Motor Company on the Attack

April 10 2012

Harley-Davidson’s R&D department says that it has the throttle wide open. A spokesperson for the Motor Company recently stated that there are now 30 percent more projects being developed than at this point two years ago. The company also claimed that it has increased the engineering resources required to be more innovative by 25 percent.

In Harley-Davidson’s 2011 Annual Report, CEO Keith Wandell stated that “over the coming years, customers will see a remarkable stream of new products and motorcycles for our core market, our outreach markets and international markets.”

Described as having embarked on a transformative journey, Harley-Davidson has become serious about ramping up its manufacturing, product development and retail operations.

On the production front, Wandell stated that Harley-Davidson increased revenue last year by 9.3 percent compared to 2010, and that the company’s share of the U.S. heavyweight cruiser market now stands at a record 55.7 percent having sold 151,683 motorcycles in their home market in 2011.

“Even more powerful than our brick-and-mortar changes is the change in the culture, where the employees on the line are creating and implementing operating improvements on a daily basis,” Wandell said. He was in part referring to the production of all Touring, Softail and TriGlide motorcycles that are now under one roof in York, Pennsylvania. Long-time Harley-Davidson employee James Love agreed with Wandell. “Lots of people have had good ideas over the years. In the past they weren’t heard,” he commented. “Now management listens.” Harley-Davidson claims that improvements that used to take months now happen in weeks.

Similar changes are said to be underway in the way production is handled in the company’s other factories located in Kansas City, Milwaukee and Tomahawk.

Changes to the way the company operated on a retail level were also started in 2011. One part of the change includes making the purchase of a Harley-Davidson a more personal experience for buyers. The company felt that visiting one of their showrooms should be a more interactive event that gave customers a sense of occasion.

A telling statistic is that Harley-Davidson claims it is now selling more new motorcycles to young adults today than it did to the baby boomers when they were young adults, and that 40 percent of its social media fans are between 18 and 34 years old.

Perhaps the most critical component for the company’s long term health and continuing growth is its expansion into the global market. Harley-Davidson added 35 dealers in 2011 in countries such as Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Thailand, and Turkey.

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