Cruisers For The Masses

By Guido Ebert

While Harley-Davidson – the largest supplier of motorcycles in the United States – is once again experiencing

Photo Courtesy of Harley-Davidson
Photo Courtesy of Harley-Davidson

growth in sales, and the overall stateside motorcycle market continues to realize single digit expansion, sales of traditional Cruiser motorcycles – those standard chrome-clad, bag-less V-twins – appear to be slipping in popularity.

How can H-D and the general motorcycle market experience growth while Cruiser sales decline? 1) Sales of new Metric Cruiser motorcycles – those offered by Foreign manufacturers – have been on a downswing as consumers find a glut of lightly used offerings that were a part of the bike-buying boom of the mid 2000s. 2) More than 45% of H-D’s annual sales are tagged as Touring models rather than counted as traditional Cruiser models.

Lets look at the numbers.

While total sales of new motorcycles in the U.S. in 2014 tallied 430,670 units, up approx. 3.5% from 2013, sales of traditional Cruisers (non-bagged) in the United States in 2014 fell approx. -7.5% from 2013, according to Minneapolis-based research firm Power Products Marketing.

The top 10 best-selling Cruiser models in the U.S. last year were all Harley-Davidson models: the Iron 883, Dyna Street Bob, Breakout, Forty-Eight, Softail Slim, Dyna Low Rider, Softail Deluxe, Dyna Fat Bob, Dyna Wide Glide and Switchback, the research firm notes.




Ducati’s Diavel Carbon ($21,395) was a best seller in 2014 alongside the Diavel ($18,295) and Diavel Strada. For 2015, Ducati also offers the Diavel Titanium ($27,995).



H-D ‘s top sellers last year were the Iron 883 ($8,399), Dyna Street Bob ($13,449) and Breakout ($18,599). The 2015 H-D line-up also includes the SuperLow ($8,249), 1200 Custom ($10,649), Forty-Eight ($10,749) and Seventy-Two ($10,849) Sportsters; the Low Rider ($14,199), Fat Bob ($15,699) and Wide Glide ($15,799) Dyna models; the Slim ($15,899), Fat Boy Lo ($17,499), Fat Boy ($17,699) and Deluxe ($18,099) Softail models; and the V-Rod Muscle ($16,149) and Night Rod Special ($16,549).



Honda’s Cruiser sales last year were led by the Rebel ($4,190), Shadow Phantom ($7,499) and Fury ($9,999). Other Cruisers in the current Honda line include the Valkyrie ($17,999), Sabre ($9,999), Stateline ($9,999), Interstate ($10,999), Shadow RS ($7,499), Shadow Aero ($7,499) and Shadow Spirit 750 ($7,499) and CTX700N ($6,999).



Kawasaki’s best-sellers in 2014 included the Vulcan 900 Classic ($7,999), Vulcan 900 Custom ($8,499) and discontinued Vulcan 1700 Classic. The non-bagged line-up for 2015 also includes the new 650cc Vulcan S ABS ($7,399).



Moto Guzzi’s California 1400 Custom ($15,490) is joined in 2015 by the sexy new Eldorado ($15,990) and Audace ($15,990) – both based on the architecture of the California.



Indian’s growing sales were last year led by the Chief Classic ($18,999) and the early release Scout ($10,999). Introduced as an early release 2016: the Chief Dark Horse ($16,999).



Suzuki’s best-sellers in 2014 were the Boulevard S40 ($5,499), C50 ($8,199) and M50 ($8,599). The 2015 Boulevard Cruiser line also features the M109R BOSS ($14,999), C90 BOSS ($12,389) and M90 ($11,199).



Triumph’s top-selling Cruiser models last year were the America ($8,399), Speedmaster ($8,399) and Thunderbird ($13,499). Those best-selling models are offered alongside the Rocket III Roadster ($15,499), Thunderbird Commander ($15,999) and Thunderbird Storm ($14,999).



Victory sales in 2014 were led by the Vegas 8-Ball ($12,499), High-Ball ($13,349) and Gunner ($12,999). Also in the 2015 line-up: the Hammer 8-Ball ($14,999).



Yamaha’s most popular models in 2014 proved to be the Stryker ($11,690), V Star 250 ($4,340) and V Star Custom ($6,990). Yamaha’s big Star line for 2015 also includes the VMAX ($17,990); Raider ($14,990), Raider S ($15,790) and Raider Bullet Cowl ($15.390); Stryker Bullet Cowl ($12,090); Bolt ($7,990), Bolt R-Spec ($8,390) and Bolt C-Spec ($8,690); V Star 950 ($8,690) and V Star 1300 ($11,290).


Harley-Davidson By The Numbers

By Guido Ebert


Harley-Davidson dealers in 2014 sold 267,999 new H-D motorcycles worldwide, up 2.7% compared to 260,839 motorcycles moved in 2013. Retail unit sales were up 1.3% in the U.S., 11.8% in the Asia Pacific region, 6.4 % in the EMEA region, 2.1% in the Latin America region and down 10.8% in Canada compared to full-year 2013.

Sales through the first six months of 2015 are down, however, with H-D dealers selling 145,592 motorcycles worldwide compared to 147,633 motorcycles sold during the first half of 2014. Retail unit sales were down 0.7% in the U.S., up 7.8% in the Asia Pacific region, down 7.7% in the EMEA region, down 1.2% in the Latin America region and down 4.8% in Canada.

H-D says those results are in line with expectations following the company’s decision in April to lower motorcycle shipments from initial projections for 2015 in light of currency-driven competitive pressures in the U.S., increased levels of aggressive competitive discounting and an ultimate need to manage supply with demand.

H-D delivered 270,726 motorcycles globally in 2014, up 3.9% compared to 260,471 global deliveries in 2013.  Deliveries stateside totaled 173,994 units, up 4.2%.

The Motor Company initially expected to deliver 282,000 to 287,000 units worldwide in 2015, but now expects to ship 276,000 to 281,000 motorcycles to dealers and distributors – an approximate 2 to 4% increase from 2014.

“We are confident in the strength of our business and the strategies we have in place to maintain our industry leadership and grow our business over the long term,” says Matt Levatich, President and Chief Executive Officer, Harley-Davidson, Inc.

Critics suggest one way for H-D to “grow its business” is to expand its branding to other consumer markets rather than remain dependent on an aging population of its brand enthusiasts.

H-D says it is doing that, claiming U.S. retail sales of new Harley-Davidson motorcycles to its “outreach” customers (young adults 18-34, women, African-Americans and Hispanics) in 2014 grew at more than twice the rate of sales to “core” customers (Caucasian men, ages 35-plus).



Polaris Pursues Growth With Indian & Victory

By Guido Ebert

Polaris’ Motorcycle Division in 2014 earned sales revenue of $348.733 million, up an incredible 59% compared to revenue of $219.819 million in 2013 as the Indian brand experienced strong retail demand and Victory motorcycles sales climbed in the mid-single digit percent range.168_SS3

Polaris’ push into the two-wheeler market continues this year. For the first six months of 2015, Polaris’ Motorcycle business sales revenue came to $299.539 million, up 65% compared to $181.995 million during the same period in 2014.

That astonishing growth is not without its pains, however.

While the Indian brand has been leading Polaris’ Motorcycle Division expansion this year with the Scout, Roadmaster and the new Dark Horse, Victory brand sales proved off target as deliveries of the new Magnum and Magnum X-1 baggers were hung up due to paint capacity constraints at the production facility in Spirit Lake, Iowa.

Scott Wine, Polaris’ Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, says the company is undergoing “significant cost pressures and delayed shipments” related to continued difficulties with the new motorcycle paint system.

“We pulled out all the stops to increase throughput in an effort to meet the growing demand for our Indian, Victory and Slingshot customers, accepting the substantial costs commensurate with that push,” Wine says. “Although production still cannot keep pace with demand, we are confident in our plans to further increase our motorcycle throughput in the second half of the year.”

“Our biggest challenge has been meeting demand, so we invested heavily in infrastructure to meet future growth,” Steve Menneto, Polaris’ Vice President of Motorcycles, said in an annual report. Menneto says Polaris’ motorcycle division R&D spending in 2014 was the highest it’s been in 10 years, and says the division doubled its employee headcount and added more than 100,000 square feet to the Spirit Lake plant in addition to the installation of the new paint system.

While Indian has been firing on all cylinders, Polaris expected Victory sales to decline in 2014 given several competitive product launches. “But Victory only lost 0.5% market share,” Menneto points out. “There’s still strong demand for the brand. Now that we’ve upgraded Victory’s manufacturing lines and added capacity, we’re back investing in product. We also refocused the brand more precisely on what customers truly want from it: modern American muscle. Between quality and bold modern American styling, we’re well positioned for solid growth in Victory.”  


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