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The Harley Davidson Case Analysis

This paper provides an analysis of the Harley Davidson Company, which shows how Harley has used a unique approach to branding and maintaining an alignment between their corporate vision, culture and image. They have used many different methods to achieve a blend of active corporatism while still keeping their consumers feeling as though they ‘own’ the brand and products associated with it. The basic tools for a strategic management will work for any company, and as such, they provide the areas of focus and capitalization.

As with Harley Davidson’s case, changes were implemented to prepare for the future challenges and remain on the lead over the others. Geared towards improving manufacturing standards and productivity while further developing new products and services, their strategies have worked to their advantage building a strong relationship with all their shareholders. Utilizing a systemic approach while in a developmental phase, the Harley-Davidson motorcycles have had the ability to generate emotion.

The excitement of racing, the serenity and comfort of a country lane or country side drive, the pleasant symphony of a handful of bikes rumbling down Main Street, the exhilaration of switchbacks on a mountain road, but most of all, the camaraderie of the people who share the same love for such motorcycles, are only but a few. So therefore we ask, what was the key to the success of this firm? The answers will then be unveiled in the succeeding paragraphs. Analysis of Strategic Factors The birth of the H. O.

G (Harley Owners Group) contributed to the success of Harley-Davidson’s continued growth as they received tariff relief from the International Trade Commission on 700cc motorcycles. This company sponsored club that consisted of riders who transformed motorcycling into a family-oriented social sport and it continues to be very successful with 600,000 owners and 1,200 chapters worldwide. Internationally, this company’s revenue has exceeded $816 million, which accounts for 18% of the net revenue for motorcycles.

Its emblem has become an international icon and the sound of its V-twin engine is unmistakable, these are but a few reasons why Harley-Davidson is the number one motorcycle manufacturer who happens to also be the number one seller of heavyweight bikes in the U. S. There merchandise extends to as far as line of clothing and accessories, and they make bikes under the Buell nameplate. The HD or Harley-Davidson’s attire denotes attitude and rightfully so, there is no other motorcycle as classy as the “Harley”.

The Harley Davidson’s Mission Statement states: “We fulfill dreams through the experiences of motorcycling, by providing to motorcyclists and to the general public an expanding line of motorcycles, branded products, and services in selected market segments” (David, 2003 p12). This statement addresses the components of attention to customers, products and services the company provides, technology, concerns for survival, growth and profitability, philosophy, self-concepts, public image, and concerns for employees.

While the customer component is addressed in this mission statement and is identified as motorcyclists and the general public, the same holds true with products and services component. The Philosophy component of HD’s mission statement is fulfilling dreams though the provision of a riding experience. But such mission statement fails to address the components such as: concern for survival, growth and profitability, technology, public image or the concern for employees.

As for its Vision statement, it states: Harley-Davidson is an action-oriented, international company, a leader in its commitment to continuously improve (its) mutually beneficial relationships with stakeholders (i. e. , customers, suppliers, employees, shareholders, government, and society). Harley-Davidson believes the key to success is to balance stakeholders’ interests through the empowerment of all employees (Wheelen & Hunger 2006) to focus on value-added activities. This addresses the components customers as well as stakeholders that include the customers, suppliers, employees, shareholders, government, and society.

There is a clear outline of the survival component in its commitment to continuously improve its mutually beneficial relationship with stakeholders, similarly expressing the self-concept component by empowering the employees. Unfortunately, it failed to mention components of products and services, market, and technology, and philosophy, wherein most of them are indirectly included in the mission and vision statement as Harley-Davidson expresses their desire to bring quality products to the market it serves. The mission and vision statements articulate this overarching philosophy to remain number one.

Internal and External Audits Included in this analysis, is the internal factor evaluation (IFE), which specifically weighs the strengths and weaknesses, and the external factor evaluation (EFE), which weighs the opportunities and threats. Each of these factors is an assessment of each SWOT element that affects Harley-Davidson’s efforts to achieve its aim. Harley-Davidson’s case study determined the following SWOT analysis: Internal Factors Strengths – HD’s internal strengths are its domestic and international market share, financial status, and product quality.

With their market share, both domestic and international, consists mainly of men between the ages of 40-50, who fall in upper income levels. This company is also known for their quality products and brand recognition, and the fact that profitability has been increasing for over 18 years, then purports enough reason why they are in the lead. One major weakness though is the untapped potential market of both the female and African American riders, although recently HD commercials are beginning to tap this avenue.

External Factors By far there are five opportunities evaluated in the EFE and they include: an increased product line, loyal customer base, untapped markets, and brand recognition. Despite the wide variety of products which HD has offered, they are nevertheless still undergoing new ways to diversify and keep up with the demands of market. According to the 2003 Annual Report, Harley-Davidson opened a new plant in York, PA called Softail, built to support production flexibility and maximize productivity.

With Harley-Davidson, customers are considered part of the Harley Owners Group or H. O. G. family of riders, which resulted to an increase customer growth through word-of-mouth, a medium of advertising through current customer base. H. O. G. members conduct annual events specifically for their loyal customers, they promote camaraderie where members serve two purposes: make the current members feel important and to entice new customers of which are friends/family of current members.

Men are the primary focus group when selling motorcycles, since Harley’s are thought of as fast, heavy and dangerous machines. But with women assuming a more equal role with men in sports and adventure, Harley-Davidson has recently begun taking the opportunity to attract this potential market. From its emblem, the fierce engine sound all the way to the proper Harley-Davidson attire, brand recognition has been achieved of being the most familiar name in the motorcycle industry today.

As a matter of fact, they are continuing this effort by building the Harley-Davidson Museum in Detroit which will generate an income that benefits both the company and the town of an estimated $12 million in state and local revenue (Harley-Davidson, 2004). But like any other business, Harley-Davidson has four potential threats, which are identified as; a sudden drop in demand, unexpected regulatory changes, terrorism and its proven impact on retail sales, and H. O. G’s association with crime.

While it is expected that few businesses may come to a sales plateau when threats over powers their sustainability, with Harley-Davidson this will be an exception. With Harley-Davidson’s history and stable financial projections, it should remain at a 7 to 9 percent growth rate, since they are taking preventative measures to “avoid unexpected changes in the regulatory environment for its products” (Harley-Davidson, 2004, p. 56) they also take into account the loss of operation time and capital expenditures due to any unforeseen circumstances such as terrorism.

History has proved however, that the 9/11 event did not impact sales nor production. Competitive Assessment/Strategies Harley-Davidson’s top five competitors in the market of motorcycles are Honda, Yamaha, Polaris, Kawasaki, and Suzuki. Among them, Honda seems to be HD’s major competitor. According to two interviews done at Harley-Davidson dealerships in Fairfax and Manassas, HD is not in all the markets that Honda is in, some of which include engine marine, Active Terrain Vehicles (ATV), and automobiles.

Harley-Davidson’s strategy is to continue fueling the demand for their high quality products thus fetching heavy premiums in both foreign and domestic markets. The company’s allocation for research and development to improve quality and create more designs once again, justifies Harley-Davidson as among the best motorcycles in the world. According to, Senior Vice-Presidents Bleustein and Davidson, “Harley has managed to survive because of the passion people feel for its product” (Harley-Davidson, 2004).

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