Harley-Davidson scraps ‘More Roads’ in favour of the simple life

Harley-Davidson has effectively rewound the ‘More Roads to Harley’ program in favour of a more back to basics strategy

Harley-Davidson FXDR 114

IT’S no secret that the last few years for America’s biggest motorcycle manufacturer have been fairly tumultuous.

Sales are plummeting, the company’s stock market value is in almost freefall and the aging pool of die-hard Harley owners is dwindling.

Harley-Davidson needs new blood, and the pocket full of dollars they tend to carry. A couple of years ago, the then CEO of Harley-Davidson, Matt Levatich, unveiled his brave new world for Harley. It was a lightning bolt of new bikes, electrification and meant the factory would be dipping their sizable toes into interesting new segments such as the adventure and naked class. Add to that the LiveWire electric bike which is stunning yet wince-inducingly pricey, and to the casual outsider Harley’s future was looking up.

What a difference couple of year, a boardroom proxy war and a new CEO makes, as H-D look to have made an about turn on all Levatich’s hard fought plans as they look to go back to the future!

Current Harley-Davidson interim CEO, Jochen Zeits, has issued his first public statement since taking the helm at the 117-year-old company. In it he includes his five year plan for Harley-Davidson, outlining the steps he feels he’ll need to make for the company to succeed.

What is the new Harley-Davidson strategy?

  • Enhance core strengths and better balance expansion into new spaces
  • Prioritize the markets that matter
  • Reset product launches and product line up for simplicity and maximum impact
  • Build the Parts & Accessories and General Merchandise businesses to full potential
  • Adjust and align the organizational structure, cost structure and operating model to reduce complexity and drive efficiency to set Harley-Davidson up for stability and success

While most of these points are boardroom speak for, “I’m here to shake things up so look busy people”, the most interesting point is the top one – Enhance core strengths and better balance into new spaces.

It sound to me like Zeits feels that the Harley-Davidson expansion in recent years was to much and too fast. It seems like the great Harley-Davidson goldrush into new an previously unexplored lands (for them at least) is on hold. They will be going back to basics and focusing on the bikes they know in the markets they know – so that cruisers and the US.

Sadly it seems, bikes like the VR1000 Cafe Racer concept are going to be put well on the back burner...

The third point, ‘Reset product launches and product line up’ is most likely talking about the incoming (hopefully) Pan America and Bronx models, what would be Harley-Davidson’s first naked and adventure bike. In the statement, H-D confirm that they are sticking to those programs and including in that the LiveWire electric machine that launched to applause from the press and shock from the public due to its price.

If you’re a fan of the long and low cruisers of old, the news the firms CEO has delivered may be music to your ears. Although sadly for many, the idea of Harley plumbing new depths was equally exciting. If for anything, the new approach has helped the firm’s stock market price, which shot up pretty much as soon as the announcement was made.

Let’s hope that Harley’s sales in the coming years decide to follow that trend.