SVSU Harley Davidson Strategic Competitiveness that Span Decades Case Study


Read the attached case and answer the following questions in a single Word document
Analyze the impact of the firm’s general environment. Highlight the global segment, economic segment, demographic segment, sustainable physical segment, political and legal segment, and sociocultural segment.

Perform an internal analysis to identify the firm’s strengths and weaknesses.

Based on the analysis of the external environment and internal organization, recommend an appropriate international corporate-level strategy (choose one from Global, Multidomestic, and Transnational) for the firm and explain its rationale. 

Case 14
Harley-Davidson: Strategic Competitiveness that
Spans Decades
Guriqbal Cheema, Joel Cunningham, Pallavi Daliparthi, John Klostermann, Brian Rabe
Texas A&M University
Kent Grayson
Professor of Marketing, Northwestern University
Harley-Davidson is an American cultural and business
icon on the level of Levi Strauss and Coca-Cola. Often
imitated, but never duplicated, Harley-Davidson has
managed to survive, and has, at times, thrived for many
decades. Through depression, recessions, world wars,
high technology developments, Japanese competition,
and increasing government regulation, Harley-Davidson
has maintained operations where over a dozen other U.S.
motorcycle firms have failed. Harley-Davidson has even
survived over a decade as a subsidiary of a bowling alley
service firm. It has achieved this by essentially relying on
designing, manufacturing, selling, and servicing a relatively static product: two wheels, a 45° V-Twin engine,
and a set of handlebars.
How has Harley-Davidson managed to survive
through these and other hardships in a motorcycle
market that is dominated by leisure riders? How has it
kept the doors open while its historic U.S. rival, Indian
Motorcycles, is currently in its fourth incarnation? How
has it maintained its attractiveness with outlaw bikers,
investment bankers, and those who appear to be experiencing a “mid-life crisis” and who sometimes turn to
the firm’s products as a result? More importantly, what
is this firm selling that keeps it as the industry leader in
full-size motorcycles? The answer to these questions is
not a 526-pound batch of steel with 250 feet of wiring,
but rather the fact that Harley-Davidson is selling the
American dream of freedom. How it is able to do this is
a fascinating story.
The Challenge
With over 6,000 employees, 1,400 franchises, and nine
production facilities, Harley-Davidson has managed to
survive the economic downturn that was in full force in
late 2007 and for the next few years; but the firm is not
out of the woods yet. In fact, Harley-Davidson is struggling with three pivotal issues, the first of which is that
the firm’s products are viewed as leisure items. The other
two issues are similar in nature in that they deal with
the fact that managing the firm’s target market is challenging, particularly as demand for its products is changing. Individually and collectively these issues pose a real
challenge to the company’s long-term success. Without
addressing these issues, Harley-Davidson may lose its
ability to create value for customers and to serve stakeholders’ needs as a result.
As noted, the first issue Harley-Davidson must successfully address is the fact that consumers see the firm’s
products primarily as leisure items. This means that in
many consumers’ eyes, purchasing motorcycles, performance parts, and high-dollar apparel is a luxury rather
than a necessity. Because of this, Harley’s products must
compete for funds from what at least sometimes can
be volatile discretionary budgets for consumers. When
economic conditions are challenging, the motorcycle
market tends to experience difficulties in terms of generating adequate sales. While Harley-Davidson’s revenue
streams originate from several sources, very few of them
appeal to a cost-sensitive consumer base.
© Vividfour /
“It’s more than a brand. It’s a culture.”1
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Case 14: Harley-Davidson: Strategic Competitiveness that Spans Decades
Second, Harley-Davidson is challenged to effectively
specify its target market as a first step to appropriately
serving that market’s needs. Historically, the firm’s
target market has been males between the ages of 29
and 55. However, in the last decade, Harley-Davidson
has ­pursued younger riders and women as a means of
expanding its target customer segments. But expanding
the segments the firm serves with its products is not a
risk-free decision or choice for the firm to make in that
serving others might cause the firm to lose its ability to
effectively serve the specific needs of the 29- to 55-yearold male (again, the historical target customer). This
matter is considered more fully later in the case.
Third, demands and cost drivers for the motorcycle market are ever changing. Overseas competitors
have shifted their focus from being the least expensive
to being affordable and to providing a wider variety of
motorcycles to customers as options to purchase. This
competitive shift has put pressure on Harley-Davidson’s
key markets and has forced the firm to respond. With
over 12 percent and 55 percent of the European and U.S.
heavyweight motorcycle market respectively, HarleyDavidson has a substantial territory to defend.
fueled the demand for its early models, which were sold
in dealerships as early as 1904. Because these turn of the
century races were as much about endurance as speed,
Harley-Davidson acquired invaluable knowledge pertinent to practicality and robust design. After significant
success in road and endurance races, Harley-Davidson
broke fresh ground with the introduction of the V-Twin
engine design. Superior to large single-cylinder engines,
the lighter V-Twin design allowed similar displacement
in a lighter package with a shape that fit naturally into
the bicycle-inspired frames of the early 1900s. Few suspected that this design would become so integral to
modern motorcycles.
Having dedicated over a third of its production to
the U.S. Army, Harley-Davidson sales exploded during
World War I. With the advent of motorized warfare, the
motorcycle proved itself to be far more than just a novel
invention. In addition to proving itself to the Army,
Harley-Davidson also proved itself to soldiers. After
the war, soldiers returned home and became a loyal
customer base for the young firm. Through the 1920s,
Harley-Davidson continued to focus on design improvement and racing. It spent much of this decade fighting
for market share with multiple medium and small competitors. During this time, firms producing automobiles,
airplanes, bicycles, and industrial machinery also tried
their hand at building motorcycles.
The 1930s were a unique time for the motorcycle
industry. In the wake of the Great Depression, the public was looking for inexpensive, simple transportation.
At the same time, unemployment and inflation shrank
potential customers’ purchasing power. It was during
this time that many of the smaller motorcycle manufacturers dropped out of the industry. Most of these firms
were subsidiaries of companies in related industries.
These failed motorcycle firms had many of the capabilities needed to produce motorcycles, but lacked the corporate focus and support to continue production during
such a difficult economic time. It was during this time
that the U.S. domestic market shrank, with only Indian
and Harley-Davidson remaining. With the market
divided between only two domestic producers, HarleyDavidson’s production held steady.
With the onset of World War II, Harley-Davidson
found itself to be a major supplier for the Allied war
effort. Again, war vaulted Harley-Davidson into a position of higher volume, improved reputation, and deeper
loyalty with owners and soldiers. As the war came to
an end, the United States was flooded with a surplus of
Army WL45 motorcycles. Suddenly, this country was full
of prospective riders who understood Harley-Davidson’s
History.2 Harley-Davidson, Inc. has been a pub-
licly traded firm since 1987. It has two primary divisions: Motorcycles and Related Products and Financial
Services. The Financial Services Division provides credit
to motorcycle buyers and dealerships as well as risk management and insurance services for all parts of the firm.
The Motorcycles and Related Products Division currently operates through eight primary segments:
■■ Parts & Accessories (17.5 percent of net revenue in
■■ General Merchandise (5.9 percent of net revenue in
■■ Licensing ($43.2 million of net revenue in 2011)
■■ Harley-Davidson Museum
■■ International Sales (32 percent of net motorcycle revenue in 2011)
■■ Patents and Trademarks
■■ Other Services
■■ Marketing
In 1903, William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson
founded Harley-Davidson Motor Company, known
by enthusiasts as “the Motor Company,” in order to
fund their racing pursuits. Accordingly, their first
motorcycles were merely contemporary bicycles with
small engines retrofitted to the frame. It was HarleyDavidson’s early success in motorcycle racing that
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product and appreciated how motorcycles could provide
inexpensive, dependable transportation. At this point,
only Indian Motorcycles was a competitor for HarleyDavidson. But in 1956, at the height of an economic
recession, Indian Motorcycles declared bankruptcy and
stopped producing motorcycles altogether, leaving only
Harley as a major producer and seller of motorcycles.
As the sole U.S.-based motorcycle power, HarleyDavidson enjoyed great success. Nevertheless, the lack
of competition nearly became its undoing. This market
condition allowed Harley-Davidson to take more risk
in the form of acquisitions, causing the firm to lose its
tight focus on a single market. It began branching out to
other leisure and motorized products such as off-road
motorcycles, ski boats, and golf carts. At the same time,
the bulk of Harley-Davidson’s revenue stream was still
coming from the sale of its heavy motorcycles. Many
of the acquisitions the firm completed in the latter part
of the 1950s and the early 1960s, such as the Tomahawk
Boat Manufacturing Company in 1962, were in similar
industries, but a poor fit with Harley nonetheless. The
acquired companies were often in deep trouble when
Harley-Davidson purchased them. In the end, HarleyDavidson was hobbled with losing ventures that diluted
its focus and did not fit well with its core competencies.
In 1969, the American Machine and Foundry Company
(AMF – a longtime producer of leisure products such as
tile bowling pins and ball returns) purchased the financially distressed Harley-Davidson.3
Most enthusiasts consider the AMF years as the
“dark ages” of Harley-Davidson’s history. AMF operated
Harley-Davidson as a profit center, reducing ­allocations
to the unit’s marketing and research and development
(R&D) functions as a result. For the next 13 years, Harley’s
aging product line remained essentially unchanged.
In fact, its line was so static over the years that many
of the parts from a 1937 model fit on the 1969 design.
Harley-Davidson had just two motorcycles with different trim packages: the low-budget sportster, the sport
bike of its day, and a full-size motorcycle available in
two different models. In light of Honda and Kawasaki’s
entrance into the U.S. market, Harley-Davidson’s stale
product line was even more disappointing. Many did
not see these imports as a threat given the prestige and
heritage of the Harley-Davidson name. However, the
Harley-Davidson image was deteriorating. Even with
its products in desperate need of a facelift, AMF relied
on Harley-Davidson’s reputation to defend its competitive position; AMF plastered Harley-Davidson’s name on
products like snowmobiles and golf carts. While trying to
capitalize on the value of Harley-Davidson’s brand name,
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quality became a serious problem; customers would have
to return new motorcycles to a dealership multiple times
to fix manufacturing problems. It was during this time
that owners coined the saying “a Harley always marks its
spot,” a phrase referring to the machine’s nearly universal
oil leaks. This turned off many prospective customers, as
they believed a Harley-Davidson would require constant
owner maintenance. All the while, Japanese motorcycle
companies enticed more and more riders looking for
inexpensive, dependable transportation.
By 1981, Japanese motorcycles were established in the
U.S. market not only as dependable transportation, but
also as performance machines. Harley-Davidson’s sales
were in free-fall as its tired designs appealed to a narrowing market segment. It was selling to customers who
liked classic style and dated functionality, and all for a
high price. Finally, the employees and management of
Harley-Davidson led a managed buyout of the company
from AMF.4 The new owners immediately took stock
of the firm’s strengths and vulnerabilities and increased
its R&D and marketing budgets significantly. Because
negative effects of AMF’s past business decisions still
hampered the new management team, sales remained
low. In 1985, Harley-Davidson’s top management team
struggled to restructure the firm and divested itself of
most of its unrelated assets. In 1987, Harley-Davidson
became a publicly traded company, and none too soon
as Harley-Davidson had revamped its product line into
four motorcycle styles that were united by the introduction of a new engine. This was the turning point for
Harley-Davidson. From this point forward, the firm’s
quality control was exponentially more effective. In
addition, Harley-Davidson focused more on efforts to
operate efficiently and effectively. Following the precepts of just-in-time techniques and enhancement to the
logistics function were critical to the firm’s attempts to
enhance efficiency and effectiveness. At the same time,
Harley shifted to three major initiatives:5
■■ Improved manufacturing process, leveraging technology, robotics, and employee involvement
■■ Restructuring business management to a modern
■■ Aggressive management of its brand name through
dealership management, patenting activities, and
careful licensing of related products
The modern Harley-Davidson fought back from the
brink several times, each time seeming to evolve and
adapt. What appears to be universal to each evolution
of the company is that quality, promotion, and market
focus have always been a priority.
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Case 14: Harley-Davidson: Strategic Competitiveness that Spans Decades
How Harley Does It6
Harley-Davidson focuses on a subset of the motorcycle
market featuring customers who value heritage, style,
reputation, durability, and adaptability. Until 2000,
Harley-Davidson’s motorcycles sold at nearly a 25 percent premium. In the last decade, that premium has
dropped to 5 to 10 percent, depending on the class of
motorcycle. This is due to Japanese motorcycle manufacturers shifting to marketing and selling somewhat
unique motorcycles for a better than average price. In
comparison, Harley-Davidson uses the Sportster© line
as an introductory product, but most of its motorcycles
sell for over $15,000, with the average sale price of just
over $16,893.7 Harley-Davidson motorcycles provide a
unique product at a price that its target customers deem
acceptable or reasonable. While its competitors may have
attempted to cut costs, Harley-Davidson has continued
to invest in its products in ways that protect the quality of its brand image. Harley-Davidson’s market focus is
primarily males between the ages of 29 and 55. However,
this has been changing.8 Recently, it has targeted female
What It Does Best9
In its modern incarnation (1987 to present), HarleyDavidson achieved success by doing what it does
best. Granted, multiple firms make great motorcycles,
and many of these firms have a dedicated following.
However, through the actions the firm has taken over the
years, Harley-Davidson has developed and maintained
what is a unique position in the U.S. motorcycle market. Effectively managing its brand name, production
or manufacturing simplicity, and a dedicated product
following are the key sources of the firm’s competitive
Harley-Davidson’s brand name is its most important
asset. Cultivated through good times and bad, its brand
name is a powerful motivator for current and prospective customers. For many Americans, Harley-Davidson
is the American motorcycle. This belief is no accident.
After being separated from AMF, Harley-Davidson’s top
management team decided to significantly increase the
amount of resources being allocated to marketing and
R&D. This appears to have been a wise decision in that
Harley-Davidson now holds 55 percent of the entire U.S.
motorcycle market, and an even higher share in the U.S.
heavy motorcycle market. Strict protection of its brand
name permeates every decision the firm makes. Its
motorcycles, while occasionally deviating in style, generally follow traditional themes. Harley-Davidson only
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makes a design change after witnessing a strong market
trend.10 For example, the custom portion of the motorcycle market has been designing machines with wide rear
tires for nearly two decades; in 2007, Harley-Davidson
launched a single model with a wide rear tire.
Harley-Davidson is also very selective about its
franchise (dealership) opportunities, another method
through which the firm protects its brand. Due to
­free-trade laws, Harley-Davidson is no longer able
to insist that its dealerships sell only Harley products.
However, it utilizes price incentives to encourage dealerships to stay “Pure-Harley.”11 Harley-Davidson is especially protective of its name and logo when it comes to
licensed products, most of which are sold in its dealerships. If it is not the best quality, the product’s license
is revoked. Retailers can sell ladies’ shirts at a 100 percent premium because they are of excellent quality and
cannot be found anywhere. This aura of exclusivity is
embedded in the very DNA of Harley-Davidson Inc.,
from the headquarters to the dealerships. This aspect of
culture is an asset in that the notion of wanting to be
seen as providing products that are somewhat “exclusive”
in nature permeates the firm’s decision processes as it
seeks to serve its target customers’ needs.
Harley-Davidson’s production process is another
important firm-specific asset. The key elements of
the process are the melding of a JIT supply chain with
team production management and part interchangeability.12 When combined, the elements of Harley’s
production process are unique. Japanese manufacturers have used the same JIT concept for years, but have
not stressed a limitation of key components. After 1987,
Harley-Davidson updated its production facilities and
design process. Its production facilities in Kansas City,
Missouri and York, Pennsylvania are the best examples
of modern robotics combined with team enablement.
Interchangeable parts are the most important component of this asset. This concept simplifies all areas of the
motorcycle production process; but it is perhaps most
evident in the production of Harley’s frames and engines.
Harley-Davidson produces five unique frames for each
motorcycle ­family: Sportster©, Dyna, Softail©, V-Rod©,
and Touring. Even with 28 different models and seemingly limitless options, Harley-Davidson produces only
three engines. Internal machining, displacement, and
color coating are the only differences across the engines.
The Sportster© line comes in two displacements: 883 and
1204 cubic inches. The Dyna, Softail©, and Touring lines
all share the same Twincam© engine, available in 96 and
103 cubic inches. The V-Rod’s© engine is only produced
in one version.13 This production approach with respect
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to interchangeable parts appears to be a competitive
advantage in that it allows Harley to produce several
models, subdividing its target market segments even
further, while keeping production costs lower than if it
produced 28 different frames and engines.
Loyalty to the brand is another important asset for
Harley-Davidson. While its brand name protection
applies primarily to prospective customers, its product
following centers on existing customers, many of whom
are repeat buyers of the firm’s products. There are multiple examples of Harley’s dedicated following. At the
extreme for example, consider the fact that some private
riding clubs only grant membership to those willing to
tattoo the bar and shield logo on multiple locations of
their body. For others, remaining committed to the firm’s
mantra that owning a Harley “is a journey, not a destination” and participating in company-sponsored events
with others sharing this belief accounts for their loyalty.
Regardless of the reason for it, customer loyalty to the
Harley brand appears to influence these individuals to
purchase Harley products other than motorcycles such
as clothing and a wide range of product accessories.
Historically, loyalty to the brand has resulted in a large
percentage of Harley customers choosing to buy another
Harley when it is time for a new motorcycle. However,
the “graying” of Harley’s customer base is potentially a
problem as at some point, this group of customers will
no longer be purchasing new products.14
Keeping It Simple15
In 2011, Harley-Davidson generated 88 percent of its
revenues from a single business area (Motorcycles and
Related Products) and 12 percent from its second primary segment (Financial Services). This composition of
sales revenue is consistent with previous years and suggests that Harley may continue business as usual to help
the firm reduce its idiosyncratic risk. It will also try to
expand its business in other countries with a primary
focus on providing quality product and services. HarleyDavidson has been able to earn positive returns while
focusing on just two businesses because it has developed
strengths that allow it to create value for customers.
Moreover, there are fewer challenges in managing only
two businesses. This approach allows Harley-Davidson
to not only gain economies of scale, but also use its
resources efficiently.
Historically, males between the ages of 29 and 55 have
been Harley-Davidson’s target customer. However, this
is changing.16 Recently for example, the firm is also
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targeting female customers with motorcycle models that
have a lower seat height and pink, purple, and light blue
color schemes. Its marketing has also reflected an effort
to attract more female riders. It has even tailored its riding classes (the Riders Edge Program©) to have all-female
sessions and to make new women riders feel more comfortable. A woman could walk into a Harley-Davidson
dealership having never sat on a motorcycle and within
an hour purchase a motorcycle for as little as $8,000. She
could then join a riding class that would grant a motorcycle endorsement on her driver’s license.
Thus, Harley-Davidson is beginning to market to a
multi-generational and multi-cultural audience. In this
regard, the firm is working to attract a more diversified audience in terms of age, gender, and ethnicity.17
Harley-Davidson is a market leader in the U.S. heavyweight ­segment. The average median household income
of a Harley-Davidson purchaser is $89,000.18 HarleyDavidson primarily uses advertising and promotional
activities via television, print, radio, direct mailings,
electronic advertising, and social media to market its
product. Moreover, local marketing efforts in conjunction with dealers are highly encouraged. HarleyDavidson uses its customers’ experience to continuously
develop and introduce innovative products. The market
is flooded with high quality, low price Japanese bikes.
However, Harley-Davidson does not seek to imitate these
bikes. Instead, it uses direct input from its customers to
improve its product. Harley-Davidson modifies its product based on input generated through customer surveys,
interviews, and focus groups. Thus, some believe that
“The real power of Harley-Davidson is the power to
market to consumers who love the product.”19
In 2010, the company introduced “Creative Model” –
a Web-based method for marketing its product. In this
model, passionate fans are enabled for the purpose of
helping Harley develop creative approaches for targeting
new customers. Customer experience has traditionally
been the main source of Harley-Davidson’s marketing
strategy. It all started in 1983, when the company introduced Harley Owners Group (H.O.G),20 which has now
grown to more than 1 million members worldwide.21
Harley-Davidson distributes its products through
an independent dealer network that almost exclusively
sells Harley-Davidson motorcycles. These dealerships
are licensed dealers and fully authorized to sell and service new motorcycles. They can have secondary locations to provide additional service to the customers.
These non-traditional outlets are an extension of the
main dealership and consist of Alternate Retail Outlets
(ARO) and Seasonal Retail Outlets (SRO). AROs are
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Case 14: Harley-Davidson: Strategic Competitiveness that Spans Decades
generally located in high traffic areas such as airports,
vacation destinations, tourism spots, and malls and only
sell parts, accessories, and general merchandise. SROs are
also located in high traffic areas, but operate only on a
seasonal basis. AROs and SROs are not allowed to sell
new motorcycles. The parts and apparel orders from the
dealer are not taken at face value. Harley-Davidson’s forward-looking, market-driven allocation system restricts
the number of units a particular dealer is able to order.
In Canada, the company sells its products to one wholesale dealer, Deeley Harley-Davidson Canada/Fred Deeley
Imports Ltd., which in turn sells to independent dealers.22
The European, the Middle Eastern and African
(EMEA) region is managed from regional headquarters in Oxford, England. Harley-Davidson distributes
its products through subsidiaries located in Austria,
Dubai, Czech Republic, France, Germany, and Italy. In
the EMEA region, Harley-Davidson distributes all products sold to independent dealers through its subsidiaries located in Austria, Czech Republic, United Arab
Emirates, France, Germany, Italy, South Africa, Spain,
Switzerland, Netherlands, Russia, and United Kingdom.
A headquarters in Singapore manages the Asia Pacific
regions with the company distributing its product to
independent dealers in China, India, Australia, and
Japan. The rest of Asia Pacific is managed through the
U.S. operations.
and non-integrated body panels. Japanese motorcycle makers such as Honda, Star (Yamaha), Suzuki, and
Kawasaki dominate these models. It is important to note
that not all metric cruiser competitors are considered to
be heavy motorcycles (over 650 cubic centimeter displacement). These competitors compete with Harley-Davidson
on price, but also use the individual model’s unique features to garner a competitive advantage. Honda introduced the Fury©,23 a regular production chopper based
on the 1300 VTX power plant in 2009. In 2004, Kawasaki
introduced the Vulcan© 200024 with a 2,053 cubic centimeter engine, the largest mass-produced V-Twin motorcycle ever. Most of these competitor models of similar
size are comparable in features to Harley-Davidson models. The presence of smaller competitor models forces
Harley-Davidson to keep entry-level models like the 883
cubic centimeter Sportster©. Smaller metric cruisers like
the Suzuki Boulevard 40©, retailing at $2,600 less25 than
Harley-Davidson’s least expensive model, keep downward
pressure on introductory model prices.
Financial Services Segment
Harley believes that its Harley-Davidson Financial
Services unit (HDFS) provides sufficient financing to
independent distributors, dealers, and retail customers. HDFS provides financing to dealers and retail
­customers in the U.S. and Canada, but not in the EMEA,
Asia-Pacific, and Latin America regions, although these
regions do have access to financing through other financial services companies.
As is the case for many leisure and transportation industries, the U.S. motorcycle market is extremely competitive. Currently, Harley-Davidson competes with four
classes of competitors with each group competing in a
different market and in different ways. The four competing groups are commonly classified as Metric Cruiser,
Metric Sport, U.S. Cruisers, and Custom Cruisers.
Metric Cruiser Competitors. The industry uses the
term Metric Cruiser to denote motorcycles made outside
the United States with traditional styling. Traditional
­styling is commonly reflected through an exposed engine
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Metric Sport Competitors. Metric Sport motor-
cycles are made outside the United States, mostly in
Japan, and are race-inspired, high performance motorcycles with full body panels and excellent aerodynamic
characteristics. Motorcycles like the Suzuki Hayabusa©
and the Kawasaki Ninja© are examples of this competitor
class. While these motorcycles do not directly compete
with most Harley-Davidson models, they do appeal to
younger prospective customers because of their breathtaking performance and relatively low prices. In general,
metric sport customers are not attracted to most HarleyDavidson models.
Harley-Davidson has taken two key actions to
attract young, performance-oriented riders from its
sport motorcycle competitors. It introduced the V-Rod©
line in 2002 with a high performance, liquid-cooled
motor. Harley-Davidson also purchased Buell,26 a sport
­motorcycle company using Harley-Davidson motors,
in 1993. In 2003, Buell sport motorcycles became a full
subsidiary with its models being sold through HarleyDavidson dealerships. Neither of these actions has
­resonated with the younger riders Harley sought to reach
by taking them. As a result, Harley-Davidson opted to
discontinue Buell in 2009 after slumping sales.27 The
V-Rod© still exists, but with a median price tag of $15,300
it has not done much to lower the age of the average
Harley-Davidson rider.
U.S. Cruiser Competitors. Victory Motorcycles
and Indian Motorcycle are the only U.S. Cruiser style
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motorcycle manufacturers. Victory, a subsidiary of
Polaris and a relative newcomer to the motorcycle market, started production in 1998.28 Polaris is best known
for its high quality all-terrain vehicles and personal
watercraft. In the last five years, Victory models have
been selling at prices more closely comparable with
Harley-Davidson. At the same time, Victory increased
the number of models and styles; it even brought in
famous motorcycle customizers Arlen and Corey Ness29
to add style and street credibility to its entire product line. In 2009, Indian Motorcycle began its fourth
incarnation in an effort to leverage its famous name
and art-deco styling. After a shaky start, Indian was
recently purchased by Polaris. This move is likely part
of a strategy to position Victory and Indian in separate
parts of the U.S. motorcycle market and to fulfill the
needs of different types of customers. This approach is
similar to the strategy General Motors used for decades
of offering different products to different types of customers. The median price for an Indian motorcycle is
$28,000. Its current tag line is, “Your great grandfather
would be proud. Jealous, but proud.”30 Indian is targeting high-income earners with a love for classic motorcycle styling.
Custom Cruiser Competitors. This class of com-
petitors is comprised of small and medium firms that
build highly customized motorcycles with large displacement motors. Firms such as Big Dog Motorcycles,31 Big
Bear Choppers,32 and American IronHorse are the dominant competitors in this space.33 These competitors have
become far less of an issue for Harley-Davidson since
the economic downturn of 2008. With their high levels
of customization, these competitors’ models come with
a high price tag. As their target market shrunk in the
recession, these firms thinned significantly; an estimated
60 percent have gone out of business or changed their
core function to components production. Others, such as
Darwin Motorcycles, now offer custom motorcycles for
as little as $18,600.34 These competitors will always pose a
threat to Harley-Davidson. They force Harley-Davidson
to continually innovate and customize its product. It is
ironic that most of these motorcycle manufacturers use
Harley-Davidson style or actual Harley-Davidson components in their production.
Strategic Leaders
“No one can accurately predict the future. What I can predict with the utmost confidence are the things that won’t
change at Harley-Davidson – namely, our commitment
to providing more great motorcycles; to enhancing the
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unparalleled Harley lifestyle experience, and to continuing
to provide excellent financial performance.”
– Jeff Bleustein
Annual Report 199735
Although the strategic intent of Harley-Davidson has
not changed much since 1997, the way it operates and
leads has certainly adapted to reflect new ways of doing
Keith Wandell–Chairman and CEO. When Keith
Wandell joined Harley-Davidson in 2009, many people
were skeptical of his leadership due to his lack of motorcycle experience. However, his fresh perspective has
allowed Wandell the opportunities and relationships
needed to steer the company toward a sales gain for the
first time in nearly five years. Wandell attributes this success to his dear colleague and now CEO at Ford, Alan
Mulally. Wandell took some tough measures such as cutting labor contracts, closing plants, and overall “trimming the fat.”36 He has sold old investments and is trying
to making Harley-Davidson more attractive to women
and the younger generation. And, of course, Wandell is
now an avid Harley-Davidson rider.
Executive Suite. Each member of the C-suite is
highly qualified for his role. Each leader serves multiple
roles within the organization and is an individual contributor as well as a team leader.37 The CFO and Senior
VP, John A. Olin, joined Harley-Davidson in May 2009
with over 25 years of leadership experience in finance.
President and COO of Buell Motorcycle Company,
Jon R. Flickinger, has grown within Harley-Davidson
where he began his leadership role as a Director of
Field Operations in January 1995. With over 30 years
of experience in the commercial finance industry, it is
appropriate that Lawrence G. Hund should serve as the
President and COO of the Harley-Davidson Financial
Services division. At 46, nearly 10 years younger than
the other executive members, President and COO of
Harley-Davidson Motor Company, Matthew S. Levatich,
has made significant contributions at Harley-Davidson
for the past 15 years.
Board of Directors. Each member of HarleyDavidson’s board brings different experiences to the
boardroom. This eclectic set of experiences facilitates
the firm’s efforts to position itself in the ever-growing
market of the motorcycle business. Information regarding the age, title, and other boards each member serves
on is provided in Exhibit 1.
22/10/13 2:44 PM
Case 14: Harley-Davidson: Strategic Competitiveness that Spans Decades
Exhibit 1 Board of Directors
Board Member
Other Boards
Barry K. Allen
Senior Advisor to Providence Equity Partners
President, Allen Enterprises, LLC
Fiduciary Management
BCE Inc.
John Anderson
Former President and CEO, Levi Strauss & Co.
Richard L. Beattie
Chairman of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP
Heidrick & Struggles International Inc.
Evercore Partners Inc.
Martha F. Brooks
Former President and COO, Novelis Inc.
Bombardier Inc.
George H. Conrades
Chairman, Akamai Technologies, Inc.
Akamai Technologies, Inc.
Oracle Corporation
Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Donald A. James
Co-founder, equity owner, Chairman and CEO
of Deeley Harley-Davidson Canada/Fred Deeley
Imports Ltd.
Sara L. Levinson
Former Non-Executive Chairman of ClubMom,
Macy’s Inc.
Thomas Linebarger
Chairman and CEO, Cummins Inc.
Cummins Inc.
George L. Miles Jr.
Executive Chair, Chester Engineers, Inc.
American International Group Inc.
EQT Corporation
HFF, Inc.
WESCO International Inc.
James A. Norling
Chairman of the Board, GlobalFoundries Inc.
Keith Wandell
Chairman, President and CEO, Harley-Davidson,
Constellation Brands, Inc.
Dana Holding Corporation
Jochen Zeitz
Chairman of PUMA
CEO of PPR Sport & Lifestyle Group and Chief
Security Officer of PPR
Puma AG
Source: Harley-Davidson Inc (HOG: New York). Insiders at Harley Davidson Inc. Bloomberg Businessweek.
The current size of the Harley-Davidson board is
slightly large when compared to the advised board size of
six to seven.38 However, each member brings significant
diversity and experience to the board meetings.
Richard Beattie provides Harley-Davidson with several years of legal and military experience. His background helps Harley-Davidson deal with any corporate
law or governance issues. Barry Allen serves the role of
financial advisor at Harley-Davidson as well as that of
a decision-maker at other corporations. Other board
members incorporate their knowledge from the financial, retail, and technological boards they serve on to
help the company gain strategic competitiveness in the
International Growth
Any discussion of Harley-Davidson’s future would not be
complete without examining its expansion into India and
China, the two BRIC economies with a strong history
of motorcycle ownership and enough income growth
CHE-HITT11E-13-0403-CaseStudy14.indd 183
to ensure viable target markets.39 After all, moving
from Harley-Davidson’s current position of 32 percent
of revenue from international sales to its stated goal of
40 percent by 201440, 41 will be challenging. Doing so will
require a delicate balance in order to maintain the ethos
of Harley-Davidson while simultaneously adapting to
local customs and consumer preferences. Nevertheless,
it could be argued that Harley-Davidson is already well
on its way in this regard.
For example, just four months after officially entering the Indian market in July 2010, Harley announced
it would build an assembly plant in northern India in
order to reduce import tariffs by as much as 80 percent.42
Previously, high tariffs resulted in its models costing
twice as much as their U.S. equivalents.43 By only assembling the motorcycles in India, Harley-Davidson is able
to satisfy the desire of its customers in India to purchase
an “American” motorcycle by sourcing all the parts from
the United States while significantly increasing its competitive position through lower pricing.
22/10/13 2:44 PM
Time will be required to see if Harley-Davidson’s
approach in India will achieve the success the firm
seeks. Indeed, Harley-Davidson sold only about 1,000
bikes in India in its first 18 months of operations.44 This
level of sales should be considered though within the
context of the fact that Harley’s local assembly plant in
India has only been operational for the past 12 months.45
Accordingly, the Indian market has not been exposed
to the lower pricing model for very long and may need
some time to overcome the stigma associated with previously higher prices. For example a mid-level bike used to
cost $27,000, prior to tariff reduction; now, the cost of
this product is around $20,000.46, 47 These prices, while
still high by local standards, show that Harley-Davidson
is making a concerted effort to cater to the needs of customers located in developing countries. Such a strategy
is essential for long-term viability given global growth
trends and the inevitable shift of income away from
Harley-Davidson’s more traditional western markets. In
response to such growth, it has even committed to opening dealerships in cities like Jaipur and Kochi – cities
outside the larger Indian metropolises.48 In this manner,
Harley-Davidson will be able to appeal to India’s rural
landowners who would like to ride Harley-Davidsons in
the countryside.49
Unfortunately, Harley-Davidson’s venture into
China, the world’s largest motorcycle market, has been
less smooth and illustrates what can happen when a
company enters a foreign market without sufficient
background preparation. For example, China currently
restricts the use of motorcycles on elevated highways
and major thoroughfares in about 100 cities.50 Import
duties can also add as much as 30 percent to the price of
a Harley-Davidson, resulting in high-end models costing the equivalent of a luxury sedan such as the Audi
A4.51 Perhaps more troubling is the admission by most
in China that motorcycles are associated with utilitarian
tasks like transportation to work, not leisure riding as
is the case in developed economies such as the United
States.52 These realities increase the difficulty HarleyDavidson faces as the firm seeks to establish the level of
success in China that is similar to what the firm has been
able to accomplish in India.53
Safety must always be at the forefront of HarleyDavidson’s mind to avoid any unwanted attention. For
example, when taking Harley-Davidson’s “Rider’s Edge”
operation courses, all riders are required to wear protective gear, including a helmet, that meets Department of
Transportation (DOT) regulations.54 Skeptics might say
CHE-HITT11E-13-0403-CaseStudy14.indd 184
Part 4: Cases
that Harley-Davidson is merely trying to minimize its
liability. However, most would agree that increased injury
rates from not wearing protective gear only serve to vilify
motorcycle use. Indeed, Harley-Davidson even periodically issues communications to its customers encouraging riders to check the condition of their helmets.55 Still,
motorcycle riders in general have been affected by the
recent loosening of helmet laws throughout the United
States. “Two decades ago, 47 states required helmets
for all riders. Today, 20 do. Twenty-seven states require
helmets only for younger riders. Three — Illinois, Iowa
and New Hampshire — don’t require helmets at all.”56
Another safety-related concern is the fact that “in 1996,
5.6 motorcyclists were killed for every 10,000 registered
motorcycles,” according to DOT statistics. However, by
2006, the most recent data available, the rate had risen to
7.3…”57 To be fair, such a study does not prove causality.
Still, such studies can bring unwanted negative attention
to the motorcycle industry and reinforce cultural stereotypes that motorcycle riders are risk-seeking freewheelers. To make its motorcycles appealing to a broader target market, Harley-Davidson must continue to espouse
a culture of safety,58 even in the face of decreasing safety
New EPA emission regulations could also affect
Harley-Davidson’s growth. Still, the last revision of
motorcycle emission standards in 2003 did little to alter
Harley-Davidson’s growth trajectory and prompted the
following promise.
Jim McCaslin, President of Harley-Davidson Motor
Company, has stated that Harley-Davidson “plans to meet
the requirements of the proposed EPA standards and still
make the motorcycles true to the look, sound, and feel that
you know and love” and that “the air-cooled V-Twin will
continue to be the core of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle
lineup for many years to come.” 59
The latter was especially welcome news to HarleyDavidson purists, but nevertheless is indicative of the
regulation challenges facing Harley-Davidson’s predominately air-cooled (as opposed to cleaner burning
water-cooled) engines. If Harley-Davidson wishes to
continue to operate in an increasingly environmentally
sensitive market, it must continue to hone its ability to
meet stricter pollutant regulations.
Financial Analysis
Harley-Davidson is currently climbing its way out of
what were likely the worst financial times the company
had faced since its inception in 1903. It peaked with
22/10/13 2:44 PM
Case 14: Harley-Davidson: Strategic Competitiveness that Spans Decades
nearly $6.2 billion in revenue in 2006, and then witnessed its revenue fall nearly 30 percent between 2007
and 2009.60, 61 Harley-Davidson is in the recreation
vehicles industry, making its products arguably among
the most expensive of consumer discretionary items.
As noted earlier, individuals find it difficult to justify
purchases of these types of products when encountering challenging economic conditions. To compound the
financial crisis in the United States between 2007 and
2010, Harley-Davidson’s units-sold figures peaked at over
349,000 in 2006. Does the reduced number of units sold
since 2006 potentially suggest that the overall demand
for Harley-Davidson’s products is declining?62 Right now
in its rebound, Harley-Davidson has managed to grow
its revenue over 11 percent from its 2009 lows and bring
its operating margin back up to 16 percent from a disappointing 4 percent in 2009.63
Going forward, work remains for Harley-Davidson
to return to a strong financial position. To start, HarleyDavidson is currently highly leveraged as suggested
by the firm’s debt-to-equity ratio of 1.6. Historically, it
has operated with this ratio well below 0.5.64 Much of
this new debt resulted from a decision to create capital
for the firm’s financing division. More specifically, this
capital was to be used as a way of helping customers
purchase a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Because most
of this debt is in the form of medium-term notes that
do not require repayment until after 2014, and because
Harley-Davidson has the necessary current free cash
flow to pay its current liabilities, this debt is not a huge
immediate concern. Even so, it is something the firm’s
leaders should monitor to make sure it does not get out
of control.65
Furthermore, Harley-Davidson will have to make a
concerted effort to control costs to get back to the 25+
percent operating margins it experienced during the
boom years of 2004-2007. It is the case that part of the
difference between Harley’s current operating margin of
16 percent and the highly desirable operating margin of
25 or more percent is a factor of its fixed costs being allocated across fewer sales units. Nonetheless, keeping variable costs under control will be crucial to the firm’s efforts
to strengthen its operating margin until the number of
units sold increases. Detailed financial data concerning
Harley-Davidson is shown in Exhibits 2 through 6.
CHE-HITT11E-13-0403-CaseStudy14.indd 185
The Sum of All Parts
At the end of the day, Harley-Davidson cannot depend
on its strong brand name to carry it through the twentyfirst century. Between expanding its target consumer
base beyond the stereotypical biker with his “old lady”
sitting behind him, to successfully breaking free of the
red tape and increased costs associated with international expansion, Harley-Davidson is potentially facing
a challenging future. However, as one of the few motorcycle manufacturers focused exclusively on building
motorcycles and without having to worry about cars,
scooters, or snowmobiles, it stands to reason it should
be able to lead the pack.
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Part 4: Cases
Exhibit 2 HOG Income Statement
Consolidated Statements of Operations (USD $)
In Thousands, except Per Share data, unless otherwise specified
12 Months Ended
Dec. 31, 2011
Dec. 31, 2010
Dec. 31, 2009
Motorcycles and related products
Financial services
Financial services interest expense
Financial services provision for credit losses
Total costs and expenses
Operating income
Investment income
Interest expense
Loss on debt extinguishment
Income before provision for income taxes
Provision for income taxes
Income from continuing operations
Income (loss) from discontinued operations, net of tax
$ 2.35
Cash dividends per common share
Total revenue
Costs and expenses:
Motorcycles and related products cost of goods sold
Selling, administrative, and engineering expense
Restructuring expense and asset impairment
Goodwill impairment
Net income (loss)
Earnings per common share from continuing operations:
Earnings (loss) per common share from discontinued operations:
Earnings (loss) per common share:
Revenue is attributed to geographic regions based on location of customer.
Source: U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
CHE-HITT11E-13-0403-CaseStudy14.indd 186
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Case 14: Harley-Davidson: Strategic Competitiveness that Spans Decades
Exhibit 3 HOG Balance Sheet
Consolidated Balance Sheets (USD $)
In Thousands, unless otherwise specified
Dec. 31, 2011
Dec. 31, 2010
Dec. 31, 2009
Current assets:
Cash and cash equivalents
Marketable securities
Accounts receivable, net
Finance receivables, net
Variable interest entities’ restricted finance receivables, net
Restricted cash held by variable interest entities
Deferred income taxes
Other current assets
Finance receivables, net
Variable interest entities’ restricted finance receivables, net
Property, plant and equipment, net
Deferred income taxes
Other long-term assets
Accounts payable
Accrued liabilities
Short-term debt
Current portion of long-term debt
Total current assets
Current liabilities:
Variable interest entities’ current portion of long-term debt
Total current liabilities
Long-term debt
Long-term debt held by variable interest entities
Pension liability
Postretirement healthcare liability
Other long-term liabilities
Shareholders’ equity:
Series A Junior participating preferred stock, none issued
 Common stock, 339,107,230 and 338,260,456 shares issued in 2011 and
2010, respectively
Additional paid-in-capital
Retained earnings
Accumulated other comprehensive loss
Stockholders equity before treasury stock
 Less: Treasury stock (108,566,699 and 102,739,587 shares in 2011 and
2010, respectively), at cost
Total shareholders’ equity
Total liabilities and shareholders’ equity
Source: U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
CHE-HITT11E-13-0403-CaseStudy14.indd 187
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Part 4: Cases
Exhibit 4 HOG Statement of Cash Flows
Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows (USD $)
In Thousands, unless otherwise specified
12 Months Ended
Dec. 31, 2011
Dec. 31, 2010
Dec. 31, 2009
Origination of finance receivables
Collections on finance receivables
Purchases of marketable securities
Sales and redemptions of marketable securities
Consolidated Statements Of Cash Flows [Abstract]
Net cash provided by operating activities of continuing operations (Note 2)
Cash flows from investing activities of continuing operations:
Capital expenditures
Collection of retained securitization interests
Other, net
Net cash provided/used by inv. activities of cont. oper.
Cash flows from financing activities of continuing operations:
Proceeds from issuance of medium term notes
Repayment of medium term notes
Proceeds from issuance of senior unsecured notes
Repayment of senior unsecured notes
Proceeds from securitization debt
Repayments of securitization debt
Net +/− in credit facilities & unsecured commercial paper
Net repayments in asset-backed commercial paper
Net change in restricted cash
Purchase of common stock for treasury, net of issuances
Excess tax benefits from share-based payments
Issued common stock under employee stock option plans
Net cash provided/used by fin. activities of continuing oper.
Exchange rate effect on cash/cash equiv. of continuing oper.
Net increase/decrease in cash/cash equiv of continuing oper.
Cash flows from discontinued operations:
Cash flows from operating activities of disc. oper.
Cash flows from investing activities of disc. oper.
Exchange rate effect on cash/cash equiv. of discont. oper.
Net cash used by discontinued operations, total
Net increase/decrease in cash/cash equivalents
Cash and cash equivalents:
Cash and cash equivalents – beginning of period
Cash and cash equivalents of disc. oper. – period start
Net increase (decrease) in cash and cash equivalents
Less: Cash and cash equivalents of disc. oper. – period end
Cash and cash equivalents – end of period
Source: U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
CHE-HITT11E-13-0403-CaseStudy14.indd 188
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CHE-HITT11E-13-0403-CaseStudy14.indd 189
Net income (loss)
Comprehensive income:
 Ending Share Balance 12/31/09
Ending Balance at 12/31/09
 Tax benefit of stock options & nonvested stock
 Issuance of nonvested stock
 Issued nonvested stock (in shares)
 Share-based comp. & 401(k) match made with Treasury shares
 Repurchase of common stock
 Adj. to apply measurement date provisions of FSP 115–2, net of taxes
 Derivative financial instruments, net of tax benefit
Comprehensive income
 Investment in retained securitization interests, net of taxes
Change in net unrealized gains (losses):
Other Comp.
Income (Loss)
Pension & post-retirement plan settlement & curtailment, net of taxes
Pension & post-retirement plan funded status adj., net of taxes
Amortization of actuarial loss, net of taxes
Amortization of net prior service cost, net of taxes
Foreign currency translation adjustment
Other comprehensive income/loss:
Net income (loss)
Comprehensive income:
Beg. Share Bal. 12/31/08
Beginning Balance 12/31/08
In Thousands, except Share data, unless otherwise specified
Consolidated Statements Of Shareholders’ Equity (USD $)
Exhibit 5 HOG Statement of Stockholder’s Equity
Case 14: Harley-Davidson: Strategic Competitiveness that Spans Decades
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CHE-HITT11E-13-0403-CaseStudy14.indd 190
Other Comp.
Income (Loss)
Net income (loss)
Comprehensive income:
 Ending Balance, shares at 12/31/10
Ending Balance at 12/31/10
 Tax benefit of stock options & nonvested stock
 Exercise of stock options (in shares)
Exercise of stock options
 Issuance of nonvested stock
 Issued nonvested stock (in shares)
 Share-based comp. & 401(k) match made with Treasury shares
 Repurchase of common stock
 Adj. for consolidation of QSPEs under ASC Topics 810 & 860
Comprehensive income
Marketable securities, net of tax benefit
 Derivative financial instruments, net of tax benefit
Change in net unrealized gains (losses):
 Pension & post-retirement plan settlement & curtailment, net taxes
 Pension & post-retirement plan funded status adj., net of taxes
 Actuarial loss amort., net of taxes
 Net prior service cost amort, net of taxes
 Foreign currency translation adj.
Other comprehensive income (loss):
In Thousands, except Share data, unless otherwise specified
Consolidated Statements Of Shareholders’ Equity (USD $)
Exhibit 5 Continued HOG Statement of Stockholder’s Equity
Part 4: Cases
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CHE-HITT11E-13-0403-CaseStudy14.indd 191
Source: U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
 Ending Balance, shares at 12/31/11
Ending Balance at 12/31/11
 Tax benefit of stock options & nonvested stock
 Exercise of stock options (in shares)
Exercise of stock options
 Issuance of nonvested stock
 Issued nonvested stock (in shares)
 Share-based comp. & 401(k) match made with Treasury shares
 Repurchase of common stock
Comprehensive income
Marketable securities, net of tax benefit
 Derivative financial instruments, net of tax benefit
Change in net unrealized gains (losses):
 Pension & post-retirement plan settlement & curtailment, net taxes
 Pension & post-retirement plan funded status adj., net of taxes
 Actuarial loss amort., net of taxes
 Net prior service cost amortization, net of taxes
 Foreign currency translation adj.
Other comprehensive income (loss):
Case 14: Harley-Davidson: Strategic Competitiveness that Spans Decades
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Part 4: Cases
Net Income (US $)
Revenue (US $)
Exhibit 6 HOG Revenue and Net Income 2002–2011
Net Income
Source: Graph created from information from U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
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CHE-HITT11E-13-0403-CaseStudy14.indd 192
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22/10/13 2:44 PM

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