For everyone it is one of the symbols of contemporary America, like fast food and Coca-Cola. Something more: a popular icon. but yet Harley-Davidson is a giant in crisis. The Milwaukee-based company closed the second quarter with revenues down 53% to $ 669.3 million and losses of 92.2 million. In communicating the results, the company announces its intention to “focus on around 50 markets mainly in North America, Europe and some Asia Pacific areas which represent the majority of volumes and potential growth. The company is considering exiting international markets where volumes and profitability are not in line with its future strategy“.
The parabola of Harley-Davidson is significant as well as a very strong brand, publicly traded and financially sound is not eternal. Sometimes it is not enough to have a well-established and well-known brand (probably the best known worldwide) to make things go well. And you don’t even need a huge range of products. You have to know how to reinvent yourself.
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Harley-Davidson, after decades of great growth, has preferred to rest on its laurels, investing in its own hard core of enthusiasts without thinking about the customers of tomorrow, the younger ones. Now that the baby boomers, that is the harleysts par excellence, are starting to use the bike less and less for personal reasons, the Milwaukee company blames the lack of a generational change. On today’s 20-30 year olds, either for price reasons, or by vehicle type, theuniverse of traditional custom is becoming less and less popular. And the attempts – to tell the truth not very successful – to conquer new markets with the lower cubic Harleys, or even with the futuristic electric LiveWire, a beautiful object but intended for an audience of a select few.
The risk – which we hope will never materialize – is that Harley-Davidson, within 10-15 years, will become a thing of the past. But to reverse the trend they are needed ideas, projects. And above all a clear vision of one’s future. The hope is now all placed in a curious adventure called Pan America, another attempt to broaden horizons beyond the custom niche. We’ll see.