Giacomo Marzoli, marketing manager of Harley-Davidson (Italy, Spain and Portugal), who is also a part of the iconic company’s global product expansion and sales team, speaks about the new strategic global game-plan, evolving the product portfolio in line with customer preferences, the new Softail and Street platforms and customisation. Excerpts from an interview with Amit Panday at EICMA 2017 in Milan.
Urban mobility and connectivity are two key trends at EICMA this year as is electrification. Harley-Davidson motorcycles are traditionally chunky, long-haul American cruisers. How is the brand embracing new industry trends?
This is exactly the point. Harley-Davidson has been a historic brand with 115 years of heritage. Just to be able to survive this long clearly means that it has been continuously innovating in terms of technology and style. The world is changing in terms of customer preferences, ways of communication, local laws and legislations and other parameters.
Even in Europe, Harleys are understood to be iconic American bikes. The company is looking to expand globally. One of the main tasks is to create two million new riders over the next 10 years globally but with special focus on the USA. The company also plans to grow its international sales by 50 percent over the next decade.
To do that, Harley-Davidson has committed and has announced a hundred brand-new models over the next 10 years. This is the way the company is now communicating. Typically, we have been quite a conservative brand but the word is there and we want to be there.
We now have the new Softail platform, the biggest launch ever in the history of Harley-Davidson. Then we have the Custom Revolution, which changes everything. We have two historic platforms – Dyna and Softail. The new Softail generation takes the best of both the worlds. You can still have the cool look of the Softail and (ground) clearance of the Dynas, so that you can have more fun with the bike(s). We also have the all-new Milwaukee-Eight (ninth generation of the big-twin engine) which delivers more acceleration, more power and more torque. Plus new frames, which are stiffer than before. This is a clear definition of business for Harley-Davidson.
We have new LED lights, which represent individuality and identity for every bike. Also, from the styling point of view, the Fat Bob power cruiser is attracting a lot of non-Harley-Davidson customers globally. This is also one of our objectives – to create more relevance for Harley-Davidson and that it is a bike that you can ride whenever you want.
A Sportster, which is more blacked out, is suitable for youngsters. We have the Street platform, which is going very well in the Asia-Pacific market. In the past three years, we have sold more than 34,000 units of this platform globally (the Street 500 and Street 750 are currently made in India).
This is one of the great ways of looking at opportunities all over the world with a specific eye for creating bikes based on the needs of the customers. Our touring platform has been completely renewed three years ago. Harley-Davidson had conducted research asking customers what kind of bikes they would like to own, and the new Softail platform is a result of that.
It seems Harley-Davidson is attempting to balance its portfolio between cruisers and roadsters by smoothly transitioning to more models under the roadster format, wherein saddle height is higher, offering better ground clearance and the rider sits upright without stretching his legs forward. Will there be more focus on the roadsters in the future?
Harley-Davidson always keeps an eye on customer preferences, especially the kind of customisation it wants for its bikes. At EICMA, all touring bikes – Street Glide, Road Glide Special, Road King – are blacked out. These are models which have always offered tons of chrome to their customers. But now the styling has changed and the (customer) requests have changed. So the company is moving accordingly.
We have a Road Glide Special CVO with a 21-inch front wheel. This is an example of adapting market requirements into the identity of a Harley motorcycle.
What family of motorcycles do you think will attract maximum demand in the future within Harley-Davidson?
This is not an easy question to answer. We have different customers across different regions globally. For example in Europe, in Italy, Sportsters account for 50 percent of global sales. If you go 800km north, you will find that customers prefer more Softail and touring motorcycles and very few Sportsters. And in the USA or Asia, you will find different customer preferences in those markets.
So going forward, cruisers and sportsters will continue to be the two prime motorcycle families for Harley-Davidson in terms of new models? Is the company evaluating an all-new motorcycle format in future?
We never talk about the future products but you may be aware of the electric bike (the Livewire project) we made three years ago. We have tested it in different countries. That project is still there. Electric bikes are a part of our future model line-up. Harley-Davidson is looking at different possibilities. I have been following this brand for the past 30 years and I can feel that it is now looking in different directions (to evolve with changing times) and will take on the different challenges. This is the spirit of Harley-Davidson today.
Will the Street platform continue to be the tool for Harley to further penetrate developing markets like India, ASEAN, Brazil and others?
Yes, it will. The Street platform has been built for these countries which are very relevant for it as compared to the USA or Europe. The numbers prove that. Harley first created the Street motorcycles and then introduced the Street Rod, which brings more of European style with a different appeal.
You must understand that it is not easy for an American brand to be able to successfully make bikes that can work in different countries but we can adapt well. I do believe that the Street platform is one of the key points not only for developing countries but also for Europe as well. This is so because there are a lot of young riders who are looking for affordable, lighter bikes.
How was the reception for Harley-Davidson motorcycles at EICMA 2017?
It was very good and crazy. The good thing for us is that our customers are connected and linked with the brand through different communities. So when they see something new, they are always excited. The feedback is extremely great. We also had a lot of dealers here and they say that the new Softail is perfect. In the new Sport Glide, you can easily remove the fairing and the saddle-bag. This makes it a dual-purpose bike.