A homeowner in Waukesha for 20 years, Steve is president of the Waukesha Dog Parks Organization and enjoys motorcycling, fishing and staying on top of politics.
Harley Davidson is in trouble. Either every old coot who's going to buy one has done so or those that have passed along without wrecking theirs has caused the used motorcycle market to be glutted with them so new sales have tanked. I say this with affection as I somewhat fit into that category. I now have three motorcycles in the garage myself. One is brand spanking new....but not a Harley.
Putting aside my criticism of most of their models just being styling variations of the the same basic machine and lacking any real diversification, lets look at the political reasons why they are in trouble. Taxes and labor expense.
Look, they are considering to RELOCATE in order to reduce their operating expenses. How can a manufacturing business move a complex operation and save money? It can only be because labor is cheaper and taxes are less elsewhere. Making motorcycles is not much different than making cars, or anything else for that matter. We know the automakers have shed factories and done what they can with their unions in order to survive. Only Ford succeeded. GM and Chrysler failed. Foreign brands have built factories where land, taxes and labor are cheaper than in the rust belt.
Where I work, a coworker just bought a new motorcycle. Looks like a Harley to most people. It's a Yamaha. Another bought one two years ago. Looks like a Harley, but it's a Kawasaki. I assure you that my new motorcycle does NOT look like a Harley, but they used to build a similar machine that had they not discontinued it, could have evolved in what I have and be sitting in the garage now. Anyone remember the Topper?
We can't help Harley with their labor pains. We can help them with taxes, but should we? Our bed of taxation has been building for years. It may be too late to say oops!
Oh, one other guy has a machine that looks like a Harley. It is a Harley. Always an oddball in the group!