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Old 01-22-2002, 06:23 AM   #1
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Default Cruiser Market Saturation?

Or or people starting to tighten their budgets and compromising by getting less expensive metric cruisers? Except for the serious hardcore HD-or-nothing group, there are a lot of great choices for cruiser riders out there. I was in an HD shop last weekend and they wanted $23K to preorder a V-Rod. I think list price is $16,999. Nice bike to be sure, but gouging is gouging. I think the slow economy, market saturation of cruisers of all types, and the consistent over-pricing by dealers will lead to a softness in the cruiser market. HD will take a big hit, seeing as how they are still the least bang for the most bucks. Can or will they ever produce a big-inch bike for under $10K? I'll bet they're working on it. I hope they are working on it.

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Old 01-22-2002, 07:24 AM   #2
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Default Slowdown AND Product Line

Maybe Harley should consider branching out. I don't want a cruiser, and may never want a cruiser. Chances are I would never consider a Harley, because they don't build anything but cruisers. A triple is fine, and I have ridden fours for years, but have no interest in a twin, especially a lumpy one. I would consider a Harley, but Harley doesn't make anything that I would be interested in. That includes Buells, even thought they are intriguingly radical as they are, because of the engine and the transmission. I wish Harley made a bike I would consider, but they don't. I don't think I am alone, and I don't think that the cruiser niche will grow forever.

The slowdown makes the situation worse, but lack of product line breadth is eventually going to catch up with the Motor Company.
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Old 01-22-2002, 07:28 AM   #3
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Default Re: Harley slowing down?

Chances are, things must be slowing down for H-D to some degree. The economy is slowing down and discretionary spending is always the first victim of that situation.

The gouging of customers cannot be totally placed at the door of H-D. Its dealers certainly share a good portion of that blame. They have enjoyed a market that was robust and often over-enthusiastic, with no "sunset on the horizon" for sales/profits.

I have owned three H-Ds, all bought used, during the early 90s. Do I love them? Yes. Do I love the Motor Company? No. They're not lying awake at night, worrying about my financial health any more than I consider their future in a slowing market. The Japs will always have a contender to the H-D image. I admire their tenacity and patience. But at the end of the day, they both sell an image. The only difference is the cost to buy in to that image. Right now, H-D is very costly. What you get isn't measured on the spec sheet. If it was, most people probably wouldn't buy them at the current pricing.
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Old 01-22-2002, 07:37 AM   #4
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Default Re: Harley slowing down?

Hard to say... We'll have to see if Harley's market share falls or if the lack of optimism is the belief that 1) the market for motorcycles will not continue to grow due to the sluggish economy, or 2) that Harley sales will begin to represent a smaller portion of a still growing market. I would guess the former rather than the latter. At the same time, Harley has been increasing supply at an amazing rate for the last 10 years; at some point that growth was going to have to slow down. Part of that increased supply means more motorcycles on the dealership floors at MSRP.

One possibility is that people that entered the market on Harleys now want something different. Is that number large enough to offset those moving to Harleys from other brands? Who knows. It would be amazing if Harley could sustain the same growth they have since the mid-80s. I can't think of many brands that have/could.

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Old 01-22-2002, 08:17 AM   #5
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Default Re: Cruiser Market Saturation?

A big inch bike for under $10K? They did that way before anybody else did. And if you don't consider the Sportster 1200 "big inch" enough because it doesn't weigh enough, they could do a lower-profit Dyna decontented the same way a base Sportster is for under $10K any time they feel the need to. No development needed. People wanting to customize would buy 'em like hotcakes just like they do 883's that don't even come with a rear seat. But as long as the factory decked-out Big Twins are selling well they've got no reason to do that.
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Old 01-22-2002, 08:41 AM   #6
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Default Re: Harley slowing down?

Predatory dealer practices will eventually hurt Harley Davidson. For its part, the motor company has been content to sit on the sidelines and watch this occur. While I presently own a pumped up Dyna, my next bike will not be a Harley. Dealer practices are the reason that I just can't bring myself to purchase another Harley.
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Old 01-22-2002, 08:51 AM   #7
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Default Re: Harley slowing down?

If other Harley buyers have had the experience that I have had then I can appreciate a reduction in sales. My 2000 Harley has left me on the side of the road twice for the same problem. They had the gall to charge me for it the second time even though it wasn't fixed right the first time. Add to this a lying dealer and the politics envolved in even getting a new Harley then its not worth the hassle. After waiting over a year for a Softtail Deuce I just gave up and bought a new BMW. I'm glad I did because the BMW turned out to be a real surprise. Really a much better engineered bike than the Harley. One thing I never understood was why Harley ships their bikes all over the world but makes their own countrymen wait forever for a machine.
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Old 01-22-2002, 08:54 AM   #8
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Default Re: Cruiser Market Saturation?

Harley sales softening because of dealer price gouging? Sounds like when I heard someone say "...no one goes to that restaurant anymore 'cuz it's always too crowded"
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Old 01-22-2002, 09:08 AM   #9
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Default Buell

The Buell division is just what you are talking about- Harley branching out. This will be an interesting year for Buell, as we will see haw the new Firebolt holds up on the street and the track, and if they can make enough to satisfy demand.

You can bet your boots that a smaller, lighter, cheaper-to-make liquid cooled v-twin motor is in development to replace the sportster as well as power a new generation of Buells, which will deprive a lot of guys like me of the excuse to not buy American. Think SV650 with fat grips.

In 1995, I test rode an S2 and thought that Buell would have some great sportbikes in 10 years- looks like we're on our way to seeing that.

Another realm is the dual-sport/off road bike. Harley has some experience with this segment, as they built several thousand bikes for the Royal Army. This is a category nobody has considered yet- the Dual Sport Cruiser- a lightweight single with plenty of torgue and some of the groovy 21st century style of the V-Rod. I think it would be big with the huge population of folks who live in rural areas and need functional, cheap off-road vehicles but would love to "buy American". Laugh if you want, but it's a niche Harley could exploit if they wanted to.
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Old 01-22-2002, 10:26 AM   #10
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Default Re: Harley slowing down?

Here's the way I look at it.

One, the economy is slowing. That takes a hit on what people are willing to spend for toys. Boats, vacations, cycles, et al always see a hit at the start of a downturn.

Two, many of the folks that could and would buy a Hog have. Demand for HD's is peaking. With that HD will have to shift from getting new customers (not a problem in the recent past) to keeping current customers (definitely a problem with HD's dealers rep).

That leads to three. HD introduced many new people to motorcycling to this past decade (thanks HD!). The problem is that those folks have owned their Hogs for several years now and many of them want something different. Something like their friends Goldwing. Or that guy down in Marketing's Futura. Or that chick with the FZ-1 who scoots by at 8:38 each morning on the way to work.

This desire to try out different bikes will affect HD shortly because of their narrow product focus. Will it kill them? Nah. After all, how many guys on a CBR 600 have thought, just for a moment, I wonder how I would look on a Fat Boy? But Honda makes a line up of cruiser's to sample from if you want to try that kind of bike. HD doesn't give you that choice.
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