So, You Want To Become A Harley-Davidson Dealer?

First time I got this question. It came from a friend who is a long time biker and successful professional investor, 2 criteria that Harley-Davidson absolutely love from its prospective dealers. So, even if you don’t intend to be like Harley says “a keeper of their unique culture” by investing millions in what the company also call in their website “the opportunity of a lifetime”, maybe you want to know the process by which your dealer became your dealer.

But first, in this economic situation, is Harley-davidson looking for new dealers? Answer, yes. Either to buy out some existing dealerships, or in geographical territories where a dealership may have been forced to close or representing a large or dense potential market. At this day April 11th, 2011 the webpage Becoming A Dealer offers opportunities in Wisconsin (4), Indiana (1), Minnesota (1) and Ohio (1) Of course you can also buy out any dealer but still will need approval of the big wigs in Milwaukee.

Now, you are going to ask, how much money? It depends… Harley states that “In order to be considered as a potential Harley-Davidson® dealer, a candidate must meet the minimum eligibility requirements set forth by Harley-Davidson Motor Company. If such requirements are met, the candidate’s information as submitted on the Prospective Dealer Application may be maintained in Harley-Davidson’s prospect database for one year, in the event opportunities become available that meet candidate criteria submitted.” and ” Although a prospect may meet Harley-Davidson’s minimum financial requirements, this does not imply that the candidate will automatically meet the financial investment necessary for a particular dealership for sale.” Ready to apply? Just fill out the Harley-Davidson Dealer Application.

21 Responses to “So, You Want To Become A Harley-Davidson Dealer?”

  1. 1 Brian Apr 15th, 2011 at 7:52 am

    I can’t imagine too many rich people will decide that opening an HD dealer is the best thing to do with their money. Especially since so many are going out of business lately. And let’s not forget that the company demands huge showrooms which require huge overhead costs. Small shops used to be able to get through the tough times because they had low overhead and it was the owner’s only income. Now most stores are owned by “investors” who have lots of money in several different businesses. And once a store becomes unprofitable, it gets liquidated. At the start of the boom, I was happy to see many local shop owners who struggled for decades sell there stores for millions, they earned it. Now it’s just a business for rich wannabee bikers. A wise investor would buy a McDonalds store which generate millions and are basically recession proof. Just my 2 cents.

  2. 2 John K. Endrizzi Apr 15th, 2011 at 7:56 am

    Harley-Davidson must have a very effective lobby here in Wisconsin. Now the average citizen can begin the “prospect” process by purchasing a special HD license plate for an extra $40. Stand in line for yours now fellow Badgers. Then maybe you will be able to join the waiting list for a stealership !

  3. 3 666 Apr 15th, 2011 at 8:52 am

    Boy I bet they are lining up for this opportunity!!!!!! Anyone tell HD that the party’s over ?

  4. 4 leston Apr 15th, 2011 at 9:05 am

    Sorry, but a good investor wouldn’t open a Harley Dealer.

  5. 5 zyon Apr 15th, 2011 at 9:18 am

    I’d rather open a pre-owned dealership. Harley sales are starting to go up and other brands are holding relatively steady. It won;t be long and the prices for new Harley’s will go back up. Everything is cyclical. This will drive up the used motorcycle market. Selling used bikes prevents harley from putting in their two cents and it allows you to sell other brands too. I have a buddy who owns a used motorcycle retail store where they mostly sell harley motorcycles (and their own builds) and they did not see much of a hit due to the recession. However, they also run a string online parts store.

  6. 6 Patrick Apr 15th, 2011 at 9:54 am

    Sorry, guys. This is the best opportunity of the last 15 years to buy a Harley dealership. Buy low, sell high. Not the opposite. Look at HD stock (HOG). High and higher every day.

  7. 7 Nicole Apr 15th, 2011 at 9:54 am

    Well, concidering Wisconsinites are driving around here with a little barn and silo on our license plates, the HD plate sounds a whole lot better. Yes, $40 may seem dumb to pay for it but you have to realize the other optional plates for wildlife, badgers and so forth are all $40 also, not to forget the annual $15 fee for having these plates. I agree with Brian though – I do not see it being “the opportunity of a lifetime” investment idea after all of the HD dealerships closing within the last few years. But as a company they are doing something right financially.

  8. 8 just my opinion Apr 15th, 2011 at 10:33 am

    I only have one question.

    If this is a great opportunity to make money than WHY have so many good business people closed their dealerships? I know some of you will claim that the dealers that closed were bad business people and that explains it but nothing could be further from the truth, some of those dealerships had been in business and doing great for decades. And no one can do that without knowing how to run a successful business. So again Why? Don’t take this the wrong way because as with any type of business there are some areas in the country that will support a given business when most areas will not. All I can say is pick your area right or join the many dealers that have closed.

  9. 9 1550tc Apr 15th, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Buy a Kia, or Hunydai store in the long run you will be better off or start a full polaris dealership 🙂

  10. 10 Nicole Apr 15th, 2011 at 11:58 am

    I do believe that some of the HD dealerships that have closed were doing good. Harley started asking too much of them – wanting them to relocate closer to main highways and freeways, wanting them to have larger buildings, etc. In this economy not everyone can afford things like that to keep their franchise. I think they sorted out the profitable from the non profitable though. They were doing what was best for HD Corp as a whole.

  11. 11 BlkBkr Apr 15th, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    This is not meant as a Harley slam at all but…I would start a Harley dealership in a heartbeat if I didn’t have to sell motorcycles there and only had to sell parts and shirts. That seems to be where the profits are at.

  12. 12 Seymour Apr 15th, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    BlkBkr, I think you maybe can do that. I’ve seen them. I don’t know if they are affiliated with the local dealer though.

  13. 13 Steve Hog Radio producer Apr 15th, 2011 at 5:53 pm


    I believe you already can at least in part: It’s called licensing. You pay for the license and you can sell H-D Log’d apparel. No need for a dealership for that.

    Just contact H-D HQ and they will walk you through the process.

    That’s why you see H-D log’d gear at malls and airport shops.

  14. 14 Wiz Apr 16th, 2011 at 3:40 am

    Anybody out there want to be a Freebird dealer? Franchises are available, for alot less than H-D. YUK-YUK!! Wiz

  15. 15 Louis Louis Apr 16th, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    If you want to be a H-D dealer, in addition to have a few mil, could you pass an investigation looking for :

    been convicted (including pleas of no contest) of a crime (felony or misdemeanor),
    including, but not limited to, crimes involving theft, fraud, embezzlement, false
    pretenses, drugs, receiving (or concealing) stolen property, forgery, counterfeiting,
    odometer tampering or extortion? (Do not include arrests not resulting in conviction,
    youthful offenses, or convictions for minor traffic violations.)
    Yes No
    (Initials) (Initials)
    2. been found civilly liable for or entered into a consent decree with respect to any
    consumer fraud, unfair trade practice or similar act or practice, including, but not limited
    to, misleading advertising and bait-and-switch sales tactics?

  16. 16 deadwood1783 Apr 17th, 2011 at 12:27 am

    Having spent the majority of my motorcycle industry career, 21 of the last 26 years in the Harley-Davidson Dealer network, I can honestly say you could not take a warrant and get me to buy one even if money were no object. Things have changed at HD Corporate and they are much more dictatorial now than at any time in my memory. Not that I think EVERYTHING is doom and gloom for the MoCo, I don’t, there is still a good living to be made by those who are willing to submit to the ” McDonalds/Automotive” do what I say when I say way of doing business. A totally sterile environment. Changes had to be made and I think Keith Wandell has made a lot of tough choices. He has said many times he’s determined not to let “us” go the way of the car business. Yet, that is exactly what I see happening. Motorcycle shops need to have their own flavor and should be different from one dealership to another all the while maintaining a “consistency” of top shelf customer service. I agree wholeheartedly with that concept, it is the way its applied I find ,,well,,, disgusting. That should imply the MoCo treats all Dealerships the same. Well, thats how it would work in a perfect world and we are all aware this is not a perfect world. As for me, I will be moving on to the “aftermarket” world because I can no longer subject myself to the “mandates” now being forced on Dealers and as we all know what rolls down hill and where it lands. Right in the laps of Dealership Frontline Employees whom Corporate could care less about. Even HD’s Tier 1 suppliers employees have been rewarded with discounts or rather “rebates” on new bike purchases. Dealership Frontline Employees are only rewarded with what rolls down hill. I wish the MoCo well as without them, the aftermarket too would cease to exist. But I do confess to leaving because of poor leadership. One Company, One Team, pulling in One Direction,,,,,My A$$

  17. 17 Bigalyts Apr 17th, 2011 at 10:39 am

    HD sucks. They are not about sitting down with you on a Saturday morning talking to you about Motorcycles They don’t give two shits about what Harley Davidson meant to your Father or Uncle. They care about making you a Victim of a Corporate Statistic, representing a number to the Stock Holders. I say let’s PAY THEM BACK! I SAY LET’s KEEP THEM FROM CONTROLLING OUR DOLLARS. LET’s KEEP THEM FROM MAKING A $5,000 – $8,000 profit from us on every Bike! How you ask? LET’S KEEP OUR BIKES, DON’T TRADE THEM IN. JUST KEEP THEM!!!!!

  18. 18 Bigalyts Apr 17th, 2011 at 10:42 am

    P.S. The Best way to make Few Million Do$$ars Owning a HD Dealership is to invest 10 Million and get out when you have a Few Million Left !

  19. 19 Toby Apr 18th, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    deadwood1783 is correct in his interpretation of the MoCos direction. I can’t blame them for everything since 1) they are a public company, and 2) they have gone through the worst financial stress since the great depression. Their biggest threat by far is the aging of their customers, and the alienation of their new (young) customers. Heck, just about everyone who wanted an HD already bought one during the boom years.

    Back in the 70’s I could buy a good used sportster for $700 or so. It was only 10% or so more that the imports at the time, but much more fun. It got me hooked. Now, used HDs are grossly overpriced in the youth market which is where they need to be. HD has become a luxury item like a boat or an RV. They have a lot of work to do to capture the newer demographic.

  20. 20 Ray Apr 20th, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    In the youth market is where they need to be, but they’re not. In fact, they just killed the Erik Buell line, which was the only thing getting young people into their dealerships. They also just sold the MV Agusta line, purchased just a few years before for $109 MILLION – they sold it last August for, I believe, 3 Euros!

  21. 21 Rasputin Jul 7th, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    What fancy service is this? I’ve never experienced it. The dealer where I live (owned by someone out of state – so much for majority investor on site) is purely a stealership. When I occasionally visit, they want me to buy a bike in five minutes or get out – no one wants to sit and talk bikes (they may not even ride).

    They talk the talk, but that’s it. I won’t be back. They don’t want cheapskate Sporty riders around – even if I bought my bike there (since I won’t trade “up”)

    Bigalyts hit the nail SQUARELY on the head.

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Cyril Huze