Hello, readers! Today I have a question for you. What are the first few names that hover your mind when you think about motorbikes? Royal Enfield, Harley Davidson, KTM, Hero, Bajaj right? Well, today we will talk about the history of one of the oldest motorcycle companies, called Harley Davidson.
Sounds interesting right? Well, why not? It is one of the top brands for motorcycles throughout the world.
However, the company did not reach this position overnight. The firm has been around for decades, it expanded rapidly, fell from grace and rose from ashes to be stronger than before.
Today, we shall explore a small part of that history to celebrate its success. So, shall we start the back story then?
About Harley Davidson
Harley Davidson was founded in 1903 and expanded rapidly due to its advanced racing technology. It saw through the times of economic crisis, struggling phase and revival. What started as a firm operating in a 10×15 foot shed evolved into a multinational corporation.
The company today operates in several regional markets, including India, generating billions of dollars in revenue. Harley Davidson Motorcycles boasts over six different families of motorcycles, each known for its unique and distinct look.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Harley-Davidson is more than a company and that is because of its strong brand appeal. It has a devoted followership, a museum to commemorate the company’s long lifespan, and a plethora of motorbike communities.
I am certain that you will be hard-pressed to find a firm with a bigger customer devotion than Harley-Davidson.
Its founding members include William A. Davidson, Walter Davidson, Sr. Arthur Davidson, and William S. Harley.
Harley-Davidson has been in business for more than a hundred years.
We will attempt to cover its history in the following categories: Beginning era, Ups and downs and current years of success.
The Beginning (1901-1920)
Harley-Davidson opened for business in 1901, working out of a wooden shed measuring ten by fifteen feet. However, they did not stay there for long. The engineering prowess of its founders saw the company manufacture innovative motorcycles for racing and for casual use, one of which is the V-twin powered motorbike.
During WWI, the military used over 20,000 motorcycles from Harley-Davidson. By 1920, Harley-Davidson had gone from operating from a wooden shed to a multinational company operating in 67 countries and with 2000 dealerships.
Period of Success (1920-1952)
Harley-Davidson dominated the two-wheeler industry for the next three decades. They were the biggest motorbike companies to survive the Great Depression. When the Second World War commenced, it ceased production of all civilian motorcycles to produce exclusively for the military.
During this time, the company developed several motorbikes that pushed the envelope of what a two-wheeler can do. Harley-Davidson motorcycles continued to become popular, with their racing motorcycles winning first place at all races.
However, all the fame came to a halt in 1952.
Harley Davidson took a hit to its reputation in 1952 when they were found guilty of restrictive practices. Their reputation continued to suffer when the company was bought out by the American Machine and Foundry (AMF). AMF attempted to cut costs but this led to labor strikes and inferior quality. Therefore, Harley-Davidson found it difficult to compete with foreign imports, particularly from Japan. People even mocked the company by calling them ‘Hardly Ableson’ and the company continued to suffer in the 70’s until AMF sold the company.
Recovery and Continued Success (1981-2018)
In 1981, Harley Davidson was bought over by 13 investors for 80 million dollars. The company was restructured and it managed to turn the tide in their favor. The motorcycle giant lured customers back by taking the help of the ‘retro’ appeal of their older bikes, using them as blueprints for newer models. The brand thrived, and by 1990 became the top company to produce 750 cc engines.
Post the success, they began the construction of the Harley Davidson in 2006, which was opened in 2008. Harley-Davidson expanded its overseas market during the 2010’s. The company opened Harley-Davidson-India in 2009 and its first dealership in 2010.
Harley-Davidson became the most popular firm in the two-wheeler market. A reputation the firm has retained for over a century. They survived many chaotic events including the great recession, resistance to expansion, loss of interest and intense foreign competition.
However, despite these setbacks, the company persisted and thrived as the most iconic firms in the motorcycle industry. It is currently one of the premium brands in the Indian motorbike community and sells over 12 different models in the country.
So, that was the story of Harley Davidson, its rise, fall, and rise again!
We shall be back with another iconic motorcycle brand history to share with you soon. Until then, ride safe!
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