In 1903, 21-year old William S. Harley and 20-year old Arthur Davidson the first production Harley-Davidson motorcycle that was hand-built in a small garage in Milwaukee. Today, Harley-Davidson, Inc. employs more than 8,200 people and has 1,110 dealership worldwide. Its corporate headquarters are still located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The domestic production facilities are in the Milwaukee area, East Troy and Tomahawk, Wisconsin; York, Pennsylvania; and Kansas City, Missouri. Design, customer focus and sales have placed this company is in a very unique and desirable marketing situation.
Design is critical to the continued success of this company. For some companies, the word design may bring thoughts of sweeping changes and new model lines. However, for the design team at Harley-Davidson, it inspires thoughts of being faithful to the classic lines and sounds of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. This is not to say that the designers are not allowed and encouraged to improve on the hugely successful line of motorcycles, just the opposite is true.
Ken Schmidt, director of communications for Harley-Davidson, stated that: "We are constantly improving and modernizing the machine, yet not every component. That is what our customers want, and that's also, I believe, what sparks the strong emotional attachments that Harleys generate."
In the early 1980's, the company was plagued with quality control and reliability issues that nearly caused the company to go out of business. At this point, it was up to the design and quality control engineers to revamp the mechanical and electrical portions while staying true to the classic line of the motorcycle. They succeeded in resolving the problems and saved the company. William G. Davidson, who heads up a team of five product designers, is quick to add, "It's important to understand that we're not in the business of making antiques. Every year we make...