HARLEY DAVIDSON MOTOR COMPANY Harley-Davidson was established in 1903 with headquarters in Milwaukee. It is a diversified company, the only major US maker of motorcycles still in business and the nation’s #1 seller of heavyweight motorcycles offering several models of touring and custom cycles, related products, accessories and transportation vehicles. In the 1960’s, the Japanese flooded the market competing with light weight motorcycles and huge marketing programs to promote sales.
The motorcycle industry took off rapidly. In 1969, this market penetration created major quality problems for Harley Davidson related to increased production efforts to remain competitive. The company could not match the excellence of the Japanese cycles who had began producing heavy weight cycles, nearly driving HD out of business. HD founders grandson, who mingled with and understood the Harley riders was successful in keeping the company viable with new designs.
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In the 80’s, 13 members of HD management purchased the company from AMF and introduced a short term strategy to return to quality with Just in time inventory and an employee involvement, quality circle program. In 1982, HD convinced the International Trade Commission (ITC) that a glut of imported Japanese bikes were a threat to the company. Tariffs imposed on the Japanese imports gave Harley Davidson a chance to reposition itself and regain market share. A long term marketing strategy was developed to focus on heavy weight bikes.
Improvements were discussed with the riders and a Harley Owner Group (HOG) society expanded the social atmosphere of motorcycling and activities revolve around HD products. A Demonstration Rider program brought new Harleys to motorcycle events and licensed riders were encouraged to ride showing would be customers the improve- ment in quality. Manufacturing publications and media were invited to visit plants and to publish articles on the company’s quality improvement programs thus providing advertisement the company. And a training was provided to the dealers on how to sell Harley’s.
Harley Davidson went public in 1986, became hugely profitable and tariffs on imports were lifted a year early and Holiday Rambler, another niche vehicle company. On it’s 85th birthday a rally was held, thousands of motorcyclists came and were asked to donate $10 to Muscular Dystrophy, HD memorabilia was auctioned off and thousands were raised for charity and the company’s charitable work continues today. Since that time the stereotypical profile of leather jacket biker now keeps company with 40-50 years old professionals who enjoy riding to reduce stress.
Woman have also become increasingly interested in motorcycles and Harley Davidson has a model suited for females. Besides bikes, Harley-Davidson sells a licensed line of clothing and accessories with the company logo, the Harley-Davidson Antique Motorcycle Museum and Harley Cafe restaurants provide Harley riders with great food, souvenir merchandise and a chance to see rare biker memorabilia intended to support and amplify the riding experience. Though there are still quality issues the appeal of a Harley is undeniable.
Harley Davidson is a powerful, much admired brand that is centered around the experience of biking, rumbling, muscular machines of which dreams are made, an icon known world wide. Problems possibly facing the company in the future are tougher helmet laws and noise abatements which are in legislation. Also, new companies have entered the market producing non Harley, Harleys and performance parts and accessories that directly compete with HD. Continuous quality improvement would be my only recommendation.