2012 Harley-Davidson New Bike Sales Up About 30%. Inventories Sharply Down.

From January 1st through mid-February 2012, a Harley-Davidson dealerships survey by Wisconsin-based Robert W. Baird, a wealth management, capital markets, asset management and private equity firm, reveals that sales of new motorcycles were up about 30% nationwide.

A renewed consumer confidence (unemployment at a 4-year low, positive US stock market with Dow Jones Index up 63% since 2008), better and cheaper models in phase with what bikers can afford and want to ride, a very mild winter especially in the Midwest, all helped produce robust new Harley bike sales.

Other result of interest is that US Harley-Davidson new models inventory is at its lower level in about a decode. Average US inventory level is at about 52 motorcycles per dealer compared with about 125 in 2006. 84% of dealers believe that this level is about right or too low. It means that “scarcity value” of the brand is going up again after many years of trending down and that Harley-Davidson Cash Cycle (time between cash to produce and cash received) is much shorter, both good financial news for the factory. Still, many dealers continue to sell new bikes below the recommended MSRP. If March sales, a strong indicator of what could be the sales for the rest of the year, continue to be excellent, potential buyers could expect to pay MSRP or even above, Harley-Davidson declared strategy being to continue to limit production to protect brand value.

21 Responses to “2012 Harley-Davidson New Bike Sales Up About 30%. Inventories Sharply Down.”

  1. 1 Skipper Feb 24th, 2012 at 10:08 am

    That’s great. Thank you Cyril for telling us.

  2. 2 inthewindagain Feb 24th, 2012 at 11:05 am

    Glad I bought mine in 11!

  3. 3 Dyno Feb 24th, 2012 at 11:05 am

    Are we going to reach again the point where dealers charge above MSRP? You all remember, right?

  4. 4 Shifter Feb 24th, 2012 at 11:06 am

    When Harley is doing well, we pay more…

  5. 5 Jason Hallman Feb 24th, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    I certainly hope that Harley has learned their lesson from the past and they keep production low enough to regain their brand value. I know this may seem contrary to popular belief but in my opinion, they need to circle their wagons and focus on quality and on actually being the type of quality brand they claim to be. Perhaps even bring back some of the off shore production of accessories and components that would actually justify the premium price tag and put a few American tier 1 suppliers back in the black. Just my two cents. I think MSRP is a good thing.

  6. 6 viz Feb 24th, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    Does that mean my bike is an investment now?


  7. 7 Luis Feb 24th, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    @Dyno. I was just thinking that.

    I hope we don’t go back to the days were getting a bike at MSRP was a miracle of epic proportions.

  8. 8 Lee Massey Feb 24th, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    Funny that everybody is slamming HD when business is bad, but very few coming back here to congratulate when HD does good. Explain to me.

  9. 9 Richard Feb 24th, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Lee…not everone, I’ve been a supporter for many years which can be evidenced by my previous posts on this blog. HD is a good company and make great bikes!

    With respect to the pricing bikes at a premium references. I rode my ’93 Electra Glide for 97,000 miles because as a matter of principal, I would not pay .10 cents over MSRP… In 2003, my dealer finally sold me a new one for just under MSRP and I bought it. Since then I have purchased ’08 and ’11 Road kings at well below MSRP.

    The lesson is that they will sell a lot more bikes when they are priced “reasonably” and people don’t feel they are being gouged. Since I don’t believe “The company” was overpricing bikes in those days, this lesson is directed at the dealers as it’s my understanding it was the dealers who were gouging loyal customers.

  10. 10 BobS Feb 24th, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    Lee it sounds to me like Harley’s congrats are up 30% this year.

  11. 11 TexBagger Feb 24th, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    I am very glad to hear of the Motor Company’s good fortune. About time things turned the corner so to speak. HD is a quality product and they stand behind the bikes has been my experience. My loast 5 bikes have been Harleys and I have no plans to change. I would love to see the P&A stuff, and clothing with a made in USA label. It’s contrary to my beliefs to buy “Made in China” products.

    Go Harley!!!


  12. 12 DJ Feb 25th, 2012 at 6:03 am

    That is good.. They need to strengthen the brand again. Make people wait for them, don’t make so many and keep the prices up a little. If you make them so everyone can afford them, you will have just another Honda. I remember waiting 9 months for a new HD and not even having a color choice. That is what it takes to keep a brand like HD strong. If everyone could afford a Bentley, there would be no romance in having one. People dream about HD ownership because for allot of people it is at the top of affordability. Nobody dreams about getting that Suzuki one day.. They just go buy one, they are cheap and you get what you pay for

  13. 13 Oldude Feb 25th, 2012 at 7:53 am

    Sure ain’t selling the stock yet! Come on H/D , I held on through the hard times now keep that stock price climbing!

  14. 14 BluDog Feb 25th, 2012 at 10:46 am

    while brand strength is critical, limit supply too strong and HD will hurt themselves, and badly if Polaris can tweak designs and fully realize the potential that I think indian has

  15. 15 Jason Hallman Feb 25th, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    Even if Polaris out sold HD ten to one…they wouldn’t one tenth as cool of a bike.

  16. 16 BluDog Feb 25th, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    I wouldn’t argue that point; but if it goes too far moco becomes unprofitable and, cool bikes or not, goes the way of the dinosaur.

  17. 17 Smittydog Feb 25th, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    I don’t believe those figures from HD. It’s sounds to good.

  18. 18 Toby Feb 26th, 2012 at 12:17 am

    Not sure I would put much stock in a four week sales spurt. The 30% increase (46% in the midwest) is year over year, and last year it was cold as a m&$*%*#*r. Year over year quarter sales are a better gauge. Still, any sales activity in the normally slow winter season is good for the struggling dealers.

  19. 19 Shooter Feb 27th, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    I call Bullshit on this one!!!!!!!!! guess that is why so many dealers have had to close PUHLEASE

  20. 20 Sempe Feb 27th, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    Shooter. Your comment doesn’t make any sense. What 1 1/2 month sales results versus same period year before have to do with past dealership closures? You are confused.

  21. 21 Brett Feb 27th, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    Dealership closings aren’t really a bad thing either. Do you need a dealer every 30 miles especially when some of those towns are very small & a dealer in a bit bigger town 30 miles away can readily handle the consumer demands? I will guarantee if they did not shut down any dealerships, those 52 new bikes per dealer would be far more then some of these dealers need.

    HD went for greed in the middle 90’s & rode it as long as they could. As a company….hard to say if it was wrong, cash in while you can. However, now there are new people in charge that need to pick up the pieces. They have alot of hard decisions to make to keep the company around long term.

    I own a 2001 Harley Softail Standard & a 2003 Gilroy Indian Chief Springfield. I am still waiting to see what Polaris does with Indian. I hope they do it right. However, I honestly do not like Victories at all. Part of it is I think they have looked worse in person then the pictures have online. I was in Moto Primo in Lakeville MN this weekend. They had a high ball on the floor. It looked cheap & like a pile of plastic. I dunno, maybe riding one would change my mind. However, about 200 feet from the Highball were several Triumph Thunderbirds. They were the same price. I would grab the Thunderbird every time over the Highball. I guess part of my problem with Victory is all the ATVs next to them & how so many of the dealers have no clue when it comes to answering motorcycle questions. Maybe this changes with them making Victory/Indian combined bike only dealerships.

    Bottom line, it took 13 years for Victory to become profitable. They are still a long way from entering HD type profits. Here’s to hoping Indian gets at least 13 years to become a strong brand.

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Cyril Huze