PODCAST: Harley-Davidson Goes Old-School to Lure New Customers

Sarah Steimer
AMA Podcast
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Key Takeaways

​What? Harley-Davidson and others in the industry are looking to expand their aging fanbase.

So what? As of 2014, the portion of U.S. motorcycle riders 50 or older was close to half.

Now what? The motorcycle industry needs to appeal to younger customers and those overseas, providing wider option of bikes for first-timers interested in experiences.

​Dec. 11, 2017

In an effort to draw a broader fanbase, Harley-Davidson releases smaller, 1960s-style bikes aimed at first-time riders

Motorcycle sales in the U.S. peaked at 716,268 in 2006 and fell to 371,403 new bikes in 2016, with the demographic of buyers growing older with time.

In an effort to combat these trends, the industry has been offering more bikes designed for first-time riders, according to Bloomberg, with smaller, lighter and more affordable options that could compare with rides from the 1960s. These new bikes are part of an effort to appeal to more millennials, who are said to be more interested in experiences than products—an easy rider-esque lifestyle.

Harley-Davidson has a goal of releasing 100 new bikes by 2027, including ones that appeal to a broader audience. Most recently, the company released the Sport Glide, featuring the iconic Harley batwing shape, but in a more compact and sporty package. The bike is also meant to appeal to overseas customers, according to Product Portfolio Manager Paul James, because of its ability to navigate twistier roads that are common in other countries.

“This is for people who aspire to Harley but didn’t see anything in the catalog that was just right for them,” James says of the Sport Glide.

The company is also looking to capitalize on the excitement around its 115th anniversary in 2018, with nine 2018 limited-edition bikes to commemorate the celebrations.


 All for Freedom. Freedom for All.


The Answers in Action podcast spoke with Heather Malenshek, vice president of global marketing and brand at Harley-Davidson, about the company's focus on freedom, along with plans for its 115th year and beyond.

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Author Bio:

Sarah Steimer
Sarah Steimer is a staff writer for the AMA's magazines and e-newsletters. She may be reached at ssteimer@ama.org or on Twitter at @sarah_steimer.
Add A Comment :

Displaying 3 Comments
Shivani Naik
March 16, 2018

Because Harley Davidson's brand image has been set in stone for about 115 years now, what are some marketing tactics that can be used to form the brand image to the likes of millennials?

March 16, 2018

Very insightful podcast. I’m curious how Harley-Davidson will be able to change the brand image to attract younger generations. I definitely agree that the experiential marketing strategy would go a long way. As a millennial myself, I can only agree that I would be more interested in the experience rather than the product itself. I would want to see what I can do with the bike, where it is going and what opportunities it brings with it. Although I also have typical stereotypes about the brand (old people, tattoos, beards, etc.), a branding focus on freedom, bringing people together and travel would probably make me want to consider looking into the brand.

March 17, 2018

I am also interested in the specific ways that Harley-Davidson plans to market to younger generations, especially since they are not trying to directly focus on the segment of the millennials, but are also trying to capture--or recapture-- people that may have gone away from the brand a bit, but could come back. I also find it interesting how the company is still trying to expand its brand to other places that may be unfamiliar with Harley-Davidson, even though motorcycle sales has gone done significantly.

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