Taking Their Bikes Abroad

That throaty, unmistakable roar chops through the morning air. Sleek yet powerful, its unmistakable profile inspires a certain amount of aversion from those unfamiliar, but respect from all. Stretching its legs, it eats up the ground in front of it with a ravenous hunger. Freedom. Speed. Attitude. Although one of many, Harley-Davidson stands apart in the world of motorcycles. From the bikes to the riders, there is an unmistakable image that comes with the name “Harley.”

American “Muscle”

For years Harley-Davidson has developed a brand that is synonymous with American biker culture. The name instantly brings to mind black leather, polished chrome, and a class of rider that is as rough-and-tumble as they come. Some of this reputation is part of a stigma created by notorious motorcycle gangs such as the Hell’s Angels, however – apart from the nefarious activities associated with the group – the image is largely self-styled. Harley regularly promotes and holds rallies for Harley bike owners, otherwise known as HOG (Harley Owners Group) rallies. One of the trademarks of Harley culture, according to many riders, is pride in their bikes and where they were made: America. A few trips past your local biker bar, or a weekend spent in a town that’s hosting a HOG rally, and the meaning behind this sentiment becomes pretty clear. Harley-Davidson owners love their bikes, love their country, and love to show it by revving up their bikes and cruising together.

International Appeal

With all of the culture and tradition surrounding Harley bikes in America, some of the company’s latest activity may come as a surprise. While they are still keeping a firm hold on their American presence, the company is also enthusiastically expanding operations in a new and emerging biker market. You might be thinking Italy, with scenic mountain roads weaving their way along the Mediterranean coastline, or Germany, with their famous autobahns promising a thrilling ride at high speeds. Wrong. In fact, this new market isn’t in Europe at all, which may come as a surprise. Harley-Davidson’s next big undertaking is opening up the Indian market, which so far has been more than receptive to creating their own version of Harley culture.

In just two years the company has sold over 2,000 bikes in India, and currently has nine operating dealerships in that vast country. As part of their 110th anniversary celebration, the company threw a HOG rally in India for the first time, and the event had over 600 Harley riders in attendance. According to Harley though, these numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. The company is preparing to open up more dealerships as the demand for bikes is currently reaching “critical mass,” according to one Harley representative. New dealerships may be placed in smaller towns than they are currently operating in (and in India, many “small” towns have populations of over a million people), as there has been demand in those areas.

Still Made in the U.S.A (Kind Of)

Although the bikes are still made in America, the company has looked for ways of lowering the sticker price for their Indian customers. One way they’ve been able to do this is by importing American-made kits, and then doing the assembly on-site in India. Currently the company uses this kit method for six of the 12 bikes they sell in the country, and there are plans to add three more to this process. After making the switch, the price tag on each of the three models will be slashed by almost 23%. Even with the reduced price, Harleys won’t be challenging the standard motorcycle models that make up India’s most popular mode of transportation. The Harley price range of $10,500 to $46,000, depending on the model, makes them a luxury that only the country’s wealthy can afford to enjoy – to put it into perspective, many bikes in India retail for less than $1,000. Harley isn’t looking to become a run-of-the-mill bike though, and they have stated that even with the recent financial crises affecting the global economy, the “demand for premium products in India is scaling up…”