Harley-Davidson Guarantees Trade-In Value For Sportsters

Motorcycle sales are slipping as consumers worldwide pull back on spending. So, to stay in business you have to be creative. Harley-Davidson Inc. says it will guarantee the trade-in value of newer Sportsters for customers considering upgrading their motorcycles. 
Practically, bikers who trade in their 2007 Sportsters between Dec. 26 and March 31 will receive the original manufacturer’s suggested retail price when they upgrade to one of Harley’s Big Twin or VRSC motorcycles. Harley-Davidson also says customers who buy 2008 and 2009 Sportsters have one year to trade them in for one of a Big Twin or VRSC model and get the original manufacturer’s suggested retail price.  Which manufacturer says better?

15 Responses to “Harley-Davidson Guarantees Trade-In Value For Sportsters”

  1. 1 J Dec 26th, 2008 at 11:51 am

    Hmm… Creative thinking, true, tho will be interesting where HD will hide this one on their balance sheet…. I’ve been a consistant critic of HD management the past few years, but I must say that it’s nice to see an effort that at least appears to give back to the consumer first;

    That said, artificial pricing never seems to work out as well as free-market pricing… How bout producing FEWER Sportsters or DROP the initial price until demand equals supply?

    Hasn’t the tooling on these things been paid yet, Harley? Here’s an idea- a stripper $3999 Sportster- HD will sell them all day long, and unlike the Buell one-lung, that target won’t crush secondary market pricing;

    Make mine rubber-mounted, and I’ll be the first one to sign the papers.

  2. 2 J Dec 26th, 2008 at 11:58 am

    Oh, and while we’re at it- how bout a $8999 Super Glide and a $9999 Road King? Embrace deflation, HD- before it embraces you……

  3. 3 fuji Dec 26th, 2008 at 5:36 pm


    Possibly they could fall back on the ITC to put tarriffs on heavy weigtht imports like they did back in the early eightys.

    Reducing prices on a premium motorcycle ! That would bring a lot of people to Milwaulkee most of them with clubs in hand with refund on there mind. We paid to much to begin with.

  4. 4 harry Dec 26th, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    J, I’d love to see Harley’s that cheap but it just doesn’t seem terribly realistic. Doesn’t hurt to wish though, cause if they dropped the prices like you suggested, I’d be in line w/ you to get another H-D as well, I figure I could sell bodily fluids and any internal organs I have two of so i could get the $$$ to buy it/lol.

  5. 5 just my opinion Dec 26th, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    This is a game car dealers have been playing for years. “We will give you every dime towards a new bike but what we don’t say is the new bike will have an inflated price to cover the used bike”
    They need to drop the price on all models and the bikes will sell themselves.

  6. 6 James (Kiwi) Dec 26th, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    I look at some of the metric cruisers and they are often not as well finished as an HD, and have lots of plastic parts.There is reason for price difference though HD like many European car brands do push it too the max by using the name as an excuse for a higher margine.
    In 08 they dropped prices here by up to 4 grand.So I swooped!!
    I bought an 08 Fat Bob this year and I’m loving it !! It suits the twisty mountain passes in the SouthIsland and goes (with minor mod’s) as fast as I want or need.

    As for being creative I bought a new XLX in 83 which was selling for $3995.00 and there was a deal in the US that if you traded it back in the next 12 months you got your money back on your original purchase.
    So it is just a reintroduction of a past idea.Guess they thought people that have been around a while would have no memory left.Or maybe they lost theirs??????!!!!

    Out for a ride,

  7. 7 J Dec 27th, 2008 at 12:41 am

    My price targets may be unrealistic, but then again, how much marginal R&D is really amortized into each Sportster every year?

    When Detroit changes a front end on a Taurus, the expenses for tooling and crash testing such can be 10-figures astronomical; What new expenses does Harley really incur by adding rubber fork gaiters?

    Look at the pricing on the Model T- as Ford streamed its production process, the cost savings- instead of going into the pockets of Ford executives- were passed onto the consumer, dropping the price of the T from $825 in 1914 to $260 in 1924- same vehicle, just reduced production costs.

    Harley management missed a golden opportunity this past year. When gas prices hovered near $4/ga, Harley could have built the “any color you want so long as its black” Sportster, charged $3999 for it (sorry, but I have to believe that isn’t much more than $4K of raw materials and labor tied up in a Sportster), marketed it as the anti-hybrid, and people would have lined up in dealerships, like they were in the metric dealers-

    Instead, Harley chose to try to paper-trade their way out of the hole via collateralized debt, and spent FAR more per bike going this route than dropping a $3999 Sportster bomb onto the market.

    The one GLARING fault of this strategy? CDO paper doesn’t upgrade to a Big Twin, It doesn’t buy accessories, and it doesn’t generate any service bay revenue; Paper is not LOYAL- it’s just a quick-buck technique used by short-sighted management in order to artificially inflate shareholder equity.

    Take a lesson from Ford, HD- that’s HENRY Ford- put customers interest ahead of shareholder and management interest, and ultimately ALL will benefit.

  8. 8 Doc Robinson Dec 27th, 2008 at 8:12 am

    It worked before. It will work again. Smart marketing. Onya H-D!

  9. 9 Scott Dec 27th, 2008 at 10:40 am

    J are you nuts? Everything you said goes against the grain of American capitolism. How can you expect HD to make such a bold move when our very own government is trying to prop up a still over inflated houseing and stock market. It seems that no one is willing to admit defeat on economic grounds until they carry the cold dead carcasses out.
    BTW I agree 100% with you.

  10. 10 Mike Kiwi Tomas, Kiwi Indian MotorCycles Dec 27th, 2008 at 11:40 am

    It is nice to see Harley trying rather than just sitting on the sidelines. Motorcycle mfrs in the US market don’t seem to ever capitalize on marketing bikes and their fuel economy advantage especially in high gas price times. Is there also a possible green side by being eco friendly by riding a m/c? I never owned a car until I was 28 and my classic Indians are still my primary source of transportation at 40 mpg. I would venture to say a bike is more friendlier on the environment than a car not only in the cost of mfg but also in travel. I ride my old Indians and like Jay Leno states, “I like to think I’m recycling and being green on the environment”.
    How low can Harley really go on pricing and still make money? Keep in mind their motorcycles are made with union labor which is a real cost. Also with most of the western worlds publicly traded companies they seem fixated on company quarterly profits, shareholders too. It seems many of the foreign companies look long term rather than short term and are not fixated on quarterly results as they’re looking 5, 10, 25 years down the road. Indian is offering $31,000.00-$36,000.00 bikes with a different business model. We are in some interesting times that’s for certain and time will tell.

  11. 11 rodent Dec 27th, 2008 at 11:58 am

    So, wassa matter with a Sporty? I’m on my 3rd and if they lowered the seat hight of the European only(untill they needed the bread) Sporty I’d be riding that… Unless they take the V-rod powertrain and put it in a real motorcycle, then I might want one of those

  12. 12 Jack Dec 27th, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    I have a feeling that the sportster is a low margin bike for Harley and they really make the money as you step up in models. Therefore trying to entice a sportster customer to step to a bigger model means more margin.

    I don’t know what to estimate as profit for each bike but in most industries the low end is the least.

    Now if they would start selling products made in the USA that would be a boost for Americans. Try to find made in the USA on the clothing or chrome and accesories. Makes me wonder how much foreign content is in my Fatboy Vs domestic content.

  13. 13 raycwheeler Dec 27th, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    12 Great ideas .

    Here’s another thought .

    Mark all models down and continuing selling service , t-shirts & bolt-on-bullshit ( that may or may not fit ) –don’t forget the extra warranty program ( the slightest modification and the warranty might be null & void ) .

    Happy Holidays ,


  14. 14 dragon Dec 30th, 2008 at 7:23 am

    wonder what a used sporty will sell for then same as it was new more than likely

  15. 15 Michael Roberts Jan 7th, 2009 at 10:45 am

    All great ideas, all great input. But as we’ve seen, the writting’s on the wall. Great prices or trade-in guarantees won’t mean better sales unless available credit is there as well. Typical trends are following a direction in “Wait and see” . With this, job losses, more lost homes, unpaid debt, stiffer requirements for credit, business closings, just to name a few. Personally, I think every individual and business will feel the severity of our financial crisis, this includes Harley regardless of what they do. I once heard insanity defined as “Doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results to happen each time”.

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Cyril Huze