Motorcycle Product Managers Shift Strategy To Survive

As sales slip, product managers have to hit the highway to be successful
As sales slip, product managers have to hit the highway to be successful
Image Credit: Justin Ennis

Let’s face it, nobody probably needs to own a motorcycle. However, that being said, there are an awful lot of people out there who want to own a motorcycle. In fact, if you really want to own a motorcycle there is a very good chance that what you really want to own is a Harley Davidson motorcycle. These “hogs” are what define what a motorcycle is supposed to look like for a lot of people. However, the product managers over at Harley Davidson are struggling just like everyone else and they are going to have to start doing different things if they want their motorcycles to keep rolling off the lot.

The Problems With Selling Motorcycles

Harley Davidson motorcycles are not cheap. If you want to buy one, you are going to have to save up for a while. That has been causing problems for Harley product managers – not enough people have been coming into their stores to buy motorcycles. The whole Covid-19 thing did not do them any favors also. In fact, the pandemic caused a production outage that further hurt sales. As a result the company has been working to cut costs and try to find ways to become more profitable. These changes are going to be necessary if Harley’s product managers want their product manager resume to keep looking good.

This decrease in sales has caused the Harley product mangers to take a look at their product development definition and they have decided to make some changes. They have decided to make some changes to how they go about doing their production and marketing. Going forward they plan on reducing the number of models that they offer by one-third. As of result of this change, the product managers are going to be spending their time emphasizing the company’s bestselling models while at the same time reducing the manufacturing complexity in their factories.

The company had gotten into the situation that they found themselves in by expanding their product line with smaller and cheaper motorcycles. At the same time they were going after increased sales in overseas markets because they were seeing falling sales in their U.S. market. The result of all of this expansion was that the company allowed their attention to be diverted from their high-margin touring bikes. At the same time Harley’s factories became too complex and this made them inefficient. The product managers realize that the company had lost it focus.

Taking A New Path

One of the biggest problems that the Harley product managers were facing is that the Harley dealers had a large number of motorcycles that they had not yet been able to sell. The product managers made the decision that more than two-thirds of their dealers would not receive any additional motorcycles for the remainder of the year. Their reason for doing this was to attempt to shrink inventories of unsold bikes and try to avoid discounting. The product managers were trying to make sure that they did not oversupply the market.

In order to increase sales, the Harley product managers have decided that they are going to focus on 50 markets that generate the strongest sales for the company. These markets include the U.S, Europe, and Canada. At the same time they are planning on exiting smaller-volume markets. In the most recent quarter, Harley reported that their customers purchased 52,700 motorcycles. This is down from last year when customers purchased 71,800, motorcycles.

The Harley product managers understand that they need to make changes. The U.S. is the company’s biggest market. Sales of motorcycles in the U.S. has fallen by 27%. Additionally, Harley’s share of the U.S. large motorcycle market has dropped down to 38.5%. Just a year ago it was 46.6%.The product managers are working to cut expenses at the company by roughly $250 million. One way that they are going to do is by eliminating 700 jobs around the world.

What All Of This Means For You

Being a product manager who is responsible for a product that you know that your customers really want is a great feeling. The product managers at Harley Davidson know that their customers desire their products, they just need to take a look at their product manager job description and find ways to get more of them to show up and purchase them. The pandemic and other challenges is making this a difficult thing to make happen.

Harley motorcycles are expensive to purchase. In order to keep costs down and make the company more profitable, the product managers have decided to make some changes. They are going to be reducing the number of motorcycle models that they offer by one-third. The result of this is that the product managers believe that they will be able to simplify their factory operations. The plan going forward is that the product managers are going to spend their time focusing on the company’s bestselling models. The company had started to make cheaper models and to expand into more countries; however, now they are going to drop those cheaper lines and pull back to focus on their biggest markets.

The good news for Harley product managers is that they are responsible for a product that customers truly want. However, the decrease in sales means that changes need to be made. Pulling back and focusing on key markets is a good start. Limiting the number of models offered will allow the product managers for focus on exactly what customers are interested in buying. If they are able to successfully make these changes, then perhaps Harley will be able to change lanes and once again pass the completion!

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that Harley should reduce their prices to boost sales?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Product Manager Blog is updated.
P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Product Manager Newsletter are now available. It’s your product – it’s your career. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time