Harley and Polaris Agree - Create New Riders or Else


The AIMExpo is cur rently underway in Columbus, Ohio and leaders from Harley-Davidson and Polaris spoke yesterday about the state of the industry. While they and nearly everyone we've spoken to or heard comment over the past year agree that things aren't great - despite increased sales by European bike makers this past year - there are ways to reverse the negative trends.

There seemed to be a general agreement that the way to do so is to focus on attracting new riders - although both companies came at this from different points of focus.

Polaris CEO Scott Wine pointed out that this is going to mean more product innovation, a focus on youth riders, creating community partners with dealers, and advancing technology. Regarding the latter, he specifically suggested making it easier for customers to design their vehicles using their smartphones or via a screen in the dealers' showrooms. He even mentioned the idea that they could develop a ridesharing program around the Slingshot.

Great idea, but that would mean a supply chain that could support making vehicles-on-demand. Considering the various degrees of separation between the plethora of parts makers and the end product, this may be a long way from becoming a reality.

Harley-Davidson CEO Matt Levatich pointed to the company's focus on creating 2 million new riders in the U.S. over the next decade. He asked the industry to focus on riding first, the rider second, and then the hardware third.

There's also a role for the motorcycle media -- expand beyond new products (mostly new bikes and gear) and highlight the experience of riding.

Couldn't agree more on the last point. The more people get the experience, the more likely they'll want to own it.