What is the cause of Harley-Davidson’s woes? Here are two critical factors to consider: the lack of millennial motorcycle buyers interested in their products, and the dwindling number of boomers still buying new motorcycles.
For decades, Baby Boomers comprised nearly 40% of the American population and bought Harley-Davidsons in droves. Now, though? Millennials outnumber them and won’t spend money on hogs. The reduced discretionary spending of the latter, caused by their growing up during a recession, explains HD’s decreasing performance in part as well as the unavoidable senescence of the former, but examining shifts in consumer tastes helps to complete the picture.
Furthermore, the distribution of Harley-Davidson dealers does not reflect the currently shifting trends in population density, which will lead to problems for them down the road. More and more people are moving to cities, millennials especially. As a test case, we at Black Ink Technology took a look at Boston and its surrounding area. It turns out that the majority of Harley-Davidson dealers are located outside of major metropolitan areas, and the opposite is true for their competitors, whose smaller bikes entice millennials better for reasons I will get into further on.
Younger generations don’t think Harley-Davidsons are “cool.” Nor do they think that they can afford them. And, on top of all that, their dealers aren’t located in advantageous areas.
That would account for the rise in popularity of smaller, more wallet-friendly bikes, like the Triumph Bobber and the Ducati Scrambler. One can pick these up for less than $10,000, a price that it would be hard to find used Harley-Davidsons going for. Furthermore, with their 500cc engines, it is easier for owners to learn how to ride them and to find places to park them.
Millennial motorcycle buyers exist, they just don’t want Harley-Davidsons.
Other companies are tossing their hats into the ring for this growing market segment, including Royal Enfield with their classically-styled Bullet and Indian Motorcycles with their Scout series.
Will Harley-Davidson recover? Time will tell, but one thing is clear: your young neighbors won’t be rolling into their driveways on choppers anytime soon.
By Ken Gibson, Data Analyst at Black Ink Technologies