It’s almost automatic every time we write about Harley-Davidson that the company’s critics jump out to say how its bikes are heavy or assembled from parts bin leftovers or technologically decades behind its competitors. What these naysayers either forget or completely ignore is that Harley-Davidson motorcycles continue to sell. In its first quarter 2014 financial report, Harley-Davidson reported a 5.8% increase in motorcycle sales including 3.0% in the U.S. alone.
And before the critics can retort, there’s more: Harley-Davidson lays claim to the two top-selling motorcycles in the U.S. in 2013, with the perennially popular Street Glide Special topping all other models and the Breakout following in second.
Those claims were based on vehicle registration data compiled by Polk IHS Automotive. Unfortunately, Harley-Davidson didn’t go into any specific detail, as it’d be interesting to know just how much better those two models performed compared to the competition.
We also don’t know who’s #3 on the list, though it’s safe to assume it’s not another Harley-Davidson as The Motor Company would have gladly announced it held the top three spots. We also don’t know if there are any asterisks required in Harley-Davidson’s claim, such as whether the data only counts streetbikes with engines displacing more than 601cc.
Harley-Davidson does claim the market lead in such heavyweight motorcycles. With the Street 500 still on the way, all of the 35,730 motorcycles Harley-Davidson sold in the U.S. last year belong to that 601cc and larger category. By comparison, data from the Motorcycle Industry Council say Americans purchased 62,202 on-highway motorcycles displacing more than 601cc in 2013. By those figures, Harley-Davidson holds a strong 57.4% grip on that category.
Again citing the Polk IHS Automotive data, Harley-Davidson does claim to be the best-selling manufacturer in the U.S., not just in the heavyweight class but across all displacements, in several key demographics. It’s no surprise that Harley-Davidson has a strong grip on its “core” demographic of Caucasian men age 35 and older. In other words, the stereotypical Harley-owner the critics are quick to mock.
But for the sixth consecutive year, Harley-Davidson also claims the market lead among young adults 18-34, women, African-Americans and Hispanics in the U.S., a collective the company calls “outreach” customers. In fact, Harley-Davidson’s internal data found its outreach customers are growing at twice the rate of its core customers in 2013 compared to 2012.
“Together with our dealers, we continued to expand the appeal of our products and the Harley-Davidson experience,” says Keith Wandell, Harley-Davidson chief executive officer. “Harley-Davidson dealers sold more than four times as many new, on-road motorcycles, 601cc and up, to U.S. young adults last year, and among riders age 35-plus, more than nine times as many to women, more than six times as many to African Americans and more than seven times as many to Hispanics, as the nearest competitor.”