Harley Davidson is beginning the next logical step in the international motorcycle market place, announcing they’re considering an assembly plant in India. Ever since they first began talking about sales in India, this was, to my mind, a foregone conclusion since tariffs in India double the price of imported bikes. Selling in India means making them there.
The company would consider taking that step as Indian sales increase, said Rod Copes, Harley-Davidson’s senior vice president of international sales, marketing and business development.
Harley also would consider manufacturing motorcycles in other countries for those markets, a step beyond assembling imported parts into completed bikes.
… “Getting the tariff reduced would be ideal. But we have not seen action on that yet,” Copes said.
With 32 percent of Harley’s sales outside of the U.S., figuring out how to best get a firm foothold in other countries will be an ongoing process.
I hope their experience doesn’t parallel Royal Enfield. They began assembling motorcycles in India back in the mid 1950s, then making parts, then the entire bike. Finally, the British company went under and India is now the only place Royal Enfields are still manufactured.
International sales are an important component of any company’s long term growth and right now, international sales are rising. If you have to build there to sell there, then you build there.
The intention is, as quoted above, “manufacturing motorcycles in other countries for those markets.” Will motorcycles built there ever be sent back to the U.S.? It’s very common in the auto industry and to think no one inside the Motor Company has ever asked that question or considered it for sometime in the future would be naieve.
Harley’s strong identity and carefully crafted image as an American motorcycle company, generates some sales on that fact alone for a segment of their market. If you begin building motorcycles in other countries, those sales are put in jeopardy and you now become just another motorcycle company, competing with every other company out there. Then the questions become, “What makes a Harley Davidson better or unique?” Is it style? Quality? Performance? There’s no right or wrong here but you can’t lean on the American image and build everywhere else. All of the other companies are building in multiple locations and bikes are compared straight up. A Honda isn’t given points as a Japanese bike since they are built in other places. Triumph isn’t British, either, it’s Triumph, for the same reasons. When Harley begins to sever the American manufacturing ties, they enter a new world, and it may be inevitable. How it works for them will be interesting to watch.
One further thought: I left out “lifestyle” as what might make Harley unique. Will that translate worldwide when the bikes are built worldwide? Does the lifestyle require a Harley? Things to think about that make you go hmm …