No, Millennials Aren’t Killing Harley-Davidson!

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2019 Street Glide + rider

Grab your pitchforks, here we go again…

As a freelancer, I watch my money closely. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that a surprisingly large amount of my income comes from what I refer to as the “Millennial outrage industry.” It seems like every day there’s a new article about another industry bloodthirsty millennials like myself are “killing.” And every day, my editor sends me another assignment with a link to said article, with the intent to refute those stupid claims.

The latest rehash of this tired meme comes from CNBC, which is claiming, yet again, that millennials aren’t buying motorcycles, especially Harley-Davidsons. This comes from a statement by in the article by UBS Financial Services analyst Robin Farley, whose motorcycling experience, if I can make an educated guess, likely consists of drunkenly renting a Bird scooter in Los Angeles while attending some geeky financial analyst conference.

Farley says, “We believe this significant divergence in incentives to buy a new bike could be what is partly behind Harley’s and broader heavyweight motorcycle industry’s challenge to tap into a new segment of younger riders to drive growth.

“So unless there is a generational shift among younger riders to see motorcycling as a hobby verses means of transportation, the outlook for the heavyweight industry could continue to be more dependent on an aging demographic,” added Farley.

It’s Like You’re Always Stuck in Second Gear…

I have a lot of friends. When you look at the three-way Venn diagram of Harley-Davidson owners, motorcyclists, and millennials, the point where all of these groups converge is quite large, and it gets larger every day. I meet new Harley-Davidson owners under the age of 40 on a seemingly weekly basis. There’s a ton of us out there. In fact, a considerable cluster of them can be found at my local Harley-Davidson dealership, especially in the parts and service departments. Conservatively, I’d say that 75% of the dealership’s employees are what you’d call millennials. They all own Harleys, too. The thing is, they’re all used.

The scary numbers, often parroted by financial analysts and reported by random publications, take into account new bike sales. Judging by those metrics, it paints a bleak picture, with the average Harley-Davidson buyer being a man in his early 50s who makes more than $90,000 a year.

 

If running a Harley dealership is such a bad business decision, why are so many dealerships opening instead of closing? Seems that shop owners are starting to see the light as millennials age and begin to become established.

 

 

What’s easy to forget is that most of today’s new Harley-Davidson owners are buying new bikes to fulfill the dreams they had in their youth. While younger, wilder versions of themselves couldn’t afford to own an expensive new motorcycle, they can now that they are established in their lives and careers. Somehow, this very logical piece of information does not make its way into these doom-and-gloom articles.

Unsurprisingly, younger Harley-Davidson enthusiasts feel the same way and are likely to follow the same path. We love our older bikes, and we drool over the new models on our way to the parts counter to keep our older bikes running and looking their best. I have a well-loved 2000 Sportster. It’s got more than 30,000 miles on it, and I paid a paltry $2,300 for it a few years back. While I lust after a new Roadster, it’s simply not happening at over $14,000 out the door. At least not in this decade.

No, Millennials Aren’t Killing Harley-Davidson! continued…

Longtime motorcyclist and automotive journalist Cam Vanderhorst is a regular contributor to Harley-Davidson Forums, Ford Truck Enthusiasts, Corvette Forum and MB World, among others.

When he's not busy working on his Harley-Davidson bike, the vastly experienced writer has covered an array of features, reviews, how-tos, op-eds and news stories for Internet Brands' Auto Group and is also a co-founder and co-host of the popular podcast Cammed & Tubbed.

Check him out on Instagram at: Camvanderhorst.

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