CNBC: Millennials may claim another victim: Harley-Davidson

Dr Zaius

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Millennials may claim another victim: Harley-Davidson

Harley has simply failed to evolve. Actually, it has started to evolve and has shown at least some willingness to change in the last couple of years. But it's an open question of whether it's too little, too late.

Motorcycle sales are down across the board in the US, but sales remain strong in Europe and are actually growing in emerging markets like India and China. But India and China both run protectionist schemes which make it extremely difficult for foreign motorcycle companies to compete in those markets.

My own experience in the US has been that millennials are not as interested in motorcycles as their parents. The stereotype that millennials would rather have self-driving cars so they can surf on mobile devices may have some truth to it. But young people buy tons of motorcycles in Europe and Asia, so it may be more a Harley issue than an issue with millennials.

Now will the world eventually change where self-driving vehicles are mandated and motorcycles go away? Some people seem to want that.
 

TopT

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My own experience in the US has been that millennials are not as interested in motorcycles as their parents. The stereotype that millennials would rather have self-driving cars so they can surf on mobile devices may have some truth to it. But young people buy tons of motorcycles in Europe and Asia, so it may be more a Harley issue than an issue with millennials.

Now will the world eventually change where self-driving vehicles are mandated and motorcycles go away? Some people seem to want that.
Harley's are expensive. Most people that I know buy Victory or Kawasaki (1/2 the price). It was always a niche market and millennial's don't seem interested. What ever floats their boat.

I think that it is conspiracy theory land to think that it is a move, by millenial's, to "eventually outlawing motorcycles, scooters, and sports cars". though.
 

Paul M. Weir

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I can only comment with regard to the Irish market. The vast majority are Japanese with German next and possibly some Italian and English. You might see the occasional US bike, but I suspect ridden more by a collector or bike ultra fanatic as opposed to the utilitarian/practical rider. Harleys were seen as overweight pieces of decorated dear crap, as best I could gather. I was never a motor bike type, went straight from pedal cycle to Morris Minor, so have no opinion either way with regard to Harleys.
 

Dr Zaius

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I've owned Harleys in the past and they can be fun if you understand what they're intended to be. But they are expensive, and are basically designed with customization as part of the sale. A stock Harley is pretty horrible, to be honest. I don’t care for the Harley “biker” thing, though.

After trying a lot of different brands (and I'm not done yet), I like Ducati the most. They perform great, sound killer, and I feel safer knowing the bike will do whatever I ask of it, whatever the situation.
 

Brian W

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My own experience in the US has been that millennials are not as interested in motorcycles as their parents. The stereotype that millennials would rather have self-driving cars so they can surf on mobile devices may have some truth to it. But young people buy tons of motorcycles in Europe and Asia, so it may be more a Harley issue than an issue with millennials.

Now will the world eventually change where self-driving vehicles are mandated and motorcycles go away? Some people seem to want that.
Probably because all they see are fat old men in their 60s driving around in groups, going 5mph under the speed limit. There isn't anything as un-cool as a bunch of old coots tooling around on their harley davidsons. Even South Park, a gen-x show, has an episode making fun of the phenomenon, where they redifine the word "fag" to mean harley drivers.

 

Dr Zaius

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Probably because all they see are fat old men in their 60s driving around in groups, going 5mph under the speed limit. There isn't anything as un-cool as a bunch of old coots tooling around on their harley davidsons.
I couldn’t agree more. Harley gave up and ceased competing with the other motorcycle brands a long time ago, and it’s finally caught up.

Now I admit performance Harley’s have a character all their own which can make them a unique experience on the road, particularly the big open roads found in the US. But it takes a LOT of time, money, parts to do it right.

Take a look at this modded Harley from Kraus. That’s a cool bike and Kraus does excellent work, but at $65K that’s not for the faint of heart!

I know Harley is slowly trying to change and is finally starting to offer bikes which have at least some performance potential, such as the new FXDR. But I wonder if it’s too little too late. Here’s a modded FXDR from Thunderbike in Germany, and as usual Thunderbike did great work. But that bike is going to be $45K or so, and that’s way too for most millennials.

It’s a hard sell when you can buy an absolutely killer machine from Yamaha or KTM for $12K.
 
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Brian W

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I don't think mellenials give a crap about the power of motercycle x against crotchrocket y; they dislike the entire industry for the reasons cited above. They don't look at the make of the geezer mobiles on the highway--all motorcycles are geezer mobiles.
 

Hovned31

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I for one couldn't care less if Harley goes the way of the Dinosaur. Anyone who has ever had to endure the racket the neighbor starting up the Harley at all hours of the day or night soon learns to dislike the noise makers.

My dad was a Honda guy-He had four at one time and he and my mom managed to hit 46 of the lower 48 states as well as 4 Canadian provinces on the Gold Wings. He really enjoyed them. The feeling never passed over to me. I haven't been on a motorcycle in almost 30 years. I walked away from a couple of bad car wrecks when I was a teenager as well as one work related crash and I know if I had been on a motorcycle I would either be dead or severely messed up. I rented a moped on vacation a few years ago and crashed that when I hit a patch of sand in the road. I remember hoping the guy at the rental place wouldn't notice the new scratches on the moped and my bloody leg when I turned the damn thing back in. I'll stick to four wheels for my land transportation.
 

Vinnie

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Here bikes get put away in October and brought out again in March unless you are a fierce Biker. The grit and ice just make it far too dangerous. As a result you need a second vehicle and when you combine the cost of insurance, it is just not practicabkle for younger drivers. The result is most Bikers are overthe age of 50. Not cool anymore.
 

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I'm not a motorcycle guy, but I can appreciate the machines. A co-worker of mine had about 10 Ducatis (no exaggeration) until his divorce, and those seemed like svelte machines. However, I have a deep dislike for H-D because they are very loud. I hate noise pollution, and I think their bikes are deliberately loud. We have enough noise in the world. And the loudness goes hand-in-hand with their wanna-be bad-boy image, which I think is a little silly, but that doesn't directly affect me (other than the noise), so I don't really care.

However, I don't think that millennials are deliberately and directly trying to put H-D out of business, so I wouldn't characterize it as them claiming another victim. That's a big leap. Times change, markets change, and so on. It seems like every 5 or 10 years there's a story about the great American company called H-D on the brink of closure, as if it's the tragic end of patriotism and the American way if they go out of business.
 

Dr Zaius

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I'm not a motorcycle guy, but I can appreciate the machines. A co-worker of mine had about 10 Ducatis (no exaggeration) until his divorce, and those seemed like svelte machines. However, I have a deep dislike for H-D because they are very loud. I hate noise pollution, and I think their bikes are deliberately loud. We have enough noise in the world. And the loudness goes hand-in-hand with their wanna-be bad-boy image, which I think is a little silly, but that doesn't directly affect me (other than the noise), so I don't really care.
There we’ll have to agree to disagree. I’m respectful and try to be quiet when I leave the neighborhood, but all of my bikes are somewhat loud. Yes, it’s intentional. 🌤

First, I detest having to look down at an instrument display to see what gear I’m in. That’s a distraction, and when riding a motorcycle the rider should be able to hear and feel what the bike is doing. That means a loud exhaust. Hell, until the last few years it was extremely rare for any bike to have a gear indicator, so the engineers basically assumed the rider would be able to hear the bike above the wind and road noise, even with a full-face helmet.

Also, I’ve almost been run over probably a dozen times by nitwit millennials texting their boyfriends instead of driving. This is becoming a deadly problem for motorcyclists in the US. Almost every day there’s a post from a long-time motorcyclist saying he’s giving up riding because of another close call with a distracted kid on a cell phone. It’s become a depressingly common theme on motorcycle forums.

People run over motorcyclists all the time and they always use the same excuse: “I didn’t see him, officer.” And they’re rarely prosecuted, even if there’s negligence involved. It’s BS, as they would see us if they were paying attention. I’m on a bright red bike with reflective materials all over my gear, and yet it doesn’t help because half the people on the road have their noses stuck in their phones. So if they don’t see me, maybe they’ll hear me. If a few brief seconds of sound from a performance bike upsets a few snowflakes, well that’s unfortunate. ❄

As I said, I’m a considerate, safe rider - no tickets, no accidents, no noise violations. I don’t generally ride at night or in the early morning, so that’s not a problem. But my bike is loud and it’s going to stay that way.

Here’s the same bike as mine with the same exhaust:

 
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Dr Zaius

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I don't think mellenials give a crap about the power of motercycle x against crotchrocket y; they dislike the entire industry for the reasons cited above. They don't look at the make of the geezer mobiles on the highway--all motorcycles are geezer mobiles.
They clearly don’t like Harley. Whether that’s because the bikes are heavy and expensive, or more because they dislike the “Sons of Anarchy” image associated with the brand is a matter of intense debate on the big motorcycle forums.

But it’s not true to say that millennials don’t like motorcycles. There’s been revival of the old cafe racer motorcycle scene, and this is thriving in many big cities. This is typically thought of as millennial/hipster thing by most other motorcyclists, but I personally love those retro cafe bikes. I was fascinated to see all the cool bikes running around on the streets of London. Europe in general has a fantastic motorcycle culture, with bikes being much more common than in the US.

This video leaves little doubt who BMW is targeting with retro bikes like the R Nine T.

 

Brian W

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ore because they dislike the “Sons of Anarchy” image associated with the brand is a matter of intense debate on the big motorcycle forums.
The biker fantasy is that people are scared of them because of Sons of Anarchy. They are laughing at you, not scared of you. Sons of Anarchy has as much to do with mellenials views on cycles as Rebel Without a Cause--none.
 

Dr Zaius

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The biker fantasy is that people are scared of them because of Sons of Anarchy. They are laughing at you, not scared of you.
Well, they’re not laughing at me becauseI don’t own or ride Harleys and don’t try to play Billy Badass on the roads.

I can’t stand that whole biker image thing, and I’m not alone.
 

trailrunner

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First, I detest having to look down at an instrument display to see what gear I’m in.
Boo hoo. That sounds selfish. I detest listening to those things go roaring down the street on a quiet night. Or being next to one at a stop light and having to endure listening the loud engine.

That’s a distraction, and when riding a motorcycle the rider should be able to hear and feel what the bike is doing. That means a loud exhaust. Hell, until the last few years it was extremely rare for any bike to have a gear indicator, so the engineers basically assumed the rider would be able to hear the bike above the wind and road noise, even with a full-face helmet.
That seems like a weak excuse to have such a loud machine. Why can't your motorcycle be like the other quiet ones?

Also, I’ve almost been run over probably a dozen times by nitwit millennials texting their boyfriends instead of driving. This is becoming a deadly problem for motorcyclists in the US. Almost every day there’s a post from a long-time motorcyclist saying he’s giving up riding because of another close call with a distracted kid on a cell phone. It’s become a depressingly common theme on motorcycle forums.
I'm a bicyclist and have the very same issues, although I won't blame millennials - nitwits seems to be dispersed across all groups. You're going out of your way to stereotype them and blame them.

At any rate, your argument now seems to be that they are loud for safety reasons. I'm not convinced. Aren't most other motorcycles much quieter? It seems to me that H-D owners want to cultivate a bad-boy image.
 

Dr Zaius

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I'm a bicyclist and have the very same issues, although I won't blame millennials - nitwits seems to be dispersed across all groups. You're going out of your way to stereotype them and blame them.
I didn't write the article, I was responding to it. In fact, I "went out of my way" to disagree with the premise of the article that millennials are somehow to blame for the demise of Harley-Davidson.

trailrunner said:
However, I don't think that millennials are deliberately and directly trying to put H-D out of business, so I wouldn't characterize it as them claiming another victim. That's a big leap.
Agreed. As I said, Harley-Davidson brought its problems on itself.

At any rate, your argument now seems to be that they are loud for safety reasons. I'm not convinced. Aren't most other motorcycles much quieter? It seems to me that H-D owners want to cultivate a bad-boy image.
Not sure what image Harley riders want, you'll have to ask one of them. I ride European bikes.
 
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