Harley Davidson Case Study

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"Harley-Davidson: At Last" as presented in Hartley's Marketing Mistakes and Successes presents the circumstances around HD's near collapse and since rinse to near mythic success. This case is a great example of marketing myopia; HD saw them-selves as ‘full-size motorcycles' manufactures, not in the transportation, or even the entertainment industry. They believed no one bought motorcycles for transportation, but rather for leisure time use. Like the automotive industry of the time, Harley-Davidson thought its cure customers would buy its products versus those of any of its major competitors, chiefly because they were all foreign. Interesting enough this was true, HD annual unit sales never changed; they just did not grow with either the market or even the population. In the 1950s motorcycle sales were approximately 50,000 units annually, of which HD had 70%. By 1971, there were nearly 4 million motorcycles registered in the US and HD market share had dropped to 5%. Harley-Davidson was founded in 1903 by four men in a wooden shed experimenting with the internal combustion engine. By the beginning of the'60s, HD had practically wiped out all of its domestic competitors. Its motorcycles were used by nearly every police department in America. This was soon to change. The president of Harley-Davidson at the time, William E. Davidson was the son of the founder. He believed the lightweight motorcycles were no threat to Harley's business. By the middle of the 1960's HD realized its mistake an tried to compete in this segment by bringing motorcycles from Italy. These were of no better quality than the motorcycles Harley was producing in its plants, and no where no wear the quality of the Hondas, the market leader at the time. Harley-Davidson went public in 1965, eventually becoming a division of AMF, a recreational and bowling equipment manufacture. After losing money for more than a decade, Harley-Davidson was sold to a group lead by Vaughan Beals, the...
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