How many years before baby-boomers stop riding? How many years before legislation force manufacturers to produce liquid-cooled motorcycles? Not many. The world changes. Change with it. Here and abroad, markets disappear, others are born ready to be conquered. It’s easy to figure out that future motorcycle sales growth will not come from the big, heavy and expensive motorcycles sold to relatively wealthy white men over 50 eager eager to revive their inner Dennis Hopper. It’s also easy to identify your new younger potential clients. But it’s difficult to conceive and produce the right new models to attract them and to keep them buying your brand during the next 3 or 4 decades. What happens when a company digresses from its traditional strategy?
When Harley-Davidson blew the covers off the Street 750 and Street 500, many didn’t realize, including some industry professionals, the dramatic turn of marketing strategy and of products development Harley-Davidson was taking. The great recession has been a very disruptive time for all manufacturers. Because of its dominant market position in the heavy cruisers V-Twin market segment, Harley-Davidson was deeply affected. With the Street models, the company is the first major motorcycles manufacturer able to explore and measure what the future holds with youngsters and women. Will they rush to buy the Street new dark urban concept? We will get a pretty good idea towards the end of Harley’s fiscal year.
It is my opinion that the Street models small and light package (489 lbs fueled weight versus 562 lbs for a Sportster 883), with a low seat (under 25 in.) and moderately priced motorcycle ($6,799 for the Street 500, $7,499 for the Street 750.) will be a long term success. If not in terms of volume during the 1st year versus other popular Harley models, at least in bringing a much younger clientele of men and women who are now in the financial position to ride the Harley brand.
As the opposite of the LiveWire Project where the initiative is geared to find out to who this type of electric motorcycle should be marketed and how, the Street models have a very defined potential clientele and succeed in maintaining the rebellious attitude characteristic of the young and of the Harley brand. The small/affordable motorcycles market is the new sweet spot for manufacturers. Is Polaris Motorcycles Division currently working to address this market segment? We don’t know yet, but in 2015 the Harley Street may become the most disliked bike by its direct competitors, including Triumph and Royal Enfield. (photos@h-d)