There was a time when Harley-Davidson ruled the big bike market.
A few years ago if you wanted to buy a Harley, you got in line and used bikes sold for as much, and even at times more, than their original price. Production couldn’t keep up with the demand and the die-hard hog riders would line up at the dealer to sign up on a waiting list that would go for months.
Not a bad problem for Harley-Davidson to have.
It seemed like Harley-Davidson would rule forever as the popularity of the Harley legacy went through the roof and the company stepped up with a match in production pumping out 361,600 bikes in 2006. Upon a series of unfortunate events, Harley eventually crashed during the recession while running full throttle and left the world wondering what they would do next.
Harley-Davidson’s biggest opponent yet.
In 2015 a rival stepped up to the plate to challenge Harley-Davidson for their long standing reign of king in the big bike market. Polaris Industries has found with the successful resurrection of Indian Motorcycles, a rise in demand that production can’t keep up with. With the introduction of the Dark Horse line and the increasing popularity of both the Scout and the Chieftain, Polaris finds itself in a similar predicament as Harley-Davidson in early 2000’s.
While this is not a bad problem to have, Polaris has found troubles along the way that have hindered the plan to scale up production. One of those being the size of the paint facility in Spirit Lake, Iowa. This forced Polaris into costly solutions in 2015 such as outsourcing the painting of the bikes to keep consumers from running to the competition. Polaris is fighting this problem by adding new capacity to the Spirit Lake paint facility to fight the particularly troublesome bottleneck.
Is Harley-Davidson really that bad off?
To be fair Harley-Davidson still owns almost half of the big bike market even after losing shares to rivals. Harley-Davidson is sticking to their guns refusing to give up the premium it charges for its bikes, bucking the trend of motorcycle manufacturers dropping prices to attract customers.
What does Harley-Davidson have that the competitors don’t? A core of die-hard riders. Harley by far has the most loyal customer base than any competitor on the market. Unfortunately, even with this core loyalty, the truth is in the numbers and Harley-Davidson is losing sales. Despite the adamant refusal to lower shipment guidance after disappointing results shipment forecast has dropped.
With Harley-Davidson struggling to keep up, Polaris has, despite a few bumps along the way, managed to be successful in the big bike market. Polaris has found major success in the ATV and off-road vehicle market and with Harley-Davidson’s mistakes may be able to take the big bike market by storm.
Can Polaris learn from Harley-Davidson’s past? Will they be able to run Harley-Davidson off the throne? Will Harley-Davidson make a comeback with their new marketing efforts and killer 2016 line-up?
So many questions, we will have to wait and see what spring of 2016 brings. With the rally season kicking off soon in Daytona we hope to have some of these questions answered.
Let us know what you think in the comments below! While you’re there make sure you subscribe to our blog either through email or RSS feed!
Also see our thoughts on Harley-Davidson’s proposed marketing changes for 2016