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Biggest Harley Davidson Blunders

One of America’s most notable companies and the fifth largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, Harley Davidson is an iconic brand with a loyal customer following.

With its strong market share, quality engine design, long history, sought after cruiser designs, and its survival of the depression, it would be easy to think of Harley Davison as a flawless company.

In spite of their many successes and triumphs, Harley Davidson is also known for a number of marketing, production and management blunders over the years. We took a look at some of Harley Davidson’s biggest blunders.

Underestimating the competition

For decades after its founding in 1903, Harley Davidson enjoyed a growing market share in the US motorcycle industry. By the 1950s they had a firm hold on 70% of the domestic market.

When Japanese imports started coming in Harley Davidson believed their riders were only interested in leisure riding, not transportation, and that they would choose Harleys over more affordable imports chiefly because they were foreign. By 1971 Harley Davidson’s market share had dropped to 5% in the face of quality Japanese models.

They did manage to turn this around by lobbying for tariffs on imported vehicles and refining their own production process. Harley Davidson also started to extend their brand beyond motorbikes…

Stretching the branding too far

Harley Davidson has always represented freedom, masculinity and ruggedness. This worked fine with the Harley branded shirts, leather riding gear, keychains and the like.

But in the 1990s they went too far when they started making Harley Davidson wine coolers, cologne and perfumes. Consumers felt this diverged too far from the Harley image and it really didn’t do too well. They had to abandon these softer products at the risk of damaging the well formed Harley Davidson persona.



Riders love hearing that recognisable roar of a Harley as it comes down the road. In 1995 Harley Davidson attempted to Trademark the iconic sound of their engine. While it is recognisable, they met with trouble in identifying that sound, especially as they tried to claim that their engines made the exact same noise. Obviously different models, years and engine sizes made different sounds and they eventually had to drop the case in 2000.

In spite of these blunders (and countless more, no doubt) Harley Davidson is still doing well, holding onto 50% of the US motorcycle market.

This is because when you buy a Harley you’re buying more than a bike – you’re buying the centrepiece of a lifestyle. It’s a persona, an inclusion to an exclusive club and a ticket to freedom all in one.

If you’re interested in getting yourself on a Harley Davidson motorcycle we’d be happy to help. Contact us at Loyalty Loans on 1300 310 301 to talk about bike finance, or simply apply online for a pre-approved loan.

However, if you came to this article thinking you’d see other rider’s blunders on a Harley Davidson…


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