Brand as business

Freedom comes at too high a price

2 August, 2017

Millennials (Gen Y, born 1980-2000, aged 17-37) aren’t driving motorcycles. And that’s really hurting Harley-Davidson.

Investment management and research firm Alliance Bernstein downgraded Harley-Davidson’s rating from ‘outperform’ to plain ‘market perform’ in a note it sent to investors last week.

Alliance Bernstein analyst David Beckel said in the report that data showed Millennials just weren’t developing a passion for motorcycle riding the way previous generations have done.

Harley-Davidson bike sales in 2016 were down 1.6 per cent overall, compared to its 2015 figures, while the company’s US sales fell 3.9 per cent, according to Business Insider. This is a pretty significant drop, since Harley sales represent about half of the American big bike market.

So what’s happened? What’s happened to the love of “Easy Rider” freedom as expressed and felt on the long, open road?

Well it seems that Millenials were heavily impacted by the 2008 recession period they grew up in, and so are behaving more responsibly than previous generations.

Describing that recession period as a ‘very significant psychological scar’ that ‘severely negatively impacted’ one out of five US households at the time, Morgan Stanley analyst Kimberly Greenberger told Business Insider that, ‘If you think about the children in that house and how the length and depth of that recession really impacted people, I think you have an entire generation with permanently changed spending habits.’

Wow! An entire generation with permanently changed spending habits. So I’m guessing the “A completely irresponsible thing to do” Harley-Davidson ad campaign that ran in the 90s isn’t going to cut it with today’s battle-scarred Millennials.

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