As sales drop, Harley-Davidson wants to teach more to ride

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Harley-Davidson is putting a renewed emphasis on educating folks to experience as a part of its efforts to draw extra prospects.

The Milwaukee-based firm’s determination to increase the variety of dealerships with a Harley “Driving Academy” comes because the trade grapples with years of declining gross sales and an getting old buyer base.

This system launched in 2000 with about 50 areas and now 245 dealerships within the U.S. supply the three- or four-day course. The corporate says a couple of quarter of these launched since 2014.

Harley bought 124,777 new bikes by way of 9 months in 2017, down from 135,581 throughout the identical interval the earlier 12 months, based on the corporate’s most up-to-date earnings report.

The Bike Trade Council says the median age of bike house owners elevated from 32 to 47 since 1990. About 46 % of riders are over 50; solely about 10 % are 30-34.

Samantha Kay rode on the again of her father’s bike rising up, however when the 25-year-old took a category to experience for the primary time she could not assist being anxious.

“I feel bikes inherently do scare lots of people,” stated Kay, a Milwaukee girl who’s one in every of 50,000 folks nationwide who took a driving course at a Harley-Davidson dealership this 12 months.

The coaching is likely one of the methods Harley is making an attempt to draw a brand new era of riders like Kay amid massive demographic shifts.

“Among the getting old Child Boomers, which have been the heart of Harley-Davidson’s purchasers, they’re getting older and a few of them are simply getting out of the game as a result of they cannot deal with the bike anymore,” stated Clyde Fessler, who retired from Harley-Davidson in 2002 after holding a number of government positions over 25 years. He created what grew to become the “Driving Academy.”

He stated the concept “is getting folks snug on a bike and getting them to really feel secure and assured.”

Along with riders getting older, a gradual financial restoration has made it tougher for millennials to purchase new bikes, stated Jim Williams, vp of the American Motorcyclist Affiliation.

Among the many latest fashions, a 2018 Softail Slim begins at $15,899 and a 2018 Sportster Forty-Eight at $11,299.

“The youthful generations are shopping for loads of bikes, they’re simply not new,” Williams stated.

But it surely’s not all of the millennials’ fault, stated Robert Pandya, who managed public relations for Indian Bikes and Victory Bikes. Pandya not too long ago launched “Give A Shift,” a volunteer group discussing concepts to advertise motorcycling. Considered one of their conclusions, he stated, is the concept “if mother rides, the youngsters will experience.”

Presently, ladies are about 14 % of the driving inhabitants, based on the Bike Trade Council.

“The most important potential alternative in motorcycling is to ask extra ladies to experience,” he stated.

That is not misplaced on Harley-Davidson. Among the many methods Harley-Davidson is making an attempt to succeed in youthful riders is by having bike role-models like Jessica Haggett, the founding father of the “The Litas” all-women bike membership, be a voice for the corporate on social media. And the corporate can also be focusing promoting efforts in male-dominated sports activities just like the X Video games and UFC occasions widespread with youthful viewers.

“I feel we’ve got to work tougher to achieve share of thoughts with younger adults, for instance, in that they produce other actions of their lives. They’re on screens, they’re connecting socially, they’re concerned in gaming, they’re concerned in different issues,” stated Heather Malenshek, Harley-Davidson’s vp of promoting.

She stated the simply customizable Sports activities Glide mannequin that launched in November and the aggressive, performance-driven Fats Bob even have youthful riders in thoughts. In all, the corporate plans to launch 100 new bikes over the subsequent 10 years. Throughout that point, the corporate additionally desires to achieve 2 million new riders.

Terri Meehan took loads of bike rides with associates as a passenger however has needed to be within the driver’s seat for some time. The 42-year-old took the Harley-Davidson driving course in October as a result of she needed to study from “an skilled who may train proper approach versus somebody who had discovered dangerous habits.”

The worth of the category varies by dealership however it’s usually about $300. College students spend time at school studying about bike security and on ranges studying to experience. Meehan plans to purchase a bike quickly.

“My son’s a psychology main so he requested me if I used to be going by way of a mid-life disaster, which is definitely fairly hilarious,” stated Meehan.

Kay’s expertise however, one other problem for Harley-Davidson is motorcycling merely is not a significant a part of folks’s upbringing prefer it was as soon as, Malenshek stated.

“If you consider Child Boomers, they most likely have been introduced up on a dust bike or had an uncle or a neighbor or one thing who was driving round in a Harley-Davidson. That is probably not the case right this moment,” she stated.

She stated the corporate’s CEO, Matthew Levatich, is encouraging staff to interact folks in conversations about motorcycling if somebody occurs to say, “Good bike.” Melanshek took that to coronary heart throughout an interplay with somebody at a fuel station who complimented her on her bike and instructed her he’d by no means considered driving.

“And I stated, ‘I can get you attached with the driving academy!'”

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