Can Harley ride the age divide?
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It might come down to a motorcycle gang war. But it won’t be anything like Hell’s Angels and the Pagans. It’ll be the Seniors vs. the Millennials. But it could get just as bloody.
Harley-Davidson USA (NYSE: HOG) has the opposite marketing problem of other motor makers. While others fret about how to sell vehicles to older consumers, the iconic motorcycle label has spent millions trying to get younger riders on stripped down baby hogs. Recent efforts to appeal to new riders or those looking to upgrade from other brands to the American status symbol have been met by resistance – not by the target audience but by the established consumer base, the leather-clad gray-beards who keep Harley in business (the average Harley customer is 55).
An $8,000 retro bike, Iron 883, met “Ugh, that’s not a Harley,” by a longtime customer, according to a story by Reuters. Disdain by the core is not good. Meanwhile, a New York bike dealer says the 883 flies off the shelf.
Harley’s CMO, Mark-Hans Richer, has the right idea: The margins may be slim on an $8,000 Harley, but clearly the brand makes customers for life. It’s a strategy that will work in the long run, but expect continued pushback from mature Harley enthusiasts – and they’re the ones presently with money.
Buzz McClain owns neither a Harley nor shares in Harley-Davidson.