Bill Davidson on how Harley-Davidson can grow after 115 years

 

 

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start to summer, but Harley-Davidson riders may already be looking ahead to Labor Day weekend.

The Milwaukee motorcycle maker is celebrating its 115th anniversary with another huge party in Southeast Wisconsin.

 

Bill Davidson, who runs the Harley-Davidson Museum, predicts this year’s event will have a different feel.

“It was pretty unanimous that people wanted to do more riding,” Davidson said. “Getting out and about. Taking tours. Getting to racing activities. So the 115th is really going to be focused on moto-culture.”

Davidson is the great-grandson of co-founder William A. Davidson. He, his father, Willie, and sister Karen are the three direct descendants still connected to the company.

“The one thing Harley-Davidson has done, going back 115 years to my great relatives and the founders, is we've listened to our customers."

The 115th comes at an important time for Harley-Davidson, as it battles sliding U.S. sales. The company hopes to add 2 million new riders in the U.S. inside ten years.

“The one thing Harley-Davidson has done, going back 115 years to my great relatives and the founders, is we've listened to our customers,” Davidson said. “We've listened to people that don't ride, and asked what they might want to see in product and technology or in a marketing campaign.”

Davidson explained reaching younger riders will take a combination of new, exciting technology and well-targeted marketing. Next year, Harley-Davidson will introduce its first production model electric bike.

 

It certainly will not feature the traditional, Harley-Davidson, “potato-potato-potato” sound, but Bill likes it. “I have ridden the bike. It is absolutely phenomenal. It's a different riding experience. A lot of people have said, well, is that a Harley? It's got an electric motor. What's it going to sound like? What does it feel like? What does it look like? And I tell them, it's Harley-Davidson through and through.”

Not to worry if you love the classic look and feel. Davidson promises that’s not going away, as traditional bikes will continue to be a strong part of the company’s lineup. Harley hopes to produce 100 new models in the next decade.