New Bikes Bring Harley-Davidson Continued Success in Domestic, International Markets

When most people think of motorcycles, they think of Harley-Davidson. That’s because the Milwaukee-based bike manufacturer and its iconic black-and-orange logo have become representations of a certain outlaw spirit pervasive in motorcycle culture — something that’s ultimately purely American. Now, recent reports show that the company’s sales are climbing both overseas and right here at home thanks in part to efforts to roll with new market trends.

According to the Milwaukee Business Journal, 2013 numbers from Harley-Davidson’s annual report show that the company shipped 260,471 motorcycles to markets around the world, a 5.2% jump from 2012. The breakdown of international versus domestic sales for 2013 was 64% to 36%, slightly up from last year’s numbers. And a decade ago, international sales only accounted for about 20% of its total motorcycles sales.

But why? What did the manufacturer do differently in 2013 than in 2012? For that answer, we turn to a recent report from Forbes.

Though Harley has been known primarily as a manufacturer of heavyweight bikes, the company recently expanded its brand with the rollout of the Street motorcycle, a lightweight option built on a new platform. Plus, the Street 750 (the current model) is Harley’s most affordable bike currently offered in places in India. And motorcycles are big in India, a nation whose ever-ballooning population makes it difficult for larger vehicles to get around. That might explain why Harley’s sales abroad have been steadily climbing.

Because the Street 750 (and its soon-to-be-launched companion, the Street 500) is so new and exciting, Harley plans to ship between 7,000 and 10,000 models in the U.S., Indian, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese markets before the end of 2014. That’s all part of the larger plan, though, of an estimated 279,000-284,000 motorcycles shipped in total, an 8% increase from 2013.

Though riders like the option of having their bikes all year round, recent reports are showing that colder months often bring about dramatic declines in sales for bike manufacturers. Harley realizes this and is attempting to curtail the impact by rolling out a new production strategy that can accommodate the shifting market. The unveiling of the Street series is just part of the master plan to stay on top.

As for its international distribution channels, Harley has added 100 new ones over the past four years, something the company has plans to keep doing. By the end of 2014, Harley is poised to boast 150 dealers overseas. Add that to their already impressive network of sellers at home, and you have one heck of a motorcycle powerhouse — one to keep your eye on for years to come.

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