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After reading Alex Taylor's story on Harley Davidson for CNN, Harley-Davidson's aging biker problem , I had some other thoughts..

Aside from the aging demographic, I think other factors are also working against HD, partly their desire to grab the entire pot-o-gold quickly rather than incrementally and systematically. Upping production without regard for its financial exposure and the economic forecast certainly seems greedy in hindsight. Since Victory's production numbers are on a much smaller scale than Harley's, that may explain their ability to weather this economic storm without the drastic measures HD has (and will) enacted. While we (Victory owners) innately promote the brand and lament its small market share, in reality that limited market share and the associated cache it produces may be the key to longevity, something Harley seemingly didn't grasp until it was threatened.


Victory can do well to learn from the motorcycle Goliath's mistakes. Admittedly, they took a strategic position some years back that I believe has allowed them to dodge the same demographic bullet, albeit temporarily. By differentiating themselves in the cruiser and touring markets, they are not held slaves to the "traditional motorcycle stylings" that the aging Harley riders revere. Victory has purposefully gone after the nontraditional look, first dipping its toe in the factory-custom design elements with the Vegas (in 2003) and subsequently the Kingpin, Hammer and Jackpot models. It severed all ties to the <i>"what a motorcycle should look like"</i> noose with the Vision (2008). The fresh design not only challenges the standard motorcycle aesthetic, but widens its target demographic to other age groups and tastes.


Polaris, by many accounts, is a "lean" company and this is the foundation for Victory's growth philosophy. "Do More With Less," is a subtext I hear from all tiers of Victory, from upper management to line workers. The mantra is true on many levels, from how much they expend on marketing, to the number of bikes they decide to build. If Victory, continues to grow cautiously and not try to capture the entire market (the pot-o-gold) too quickly, I expect them to not only be a sought-after brand , but build its cache (think Ferrari vs. Buick) and weather future economic storms.


As I eluded to above, Victory's strategic leanness is something Harley once had and is now trying desperately to reattain. Ironically, maybe Harley has something to learn from Victory.

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Comment by Tom Gelin on July 25, 2011 at 5:26am
I have a 2009 HD Ultra Classic and a 2011 Victory Vision. Which one do I like. The answer is both, but getting the biggest bang for your buck, Victory wins hands down. Also HD's clothing line is made in China. What happened to Support America BUY AMERICAN!!! As far as aftermarket Victory wins the prize for ridiculously high prices. I recently inquired on the price for a screw (the equivalent of a #10 by 1/2 sheet metal screw) and they wanted $3.25 for one. The trunk racks are close to $500.00 and any plastic chrome add ons are outrageous. Regardless, the Victory is in a class of its own when it comes to style, comfort and performance. Move over Honda the Victory is passing you up!!!
Comment by Darryl Wells on March 21, 2011 at 10:13pm

I didn't go to buy a Victory, I went to buy a HD. After spending 15 - 20 mins walking araound the HD dealership to buy a $34,000 Heritage Softtail and not being served, i went down the road to the victory dealer and now all is history..

 

I'm very glad that the HD dealer was too busy to serve me that day.

Comment by JIM GLASKIN on September 24, 2010 at 10:14am
Well said Jeff!
My additional thoughts: The HD marquee has been bright and unchallenged for many years. Lack of true competition?, yes, and a wonderful job of branding HD to the demographics for many years. HD was recognized to motorcycles like Chevy was to cars. Also, an era of mind set of the WWII generation, example: my father was a GM/Chevy guy and even the mention of a foreign car brand purchase was not even on the table. That mindset and generation was mentioned in the article of discussion, and I firmly believe it is diminishing as new generations evolve to explore the "best" product.

Jeff your comments on Victory's growth of "Do more for less" is a great advantage for Polaris today. But, I also believe that HD is struggling with the same "it worked in the past" development and production platform. Again, witness the GM franchise with brick and mortar, labor and other costs that will not work today. I expect, as they are doing probably right now, looking for the new HD company platform for tomorrow.

And lastly, the biggest challenge HD will confront is when the mass of MC enthusiasts realize Victory has a better overall product. I hope that continues.
Comment by Chris Neuhaus on September 23, 2010 at 7:37pm
Great commentary Jeff. I know we all love lots of perks and attention from our dealers and even some expect the factory to cater to our every want, some comments on the Vision Riders indicate a lack of satisfaction on the part of some for Victory's lack of attention. I for one hope they continue to make good business decisions, espectially with regards to design quality and production levels, so as to keep the company strong and to build an ever more attractive product line for the greater motorcycling community. The rest is just fluff that will come with time, and a better economy hopefully. Chris

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