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Answering a question about Harley-Davidson sales

May 5, 2010
Filed under From the Editors

I wanted to share a question — and its appropriate answer — I recently received regarding Harley-Davidson U.S. motorcycle sales.

Readers of Powersports Business will know we routinely show which on-road models are faring best in the U.S. retail market. In other words, the hottest sellers by month. Unlike other publications, this information is not a guesstimate. Thanks to our partnership with R.L. Polk & Co., the industry’s leading provider of new and used unit data, we have information straight from state registrations. R.L. Polk compiles this data and then analyzes it and shares some of it with Powersports Business readers.

U.S. motorcycle retail marketThe question I referred to earlier deals with that new unit retail sales data. One of our readers, a dealer in Indiana, rightly pointed out that Harley-Davidson models have in the past year dominated the top model listings, often putting eight or nine models in the top 10. “According to market statistics,” this dealer pointed out, “Harley Davidson has about a 60 percent share in 750cc motorcycles and above, but that should only allow for maybe 6 out of the 10 spots. By the numbers in your magazine, it looks like Harley has about 90 percent of the market. Please explain the numbers to me.”

It’s certainly a valid question.

Here’s the answer: It all relates to the sheer number of brands and those brands’ models available in the marketplace. Yes, Harley dominates the top 10, but there are so many options out there that the pool is much deeper than you can imagine.

I went back to our friends at R.L. Polk to provide you with an idea of how deep that competitive pool is. Here is their answer regarding the number of brands and models that are included in the on-road data that is compiled for Powersports Business:

• 18 different brands;

• From those brands, more than 400 different model/series combinations;

• Some of the model/series combinations by brand include: 100 for Harley alone; 51 for Honda, 42 for Kawasaki, 35 for Yamaha and 29 for Suzuki.

So yes, Harley continues to do very well, in fact capturing seven of the top 10 places in the most recent listing. However, the on-road market is incredibly diverse in its model selection.

By the way, interested in finding out which models don’t quite make the top 10? Let me know and I can steer you in the right direction.

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