Marketing Strategies of Harley-Davidson

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Case Details:

Case Code : MKTG174
Case Length : 19 Pages
Period : 1995-2007
Pub Date : 2007
Teaching Note :Not Available
Organization : Harley-Davidson
Industry : Automobile - Motorcycle
Countries : US

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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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The Problems

In the year 1969, H-D was taken over by the American Machine and Foundry (AMF). During this period, the production of motorcycles increased by more than 300 percent to 14,000 motorcycles per annum. However, the quality of the motorcycles was one aspect which was totally ignored. Adding to H-D's problems, Japanese manufacturers began flooding the market with high-quality, low-priced light to medium-weight motorcycles in the 1970s at a time when H-D was manufacturing mainly heavy-weight motorcycles. The company earned a bad name for poor quality products. Coupled with the competition from the Japanese companies brought H-D to the verge of collapse...

Marketing Management Case Studies | Case Study in Management, Operations, Strategies, Marketing Management, Case Studies

The Marketing Mix

In order to overcome the problems that H-D faced in the early 1980s and help the company regain its market share, a restructuring plan was implemented. Teerlink developed an innovative system known as Circles of Management for bringing both workers and dealers together and involving them in taking key decisions relating to the company. A new marketing philosophy was developed based on the desires of the customers and H-D made efforts to position motorcycles as a lifestyle product...

At the time when H-D was formed, it offered only grey colored motorcycle to its customers and provided three basic styles. However, the company realized that in order to survive, it had to offer its customers more choice...

H-D realized that it would not be possible for it to compete with the Japanese manufacturers on the pricing front. This was because manufacturers like Honda not only manufactured a low-priced high-quality product, but also spent heavily on advertising their products...

H-D started selling its motorcycles through its dealers in 1904. The company's first dealer was CH Lang of Chicago, Illinois (Refer to Exhibit IV for the number of H-D's full-line dealer outlets in the US). All the dealers were independent individuals with a business orientation...

Over the decades, H-D had adopted several strategies to promote its motorcycle brand. The products of H-D were sold to retail customers mainly through dealer promotions, customer events, and advertising through national television, print, radio, direct mailings, and through advertising on the Internet...

The Road Ahead

Though H-D was able to successfully overcome the crisis which had confronted the company during the early 1980s, it came in for plenty of criticism in the process.

Industry experts criticized the company's move to license several of its products.

They opined that H-D should focus on its core competency i.e. motorcycles and said that by putting its logo on several products, the company was selling out and diluting its brand...


Exhibit I: The Famous 'Bar and Shield Logo' of H-D
Exhibit II: Features of H-D Motorcycles
Exhibit III: H-D's Suggested Retail Price-List of Motorcycles in the US
Exhibit IV: Number of Full-Line Dealer/Dealer Outlets in the US
Exhibit V: H-D - Dealership Evaluation Process/Norms
Exhibit VI: H-D: Number of Alternative Retail Outlets and Secondary Retail Locations in the US
Exhibit VII: H-D Print Ads in the Year 1999
Exhibit VIII: H-D Print Ads in the Year 2000
Exhibit IX: Demographic Profile of H-D Customers in the US

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