The Marketing of Harley-Davidson

Essay by zmantimwUniversity, Master'sA-, May 2004

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"Nice Harley. I was going to get one of those, too. But I spent $6,495 on a killer dinette set. Harley . . . Dinette Set, Harley . . . Dinette Set. Went with the Dinette Set" (Harley-Davidson, 2004). With its latest commercial Harley-Davidson brings together their two core consumer markets, the hard-core bikers and the up-and-coming baby boomers.

To both of these groups, the Hog represents freedom. To the "biker" it is the open road, no ties left behind, living one day to the next. For the boomer, it is an escape from the routine day-to-day life that affords them the opportunity to own a Harley. While maintaining their image, Harley-Davidson manages to court both of its core customer groups as it continues its ride up the mountain of sales.

Harley-Davidson is the only major U.S. maker of motorcycles and the nation's number one seller of heavyweight motorcycles. The company offers 28 models of touring and custom Harleys through a worldwide network of 1,300 dealers.

Harley models include the Electra Glide, the Sportster and the Fat Boy. Besides its bikes, Harley-Davidson sells attitude - goods licensed with the company name include a line of clothing and accessories (Hoovers Online, 2004). The median age of their customer is 46 with an average income of $78,000. Nearly half of these customers were previous Harley-Davidson owners, while just over a quarter were first time motorcycle buyers (Harley-Davidson, 2004).

Hardly a young company (founded in 1903), the company floundered during the 1970s. In early 1981, virtually on the brink of bankruptcy, thirteen senior executives bought back Harley-Davidson from American Machine and Foundry Company (AMF). In 1983, the company petitioned the International Trade Commission for tariff relief. The tariff, granted in April of that year, was placed on all Japanese motorcycles 700cc or larger.