Harley-Davidson's Focus Strategy

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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Case Details:


Case Code : BSTR413 For delivery in electronic format: Rs.500;
For delivery through courier (within India): Rs. 500 + Shipping & Handling Charges extra


Marketing Communication / Consumer Behavior / Brand Management
Case Length : 17 Pages
Period : 2009-2012
Pub Date : 2012
Teaching Note : Not Available
Organization : Harley-Davidson
Industry : Motorcycles
Countries : US; Global


This case study is about the competitive strategy of US-based iconic motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson Inc. (Harley). Harley was the world's leading designer and manufacturer of heavyweight motorcycles with over a 50% market share. Harley bikes were known for their distinctive design and heavy customization. By adopting a focused differentiation strategy, the company was able to command a premium for its products. The case highlights the key problems faced by the company which include plummeting sales due to the global economic recession and the changing demographics of its purchasers.

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To manage through the recession and expand the strength of the Harley-Davidson brand, the company launched a long-term business strategy called "Delivering Results through Focus" in October 2009. The case discusses the objectives of this focus strategy and how it improved productivity and profitability through continuous improvement in manufacturing, product development, and business operations. As part of the strategy, Harley transformed its operations to become more flexible and customer led. It focused on shortening product development lead times, implemented flexible manufacturing, and expanded globally. The case concludes by highlighting the set of issues that Harley needs to address for sustained long-term growth and profitability. This case is aimed at MBA/MS level students as part of the Business Policy/Strategic Management course curriculum.


Understand the competitive strategy of Harley-Davidson.
Analyze the focused differentiation strategy adopted by Harley Davidson to differentiate itself from the competition.
Identify the issues and challenges faced by Harley-Davidson due to the financial turmoil and shifting demographics.
Study the objectives of the "Delivering Results through Focus" strategy and examine whether this will help the company in overcoming the challenges it faces.
Explore strategies that the company might adopt in the future to enhance profitability and productivity.


  Page No.
Introduction 1
Background Note 2
Focused Differentiation 4
Troubled Ride 6
'Delivering Results Through Focus' 7
The Road Ahead 11
Exhibits 13


Strategic direction; Competitive strategy; Focus strategy; Focused differentiation; Business strategy; 'Delivering Results through Focus'; Global recession; Changing demographics; Circle-based organization structure; Strategic thinking, Four strategic pillars; Restructuring manufacturing; divestment; Lean operating structure; Continuous improvement; Product development; Business operations; Customer led marketing approach; Heavyweight motorcycle industry; Harley-Davidson

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