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Old 23rd August 2020, 00:34   #61
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Default Re: Harley-Davidson: Is the American motoring dream coming to an end in India?

I doubt Harley leaving India completely. I guess they'll keep 3 to 5 showrooms at important places like Delhi, Mumbai Bangalore etc. And they'll shift to CBU imports like other super bike brands . Shouldn't be much of a problem there.

Sales are down no doubt about it. It seems the Bangalore dealer had zero sales the past few months. I visited the showroom two days back and it looked so sad and resigned. The staff seemed down and without enthusiasm. This is a far cry from just 6 months back! Covid has hit hard.

And I wouldn't worry about Harley as a brand, it'll survive, it makes good money as a lifestyle brand, motorcycles are just the bonus.

And I love the bike, did 50k kms on a sportster superlow in past 3 years , the length and breath of India. Met some amazing people and had the time of my life. No other brand arranges events and ride calender like the HOG in India be it BIG5 or 21/365. The ones who ride their machines to these events have memories of a lifetime.

Good luck Harley, hope you bounce back real soon!
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Old 23rd August 2020, 00:53   #62
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Default Re: Harley-Davidson: Is the American motoring dream coming to an end in India?

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Originally Posted by mh09ad5578 View Post
And I love the bike, did 50k kms on a sportster superlow in past 3 years , the length and breath of India.
But how the heck did you ride so much on a bike with 100mm of ground clearance ? :O

I get scared to take my Z650 on bad roads as that bottoms out easily. Can't imagine daring to take a Sportster on anywhere but well paved highways.
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Old 23rd August 2020, 01:39   #63
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Default Re: Harley-Davidson: Is the American motoring dream coming to an end in India?

TBH I have never been a fan of Harley, yeah they have street presence and the brand image is well cultivated. But I personally find them a sub-par product being sold in the name of a lifestyle, kind of like our RE Classic 350.

But it's sad to read that an iconic brand may leave India.

Just when I thought the Indian biking scene was heating up...

I hope they will change their minds and make Indian specific products.
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Old 24th August 2020, 22:33   #64
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Default Re: Harley-Davidson: Is the American motoring dream coming to an end in India?

So there's two ways to look at all this: the American (and global) market, and the Indian market. Two very different worlds. There's no dearth of opinion and analysis and blah blah on why Harley is struggling in the West. But they're in trouble for entirely different reasons over here, and what follows is my admittedly non-expert opinion.

Long story short, Harley shot themselves in the foot with the 700cc market.

Basically, Harley operated with a sort of unspoken truce with Royal Enfield. It's almost as though H-D told RE "you stay in your lane, we'll stay in ours. You go dominate the 350 / 500cc market for the common everyman, we'll sell the 880cc and above to the luxury market as exclusive status symbols." And they kicked back and relaxed.

Meanwhile, in Harley HQ in the west, the top brass were eyeing the delicious and exploding Asian market. But it's tough to sell big fat highway-cruising bikes to congested Asian cities where small engines rule the roads.

So they came up with the Revolution X engine. Liquid-cooled and in previously unthinkable 750cc and 500cc variants. Why? Because of Asia. Top brass imagined this would be the perfect middle-ground offering to the Asian market. Maybe in America-land, their customer base would laugh at anything below a thousand cc. But in Asia, the engine is big and powerful but not stupidly, unrealistically big and powerful.

I mean, a 500cc Harley? That would be perfect over here. You get the Harley badge-- check. You can go on longer road trips on it with that engine, just like with RE-- check. You could even ride it every day, in traffic, in summers-- check. It's that fabled everything-bike, arguably. And it would knock RE off its throne and smack some sense into the most complacent bike company on the planet (I'm referring to RE here lol).

But that's not what happened. I don't know whose idea this was, but the Street 500 was deliberately not sold in India-- even though it was manufactured here alongside its bigger sister, the 750. I vaguely remember a news article where a spokesperson for Harley India was like "yeah we don't want to enter into the 500cc market in India" (referring to that previously-mentioned 'unspoken truce' they were apparently imagining in their minds) and many of us Indians were baffled.

And then comes the big dramatic twist that nobody was expecting. Royal Enfield drops the 650 twin. And even the most hardened of skeptics and RE critics had to eat humble pie and admit that in fact, this is one fantastic engine and one fantastic bike. Comparisons to Triumph became common, and not just in looks, but in build and ride quality.

And the cost. Literally less than half the cost of the cheapest Harley. Triumph is peeing their pants and Harley is paralytic with shock.

tl;dr So what happened here was, Harley walked into the room, patted RE on the head and was like, "okay, kiddo, you keep making your little-boy baby bikes, we'll be over here building "real" bikes for grown men (i.e. rich guys), and I'll leave you alone, okay?" And RE was like "haan ji sir, yes sirji" all politely smiling and nodding like a child. Then Harley looked away for a moment and RE smashed a chair over Harley's head by dropping a bike that completely obliterated any reason whatsoever to even think of buying a Street 750.


Think about how things could have been different. Rewind to as little as five years back. If Harley ditched their ego and offered the Street 500 at a sweet price point, with actually functioning brakes, and aggressively marketed it to everyone and not just older guys with golf club memberships? I mean, sure, they would have lost out on their whole exclusive, "real bikes for real men only, everyone else GTFO" attitude. But what they could have traded that for is a bike for everyone. Something that replaced the need to buy a 500cc Bullet. A bike for the daily riding common man. A bike you can ride to work daily, or on weekends, or on road trips. Whatever. A bike you can customize and make your own.

You know where that sounds familiar? That's how Harley cemented their heritage in the first place. Think I'm crazy? That's where all that machismo originally came from-- everyday, blue-collar working men, salt-of-the-Earth types. And granted, yes, also outlaw bikers, but that's another story.

My point: Harley could have transformed themselves from America's Royal Enfield, into India's Harley-Davidson, but didn't. It could have been a best-of-both-worlds type of image and strategy. And they'd have a base model in the Street 500 where they could introduce new generations of riders into Harley's culture, but in an Indian context. Your first bike would be a humble Street 500, and you'd grow into the bigger and nicer bikes as you progressed in life and income levels. They even had this concept in their last major "More Roads" strategy or whatever they called it. But they simply forgot about how an Indian rider would take that all-important first step and made that first step the Street 750, which wasn't a step so much as it was a sheer cliff face you couldn't climb unless you were simply that rich. Which kind of blows the whole point.

Harley could have pre-emptively delivered that first punch to the likes of RE and even Triumph and KTM and Kawasaki, but utterly fumbled it by staying "exclusive." And here's where the story ends up sounding exactly like the American counterpart: they stayed so conservative and stuck to their guns for so long, they became like an animal that stubbornly refuses to evolve and survive, and now they're facing extinction. And it's nobody's fault but their own. They had so many chances, so many options, so many things they could have and should have done, and now it's like a cancer patient that decides to quit smoking after being given a terminal diagnosis. Too little, too late.

It's still sad coz Harley is an interesting brand. Most brands wish they had that kind of legacy and culture and image, and above all, that kind of rabid, rock-star like loyal fan following. It will be interesting to see what they try to do to survive now, but much like a stage four cancer diagnosis, pretty much anything they try is unlikely to work at this point.

Anyways, thanks for reading my incoherent ramblings, as usual I blame the coffee.
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Old 25th August 2020, 09:54   #65
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Default Re: Harley-Davidson: Is the American motoring dream coming to an end in India?

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Originally Posted by marcussantiago View Post
Long story short, Harley shot themselves in the foot with the 700cc market.

Basically, Harley operated with a sort of unspoken truce with Royal Enfield. It's almost as though H-D told RE "you stay in your lane, we'll stay in ours. You go dominate the 350 / 500cc market for the common everyman, we'll sell the 880cc and above to the luxury market as exclusive status symbols." And they kicked back and relaxed.
Have to disagree with your assessment. HD and RE don't compete in the same segment at all. The price difference between 750 and 500 was less than 1000USD. In India, the Street 750 is around ₹6.5lakh on road. (And this is with the recent ₹65k discounts!) Even assuming a ₹1lakh difference, Street 500 would be ₹5.5lakh on road.
The most expensive RE is about ₹3.5lakh on road.
HD had no choice in the matter due to simply economics. The Street bikes already have the lowest margins of all HD bikes. There was no way they could offer the Street500 for ₹3lakh on-road pricing.
Offcourse would people have bought a 500cc HD for similar price as 650RE is another question.

Last edited by timuseravan : 25th August 2020 at 09:59.
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Old 25th August 2020, 10:50   #66
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Default Re: Harley-Davidson: Is the American motoring dream coming to an end in India?

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Have to disagree with your assessment. HD and RE don't compete in the same segment at all. The price difference between 750 and 500 was less than 1000USD.
But that's kind of my point, Harley could have competed with RE but chose not to.

As for the pricing, I'd point out KTM. Together with Bajaj, they offered the Duke at ridiculously low and competitive prices, rather than pricing them at a premium and offering them as some sort of exclusive and rare superbike. The Dukes are actually really expensive all over the world-- the D390 is something like $8,000! Even the Duke 200 will be sold in America at a price that converts to something like 3 lacs in rupees. But over here? They're unbeatably cheap, and wipe the floor with the competition. Really the only competition to the 390s are bigger superbikes at 600cc and above. Nothing in its own class is a threat.

Granted, a large part of that price point is that KTM is built right here in India. But then so is Harley in India, so we're back to my original point of "they could have but chose not to."
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