Here’s How Harley-Davidson Will Make Itself More Accessible to Riders Worldwide

H-D is counting on more than just a few new bikes to turn itself around.

byEric Brandt|

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We’ve talked about the new products coming out of Harley-Davidson’s recently announced “More Roads to Harley-Davidson” plan, but there’s more to it than a few new bikes. It’s a big, multi-faceted plan to get H-D out of its slump and it’s all about attracting new riders globally and improving the customer experience.

On top of introducing a naked bike, a new custom model, the Pan America adventure bike, and the LiveWire electric motorcycle by 2021, Harley-Davidson is providing broader access to the brand and strengthening its dealer network.

Other fresh products include smaller bikes for emerging markets in Asia, especially India which is one of the fastest growing motorcycle markets in the world. We don’t know much about them yet, but according to a Harley press release, they’ll be between 250-500cc which will make them the smallest Harley-Davidson motorcycles since the AMF days.

Small bikes are exactly what H-D needs to grow its presence in fast-growing Asian markets where much smaller brands like Royal Enfield are seeing massive growth thanks to small, desirable, affordable motorcycles. Don’t expect to see anything smaller than 500cc from H-D here in the States.

Products aside, Harley-Davidson is planning on “improving and expanding the company’s global digital capabilities by evolving the experience.” That’s a little vague and we’re not sure how heavily the brand’s website is going to be revamped or what the new site will entail.

Harley is also switching up its retail strategy. To quote the Miluakee brand, it’s opening “smaller, urban storefronts globally to expose the brand to urban populations and drive sales of the expanded Harley-Davidson product portfolio and expand international apparel distribution." Harley-Davidson has a heavy reliance on selling apparel alongside its bikes so it sounds like they’ll be pushing more Harley branded t-shirts and teddy bears in India.

This also means that H-D is going to try what’s actually worked out pretty well for luxury car brands like Lincoln and Tesla. It’s going to put more storefronts in malls, which might sound like an odd strategy, but it’s all about Harley-Davidson putting its name and logo in front of shoppers for the brand exposure and to add to the customer experience.

On top of the new storefronts, Harley-Davidson also wants to strengthen its existing dealer network. We’ve heard complaints from commenters about Harley-Davidson having a dealer problem where shoppers looking for anything smaller than a Softail get funny looks. H-D dealers have a reputation of only trying to push big, expensive bikes and not being very accommodating to anyone who isn’t already a brand loyalist.

Another slightly vague part of the plan: Harley-Davidson says it will “implement a performance framework to significantly enhance the strength of the dealer network and the customer experience, enabling the best-performing and most entrepreneurial dealers to drive innovation and success for themselves and Harley-Davidson.” That kind of dealer incentivization sounds like how it already works across the industry. We’re assuming more details about this will be provided for dealers in the near future so they know what exactly the plan is.

We think there are a few hits and a few misses with this plan and there are still a few questions to be answered. We’re excited about the new products that are outside of Harley-Davidson’s usual bread and butter, but we’d like to know more about how the brand is planning on revamping its dealer network. In the meantime, we’re rooting for Harley that its ambitious new plan gives the company the boost that it needs to remain an industry leader.