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Harley-Davidson CEO Meets POTUS

Earlier this year, the President met with Harley-Davidson exec’s and put a spotlight on the company in his address to Congress, yet there was no “Trump Bump” as the motor company reported earnings which included sharp declines in revenue and profit for the first quarter of the year.

Some of the key Q1’17 stats:
— $186.4 million in net income, or $1.05 per share, for the period ended March 26, down more than 25% from $250.5 million, or $1.36 a share, in the same period a year ago.
— Revenue was $1.5 billion, down from $1.75 billion in the first quarter of 2016.
— Motorcycle sales in the U.S. were down 5.7% in the quarter compared with a year ago and International sales fell 1.8%
— Reported motorcycle shipments fell 14.7% to 70,831 in Q1
— Market share in the 601cc-plus segment was up to 51.3%.  Execs stated that the Victory liquidation helped market share.

Nothing screams Americana more than deep vehicle discounts and Harley-Davidson jumped head first into that pool by offering its dealers financial incentives to clear out the leftover 2016 motorcycles.  And in an unusual move the company has purposely constrained the supply of its 2017 hottest-selling new models, including bikes with the new Milwaukee Eight engine, leaving some customers waiting to conquer the open road.  All of this is happening with only 4-months until the 2018 model-year launch.

If you listened to the earnings call this week there was a lot of “feel good” expressions from management about the way the company is performing yet, there are tepid sales, a downbeat outlook, and consumer confidence numbers that don’t reflect spending behavior.  Clearly households worldwide are slow to embrace new motorcycles as a way to enjoy life.

According to Harley-Davidson this is the 9th year in a row (based on IHS Market New Registrations) for motorcycles with 601+cc where they were the number one seller of new on-road motorcycles in the U.S. on both their “outreach” and “core” customers.  “Outreach” is defined as four segments — young adults ages 18-34, women, African Americans and Hispanics.  “Core” is defined as Caucasian men aged 35-plus.

Harley-Davidson reported that more people than ever before are discovering motorcycles and claimed that they are dominating the motorcycle market as well as being recognized as the leader in addressing key demographics — women, younger riders, African Americans and Hispanics, however, the patterns of growth remain elusive.

So whats going on?

Let’s drill down:
— Press and media continue to push negative motorcycle narratives (motorcycle crashes, distracted driving, club violence (last years Waco example) etc.).
— Increased pricing on new motorcycles have pushed out the average length of ownership.  For example new autos reached 6.5 years in Q1 2015.
— In the northwest along with parts of California the wet weather has limited the number of days to ride in 2017.
— Increasing Insurance rates  — on auto, home and health care biting into the discretionary funding of a motorcycle hobby.
— Income growth has declined.
— Interest rates have increased (in past years people pulled $$ from their house to buy a “toy” and now there is no where else to pull $$).
— Fewer “Outreach” customers (aged 18-34) own vehicles or don’t drive as much, they UBER.
— Apathy of the motorcycle hobby/life style as a form of entertainment

All or some elements of this could be weighing down new motorcycle purchases.  But I’m an optimist, and Harley-Davidson has a 10-year strategy to train 2 million new U.S. riders, grow international business to 50% of sales (currently about 32%) and launch 100 new “high-impact” motorcycles.

As it turns out and according to this report, about 22% of all new motorcycle purchases come from first-time buyers. This figure has remained relatively stable since 2001.  It’s very likely some of those 2M new riders will buy a new “high-impact” Harley.

Photos courtesy of CNBC and Harley-Davidson

Full Disclosure:  I don’t currently hold or intend to hold any $HOG shares.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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Kingfisher-LogoI’m talking about Kingfisher.

Beer was introduced into India by the British, who eventually set up a brewery that produced Asia’s first beer — a pale ale called Lion. However, these days, lager is the only type of beer you’ll find available in India and “The King of Good Times” is Kingfisher.

It’s India’s most recognized and widely available beer. Its name has been associated with sports, fashion, and even an airline.

And sooner than anyone would have thought… in Bawal, India a Harley-Davidson assembly line worker will be having a Kingfisher and relaxing with co-workers.

But, I’ve gotten ahead of myself…  let’s jump into the the way back machine and set the dial for — 2009.

The fact is we must focus both our effort and our investment on the Harley-Davidson brand, as we believe this provides an optimal path to sustained, meaningful long-term growth,” said CEO Keith Wandell at the October 15, 2009 announcement to discontinue production of Buell motorcycles.  On October 30, 2009 the last Buell (Lightning XB12Scg) rolled off the company’s East Troy, Wisconsin. assembly line.  It was the last of the 136,923 motorcycles built in the company’s 26 years of operation.

Harley-Davidson Street 750

Harley-Davidson Street 750

It was a combination of factors in making the decision, but essentially the global recession forced a reckoning and Harley-Davidson decided to refocus on its tent pole products or what I’d call doubling down on its core lineup of heavyweight bikes.  As a result, the motor company abandoned entry level motorcycles (Buell Blast), exited the sport bike (Buell and sold MV) and thumb their noses at the adventure market (Buell Ulysses).   In the process the motor company made a lot of motorcycle enthusiasts upset about what looked like a myopic approach of only looking at spreadsheets versus doing a bit more market research and addressing a need.

Jump ahead 4-years and witness the financial rebound of the company and the launch this week of the new Harley-Davidson Street 750 and Street 500 motorcycles.  Could it be a Buell Blast ReDeux?  The smaller 500cc motorcycle basically fills a void left when they discontinued the Buell motorcycle line which included the 492cc Buell Blast.  More important in this announcement is the fact that the motorcycles will be made both in the U.S. and Bawal, India, marking the first time the company will manufacture a complete motorcycle at an overseas facility.  I’ll repeat that… the first time the company will manufacture a complete motorcycle outside the U.S.!

Harley-Davidson Street 750  (Side View)

Harley-Davidson Street 750 (Side View)

The manufacturing news in of itself will be fodder for many future blog posts, but sticking to the motorcycle announcement, the new ‘Street’ bikes are the first Harley-Davidson motorcycles to be designed from scratch since the V-Rod 13 years ago.

It makes this Road Glide owner wonder if that’s an indicator of where all the engineers were redirected in lieu of updating the ‘Glide’ with the all new Project RUSHMORE features that were incorporated into the new 2014 touring models?

The fact is the company has aggressively expanded its marketing efforts because realistically, there is no replacing white Baby Boomer men. And this means they have to attract younger men, non-Caucasian men, women, and do that from countries as disparate as India, Italy, Brazil and the U.S. with much more success.  By turning inwards, relying on a single-brand tradition and nationalism over the last 4-years and divesting itself of brands that were dimming the lights on a brighter future–the motor company can and now has expanded into other segments.

At the Street 750/500 announcement the Harley-Davidson, CEO Keith Wandell said, “The younger riders don’t want their dad’s chromed-out Harley,” “They want the Dark Custom, sinister look, the ability to rebel.

Sounds like a bit of marketing spin, but with more than half of its dealerships outside the U.S., Harley-Davidson has really put a lot of investment behind a push to expand and broaden its customer base including new motorcycle buyers–worldwide.

Photo’s courtesy of H-D and Kingfisher.  Note: Kingfisher, “The King of Good Times”, is India’s most recognized and widely available beer. Its name has been associated with sports, fashion, and even an airline.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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2012 Interbrand Top 100 — Harley-Davidson #96

Maybe it was the Willie G. retirement?   Or it could have been a result of Mark Hans Richer (H-D CMO) flexing marketing muscles on the urban scene.

It might be that after nearly three years of downsizing, plant closures and restructuring its business, Harley-Davidson is firing on both cylinders and there is a lot less heat buildup due to the “synthetic lube” of Keith Wandell’s (H-D CEO) new break-in procedure?  Whatever the case, it has emerged with an improvement in brand value.

This according to Interbrand who recently released the 2012 Best Global Brands.  In 2010, the H-D brand was 100 on the top 100 list.  In 2011 it improved to 98th and for this year it again improved its ranking to 96th.

How does Interbrand choose which brands it considers best?

The research firm uses three factors: 1) the financial performance of the branded product or service; 2) the role the brand plays in influencing consumers; and 3) the strength of the brand in asking a premium price for its products or bringing in earnings for the company.

“Stereo Typical” Harley Ad

The restructure strategies seems to be paying off with signs of solid performance and consistent growth. Sure there are significant “head winds”…  meaning challenging economic times and the motor company knows that it cannot solely rely on baby boomers, and needs to appeal to women, minorities, Gen Y, and Millennials.

HERE is an example of that new outreach (#stereotypicalharley).  Or the remix version HERE.

The management at Harley-Davidson want customers to “feel a certain way” when using their products, visiting a dealer, or surfing on the H-D Web site.  They know that a brand connects a business with the hearts and minds of consumers.

Photo courtesy of Interbrands and H-D.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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The Changing Faces Of Harley-Davidson Owners

Don’t you just like that word?!

You’re either out of the inner circle or working hard to remain firmly in the trusted seat.

Maybe you’re that guy who is tired of missing out on his friends’ weekend motorcycle trip because he doesn’t ride. Or maybe she’s the woman who has been a passenger for years and wants to ride her own ride. Maybe you’re that middle-aged guy who sees a kid on a dirt bike and remembers the happy riding days of his youth, and suddenly can’t recall why he ever stopped riding. Or the young woman who spots a sleek new “72” in the local Mall and suddenly decides, with absolute certainty and no warning, that she simply must have it and learn to ride it.

There are many different ways or reasons to get into motorcycling, but the common riding experience is inclusive for everyone.

And speaking of inclusion, last month I read how more and more businesses are looking to make sure they get their fair share of the black dollar and how H-D is no exception in making sure that this community is appreciated for helping strengthen their bottom line.  In fact,  there were reports of African-American reporters who were completely immersed (read wined and dined in Milwaukee on H-D’s dime) into the biker culture with the motor company for three days and pitched on the company attributes in hopes of them writing about the experience and then even more African-Americans coming over to participate in the H-D lifestyle.

If nothing else, Harley-Davidson, is showing how serious it is about broadening its reach.

I’ve often blogged, that if the motorcycle industry is to be reborn — and even the quickest scan of sales statistics is enough to know a rebirth is necessary — it will come from expansion into long-ignored niches, such as youth, women and minorities. We Boomers are quickly approaching our doddering years and will soon be trading up to trikes if we’re lucky or for walking sticks if not.

These days if you meander into any Harley dealer you’ll likely find: a pink-haired twenty-something white woman who could be a student to a bandana-ed Hispanic man that is a police officer and all nondescript types in between who ride. Oh sure there is the occasional tatted up true blue stereotype white male rock star trying to look gritty and the ever present old time long haired grey bearded biker.  But, Harley’s message is simple: They are no longer a niche brand. They are no longer focused on Boomers who hijacked the brand during the last decade. They are for everyone.

The claim is that no stereotypical Harley-Davidson rider exists anymore.  I say welcome to the family and a trusted seat in the inner circle!

Photo courtesy of Flickr

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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BD_CalOrganizing your schedule shouldn’t be a burden.

I use a number of calendars both paper and electronic as I suspect many of you do the same.  Personally I think paper is easier, always available and generally more portable.  I was looking around for a new calendar and ran across the 2010 Big Dog Biker Calendar.  Should be no problem keeping track of important dates as the calendar has oversized date boxes providing plenty of room to write in important events as well as 12 months of inspiring images. However, don’t be fooled because most of these ladies aren’t the ‘gas chick’ on the back seat type… they ride motorcycles for personal enjoyment.  Go figure!

That’s what impressed me about this calendar.  I must be getting old(er) as many of the models are “real” women! Mature women who ride their own bike.  There is real beauty in maturity versus the plastified bimbo’s with platform shoes that are too fake, too overdone.  To each his own… I suppose.  I’ve made every effort to avoid sleazy and keep it classy.  It’s a challenge, but someone’s got to do it.

Photo courtesy of Big Dog Biker.

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