Harley-Davidson Scoring High After Intensively Courting Women

In a market where new motorcycle registrations have fallen 41 percent since 2007 overall and 36 percent for Harley-Davidson and where the company’s production has sunk to 2001 levels, the company is looking for sources of growth and continues to increase its female-targeted marketing efforts to attract more would-be riders.

Since 2008 model Marisa Miller is a Harley spokesperson (or salesperson) demonstrating her motorcycle skills, burnouts included, in a series of videos to convince women that if she can do it, all women can. This year Harley-Davidson dealers held about 500 “women-only parties” where Harley employees try to demystify many women fears regarding  bikes weight, safety, etc. 27,000 women participated to these events.

In July of this year, Harley also launched the $7,990 Harley SuperLow, designed to appeal to both women and first-time riders. It’s 150 pounds lighter than a typical Harley, with a generous rear-suspension travel, a deeply cushioned seat, easy-reach handlebar and the lowest seat (25.5″) in Harley’s 32-bike lineup. Results of all these marketing efforts? Women riders now represent about 12 percent of Harley sales compared with 2 percent in 1995. The company has now a 53 percentage-point market-share lead among female riders.

Overall, Harley-Davidson has 47 percent of the U.S. market share for on-road motorcycles through July (Kawasaki Motors is second, with 14 percent), a one percentage point increase from last year. About 1/5th of the bikes Harley sells today are Sportsters, the smallest and less expensive but also less profitable of the lineup. (picture copyright Harley-Davidson)

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13 Responses to “Harley-Davidson Scoring High After Intensively Courting Women”


  1. 1 Patricia Oct 3rd, 2010 at 10:13 am

    Women always saved the world and will save Harley.

  2. 2 JimC Oct 3rd, 2010 at 11:13 am

    I believe the statistics are ,2 women for evey man and that is the bottom line-pun intended.

  3. 3 bajerry Oct 3rd, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    Harley’s are the best thing for fat, ugly gals, to find a fat, ugly, guy

  4. 4 James Oct 3rd, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Harley efforts are paying off. That’s great news. They just started too late, but hope is there.

  5. 5 Doc Robinson Oct 3rd, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    “Women riders now represent about 12 percent of Harley sales compared with 2 percent in 1995″. Now that is an impressive statistic and suggests Harley-Davidson are on the right track with a huge market waiting for them out there. Look at the role women are playing on the salt, in the Cannonball and in events all over. I’m with Patricia on this one, women will save Harley!

  6. 6 jim Oct 4th, 2010 at 7:13 am

    after talking with some women during a motorcycle safety riding course, the general thought was that the harley were a bit much as an entry level first bike, and that maybe once they continued riding they would consider one for their next bike…i think it takes a certain personality to want to ride a harley, you either want to or you don’t…

  7. 7 Miami Chopper Shop Oct 4th, 2010 at 9:53 am

    Jim’s got it. And as far as the 12% women market, that sure is a much smaller rise than their 36% drop!
    New Harleys are for rich bikers, period, unless, of course, it’s your only ride (same price as having a friggin’ car.

  8. 8 mad$andy Oct 4th, 2010 at 10:41 am

    Hey ladies, when your done riding, can you finish washing the dishes please? Thanks.

  9. 9 Woody Oct 4th, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Good thoughts, Jim. Kind of a shame they dropped the Buell Blast, instead of building on it. A small entry level H-D with big bike styling would probably be a hit, something along the lines of a Ridley but with the Harley name to generate clothing sales and get them coming into the dealerships. If I was a $6 million CEO I could probably think of more ideas. (and tool the new bike out of my own pocket)

  10. 10 vince Oct 4th, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    women always saved the world? what?

    anyhow, the article, by the way it gives the statistics makes it sound like you take the 36% and subtract 10% from it to get a 22% drop in sales rather than a 36% drop in sales. and that is not what the numbers actually represent.

    the statistics, as given, are a bit misleading of the information they are representing. there is an 36% overall drop in HD sales. that is not altered by the 10% increase in women owners. the 10% rise in woman riders is simply a part of the remaining market harley has. there is still a 36% drop in sales. that fact remains unchanged.

    marketing to women is only a band-aid. it’s not a very good one, either. while a 10% rise sounds like a good rise, you have to read all the information provided to put it in perspective. That rise is spread out over 15 years, from 1995 to 2010. figure that out and it’s not even a percent a year.

    Woody had the right idea. HD has been basking in the glow of rich yuppie wannabe sales. they’ve not really offered anything to address the real market or to appeal to younger people who are going to be the market in a few years. Getting rid of Eric Buell was a big mistake. He had a finger on the pulse of modern motorcycling. The Buell and especially the ,smaller, Blast are bikes that have appeal to riders who want performance. Young people want performance.

    The yuppie riders don’t care about rteliability, performance, or economic value. They want image and will p[ay to get it. that is a fading market; one that HD will not be able to count on as we move into the future. The company needs to step up to bat. It needs to offer bikes that will appeal to the new market. they need to be able to match the reliability and longevity of Honda and do it at a competative price. the market, once you cut out the yuppie factor, isn’t comprised of people who want a show piece to sit in the garage and take out twice a month to show off. they want bikes to ride and that means HD needs to improve their product quality.

    they’ve recently been offering “factory customs” in hopes of catching the chopper crowd because those of us who build choppers belong to all age groups. the trouble with this approach is that it is still appealing to a fading market. the younger folks who are into choppers want to build their own, like i did. that’s what choppers are all about. it’s only the yuppies who feel that they can buy a chopper and get a piece of the “cool” that comes from riding a chopper. everyone else knows that the “cool” of riding a chopper or, really, of being a “biker” can’t be bought. it has to be earned.

    if HD wants to survive into he future as a profitable company, they need to stop appealing to a dying market and start working to deliver a product that will appeal to the coming generations. they need to go back to being the pre-war HD that competed with Indian for the American market. that is going back to a history that most people are unaware of, but it’s in that time that HD’s salvation lies.

  11. 11 mcmagic Oct 4th, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Interesting comments. However, my experience is that yuppies DO care about reliability and performance. I’ve been following the MoCo, and I believe that they are paying a great deal of attention to the markets and the coming generations. I thnk many will be surprised when they come out with an entirely new entry level bike that will be priced much lower than current models. It’s probably already in the works. But with their new outlook (like any successful corporation in today’s environment), I think they’ll take the time to do it right.

  1. 1 Tweets that mention Harley-Davidson Scoring High After Intensively Courting Women at Cyril Huze Blog – Custom Motorcycle News -- Topsy.com Pingback on Oct 3rd, 2010 at 8:37 am
  2. 2 thehighlow.com » Blog Archive » Hurting Harley-Davidson Turns to Lady Riders Pingback on Oct 14th, 2010 at 1:39 pm
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