inside the MV Augusta factory, where they built the F4-312. 

You may recall Harley-Davidson acquired MV Augusta last year for $108M which was previously blogged HERE.

At any rate, I’ve watched the ‘Twist The Throttle‘ documentary series in the past, but MV Augusta was one story I had not viewed on the world’s most famous sport motorcycling brand.  The series reviews various brands (Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Ducati, Bimota, BMW and Alpinestars) histories, what happens behind the scenes at their factories, inside their research and development centers and ultimately what it’s like to ride the machines on some of the great motorcycle roads and race tracks around the world.  The series is available on the Discovery Turbo website.

For example I learned it takes 11 hours to build the F4 engine and 4.5 hours to build just one motorcycle.  It was also interesting to hear several of the on camera interviews evangelized the lack of any hard-core time-based manufacturing processes… huh?  Isn’t MV a motorcycle manufacture?  Watching the story you couldn’t help but think a bottle of red wine followed each motorcycle down the assembly line like a cocktail soiree and when it’s done, it’s done.  No rush…we’re artists!  Wow, the Italian build process seemed opposite and very casual compared to the Milwaukee plant tour I attended last year.

DADS Simulation

DADS Simulation

In fact, Harley-Davidson uses advanced engineering and simulation tools to compress design cycles as well as other tools to reduce the overall manufacturing process time.  For example the application DADS from CADSI (now part of LMS of Coralville, IA) is used for full 3-D prototyping and to simulate the handling of the motorcycle during a lane change, j-turn or weave maneuvers.   For a company that produces 12 different parts made of 4615 material with complex profiles of 20-42 teeth and robots measuring parts baskets with door-to-door cycle time of 11.3 seconds and overall grind times of 56 seconds…I find it astonishing that MV Augusta/H-D exec’s would go on camera pontificating the merits of the aristocratic craftsmen — “no motorcycle before it’s time” philosophy.

Is it time to exchange the Girard-Perreguax watch for a Timex and bring on the accountant dawgs to rehabilitate the long lunch wine drinking staff?

Photo courtesy LMS and H-D.

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mfg_plantBaby boomers and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.  The combination of these two delivered a plethora of profits.

I was upgrading my Mac OS and while I waited, I read magazines.  First it was “Baggers” then “BusinessWeek.”

Skimming the BW magazine I notice an article about business book guru Jim Collins.  He wrote “Good To Great.”  Collins was brought to West Point, where he chaired a discussion amongst military men and civilians.  Had America lost its greatness, was it in decline?  The attendees were split as to America’s future, half optimistic and half pessimistic.  But what fascinated Mr. Collins was an observation from a CEO during a break.  The dude stated: “I’ve been thinking about your question in the context of my company.  We’ve had tremendous success in recent years and I worry about that.  So what I want to know is: HOW WOULD YOU KNOW?”  This question formed the basis of Collins new book, “How The Mighty Fall.”

Harley-Davidson has been quite mighty.  But they broke the first rule of Mr. Collins’ book.  Which he labels Stage 1: “Hubris Born Of Success”.  “Stage 1 kicks in when people become arrogant, regarding success virtually as an entitlement, and they lose sight of the true underlying factors that created success in the first place.”

Mighty_FallBingo!  Harley-Davidson and Baby Boomers.  H-D execs actually believed they were geniuses, who’d found the golden formula.  Dealers marked up everything from t-shirts to baggers.  From then on, motorcycle model after model would all sell thousands of bikes, there would be untold profits!  Rather than questioning their success (“We might have been just really lucky/we’re in the right place at the right time…”), they believed they were entitled to it.  And ultimately blamed this decline of their fortunes on the economy.

Stage 2 of Mr. Collins’ theory of corporate decline is “Undisciplined Pursuit Of More”.  Here we have H-D catering to image buyers… selling sizzle, style and fashion over function paradigm.  With spokespeople like Marisa Miller.  If TV sells motorcycles, let us find the least amount of clothing and the most telegenic performer and craft a message about lifestyle for TV/print consumption!  

Stage 3 is “Denial Of Risk and Peril.”  That’s the beginning of the end.  “Those in power start to blame external factors for setbacks rather than accept responsibility”.  It’s like the music industry saying the Internet ruined it’s business!  It’s the economy’s fault, we couldn’t get bank funding at HDFS, etc. But what’s Harley’s business?  Manufacturing premium (overpriced?) priced one-dimensional products and marketing them for sale on TV and print magazines to the ‘boomers’, the young, minorities and to women?  No difference in product just marketing messages.

Stage 4 is “Grasping For Salvation”.  “The critical question is: How does leadership respond?  By lurching for quick salvation or by getting back to the disciplines that brought about greatness in the first place?”  We’ve got Harley-Davidson heavily invested in MV Augusta and embedding advertising space in video games (UFC).  A non-motorcycle riding enthusiast at the helm.  Is that their core mission?  And we’ve got dealers exiting the business.  All the while the motor company works to protect a business model of an overexposed limited product to reap giant rewards.  Dealers are up in arms that corporate got rich and the locals did not…  But once again, what was each entity’s core mission?  Dealers were made to expose.  The motor company were made to..?  MAKE!  That’s what manufacturing companies do.  Making motorcycles is their core competency.  It’s their defining MISSION!  But that got lost in the shuffle of incredible profits during the nineties.  Harley started selling branding, lifestyle, sizzle, fashion and even some premium priced motorcycles!

Stage 5 is “Capitulation To Irrelevance Or Death”.  Some would argue that’s where the motor company is today.  “In some cases the company’s leader just sell out; in other cases the motorcycle institution atrophies into utter insignificance; and in the most extreme cases the enterprise simply dies outright.”  How long until Harley-Davidson chops up the parts and sells it for catalog value?  

What is the future?  Not the past.

“Never give in.  Be willing to kill failed business ideas, even shutter big operations you’ve been in for a long time, but never give up on the idea of building a great company.”  It’s clear.  Looking for an instant success like the old Michael Jackson days of MTV ultimately render instant irrelevance.  The company needs to be about MOTORCYCLES!  Today’s execs seem only interested in tonnage.  They could be selling anything!  They are not necessary.  Harley needs to find unique talent and nurture it.  Leverage independent blogs?  Motorcycle artistry/development isn’t finding more people to buy a plain stamped out bike, it’s a creative arc, over a period of iterations, wherein the motorcycle grows and more and more people come along for the ride.  

That’s what you need to survive…”to build an enterprise that makes such a distinctive impact on the world it touches (and does so with such superior performance) that it would leave a gaping hole – a hole that could not be easily filled by any other institution – if it ceased to exist.” Everyone knows that real motorcycle enthusiasts are the indies.  The commercial crap from the majors is about commercialism more than artistry.  Today it’s about manufacturing cookie-cutter stuff and yelling at the public to buy it, all the while bitching that the economy is failing.  This is a recipe for disaster.

Rather than whine, be the company that accepts reality, that notes change and adapts to it.  That doesn’t mean charge huge upfront fees for anybody who wants a CVO.  Or clothing attire marked up to the point that celebrities question the essence of imported fabrics.  Your average Joe consumers are your partners, they’re the ones who are going to make you money.  

If you lose your core, you’ve lost everything!

Photo courtesy of Newsweek.

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HD_StormNow more than ever, Harley executives say that customer experience is critical to how motorcycle firms compete.

They’re right: research indicates a high correlation between good customer experience and increased customer loyalty.

Unfortunately not all dealers get high marks from their customers. And that translates into lower sales, higher churn, and lost business that goes to competitors.  Does the customer experience become less important during an economic downturn? Absolutely not!!  Building loyalty and catering to the needs of customers is even more important in these very challenging times.  And HD is doing much more than paying lip service.

PiperAccording to the newly released (.pdf) 2009 Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index (PSI) U.S. Motorcycle Industry Study, Ducati dealerships ranked highest.  This is one of a series of annual benchmarking studies which measure how consumers are treated when shopping for a new car, motorcycle, RV or boat. The independent study sent 2,100 hired anonymous “mystery shoppers” into motorcycle dealerships nationwide, then used the patent-pending PSI process to compile the results into accurate measurement of how each brand’s dealerships treat motorcycle shoppers.

Following Ducati was Harley-Davidson—whose dealers were ranked first in 2007 and 2008—then BMW, Victory, Buell and MV Augusta all above the industry average. Overall motorcycle industry performance improved from 2008 to 2009, with eleven of the fifteen major motorcycle brands achieving higher PSI scores.  Harley-Davidson dealers performed substantially above the motorcycle industry average, but 2009 marked the first time in three years that dealers from another motorcycle brand were ranked higher.

A powerful brand needs to convey a long list of qualities; often, a brand may find itself stuck trying to represent too many — even conflicting — things. It seems that Harley is faced with this very situation. Social media interaction with the company will continue to grow in this downturn due in part to its ability to reduce the cost of customer acquisition, service, and transactions. Motorcycle consumers have many places to discover products. In fact, consumption of digital media and the Internet is shifting to cell phones and other portable devices. This proliferation adds complexity to an already highly competitive marketplace, and changing demographics. Keeping the customer central in retailers’ strategies will be difficult given the short attention span.

They have yet to ask for my viewpoint, but I believe Harley-Davidson can improve business results by developing deeper connections with us consumers and independent bloggers. It begins with the recognition that blogs are a new motorcycle “voice” and that the customer experience is a wide-range set of activities, not just an isolated event.  It’s a multiyear customer experience with the end result for any organization dependent on how effectively it navigates through multiple stages of the customer experience maturity.

Congrats to Ducati and the HD dealers!

Photo courtesy of PSI and Forester.

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H-D Clothing Bundle

H-D Clothing Bundle

There are many who think the new Harley-Davidson Iron 883 (Dark Custom) is the most beautiful bike sans clothing, with U.S. press fawning all over the “back-to-basic” motorcycle.

Enjoying my Friday morning cup of “bucks” I thought how H-D marketing should offer limited editions of the machine with new clothing bundles to increase motorcycle sales.  H-D and fashion go hand-in-hand.  There isn’t much the motor company can do to improve the no frills design of the Iron 883, but having a few extra choices when it comes to what clothing gets draped over the bike is surely a good thing, right?

Call it the “Fashion Victim” series.  Offer up a complete pre-bundled look with the motorbike.  This turn-key and new way of expressing your individuality might appeal to the younger generation which the company desperately solicits.  Motorcycle clothing can be found in the most prestigious boutiques around the world, but think of the time you’ll save when H-D does the heavy lifting traveling the world of fashion and pulls together leading brand names in motorcycle wear and pre-packages them for your exclusive fashion statement.

There is precedence for this.  A couple of years ago MV Augusta designed a limited edition motorcycle (Hydrogen) specifically for Hydrogen Jeans.  Customers could order designer jeans or the motorcycle to match right online!

So, in keeping with this Iron and new clothing bundle theme it would include:

  1. Jacket: Levi’s blanket lined, Big E. Extra cost for lining worn out at right hip due to knife rubbing.
  2. Pants: Vintage Lee work pants via Ballyhoo Vintage.
  3. Shoes: Chippewa moc toe (very Irish!). Cordovan polish then mink oil make them look well worn.
  4. Gloves: Marmot
  5. Shirt: JCrew. If you don’t like a fake cowboy shirt from JCrew then it’s Sears Western.
  6. Belt: Billykirk Mechanic’s. Very cool hidden buckle avoids tanks scratches.
  7. Knife: Leatherman Flair. The only one offering a corkscrew. Dude don’t look silly carting around tools but can’t even open a bottle…essential.
  8. Glasses: JPeterman. Captures that Aermachi Club look.
  9. Dew Rag: don’t be caught naked without a snot-rag/potholder/coaster bandana. Or wearing instructions!
  10. Reading material: Snowboard Magazine (A fave to maintain “dude” speak)

Cost?  Of course undertaking a ‘Bianchi‘ like journey from Amsterdam to Chicago isn’t cheap, but I’ll let H-D determine the expressive value of the package and price accordingly.

Maybe I’ll go decaf tomorrow?!

Photo courtesy of 10engines.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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