Harley-Davidson has reported that worldwide retail motorcycle sales in the first quarter were up 1.4 percent, driven by a 4.5 percent increase in international markets.
Although retail motorcycle sales in the U.S. were down slightly compared to the year-ago quarter, the company says retail sales trends have significantly improved over previous quarters. Worldwide retail sales were driven, in part, by increased investments in marketing and new product introductions.
In 2016, the company is increasing its marketing and product development investments to drive demand. The increased investments are focused in four areas: increasing product and brand awareness; growing new ridership in the U.S.; increasing and enhancing brand access; and accelerating the cadence and impact of new products.
In the first quarter, retail sales in Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA) region were up 8.8 percent amid strong competition. Asia Pacific had its best first quarter for the Motor Company, with retail sales up 6.6 percent. Canada grew 16.3 percent versus the year-ago period as a result of the company’s transition to direct distribution. However, U.S. sales were down slightly (0.5 percent) due to increased competitive discounting and continued weakness in areas of the country that are dependent on the oil industry. Harley reports that U.S. market share for the first quarter was 50.9 percent.
“I am pleased with how our first quarter results demonstrate the progress we’re making in both driving demand and delivering business performance in a highly competitive environment,” said Matt Levatich, president and CEO of Harley-Davidson, Inc.
The company began shipping two new cruisers in March – the Low Rider S and the CVO Pro Street Breakout – and recently unveiled the new Harley-Davidson Roadster model, which will begin shipping in May.
“The increased marketing and new product investments are beginning to take hold and we anticipate continued progress across our focus areas as we dial in and ramp-up our approach,” said Levatich.
Also in March, the company launched its “Live Your Legend” integrated marketing campaign. The campaign debuted in the U.S. during the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and will continue rolling out globally through 2016.
“The Live Your Legend message is a rallying cry to inspire new generations of riders to invest now in experiences that define their legacy,” said Levatich. “It’s one example of how we are creating powerful connections with new riders and strengthening our bond with our existing riders.”
Harley’s objectives are to continue to bring new riders into the sport of motorcycling while also broadening brand appeal demographically. In 2015, one-third of Harley-Davidson new motorcycle purchasers in the U.S. had not owned a motorcycle previously. And for the eighth straight year in the U.S., Harley-Davidson was the number-one seller of new on-road motorcycles of all displacements to young adults ages 18-34, women, African Americans and Hispanics, as well as Caucasian men ages 35 plus.
The Q1 report stated that the company still expects to ship 269,000 to 274,000 motorcycles in 2016, an approximate 1 to 3 percent increase from 2015. In the second quarter of 2016, the company hoping to meet expectations of around 82,500 to 87,500 motorcycles shipped compared to 85,172 in the year-ago period.