Harley-Davidson Strikes a Deal with Hero MotoCorp to Continue Sales in India

But Why?

Well, this was a long time coming, seeing how the company reported a loss of $92 million, which is the first time the company reported a loss in over a decade. Matt Levatich leaving the company as the CEO also shook things up a bit. Board member Jochen Zeitz took over from Levatich and announced “The Rewire”. No, it’s not a new electric bike that can go from 0-60 in 2s, it’s actually a plan devised by the CEO to recuperate from the loss they faced due to the pandemic. The plan entails for them to refocus on core products. To eliminate inefficiencies in manufacturing. To cut down 30% from their product lineup and 14% from their existing workforce. This led to 700 people losing their jobs. They also withdrew from underperforming countries.

So Is Harley Davidson Leaving India?

India accounts for only 5% of Harley-Davidson’s global sales. Which admittedly is not much, but since India is an emerging market Harley-Davidson doesn’t want to give up so soon. Seeing how Royal Enfield, a 2-wheeler of the same breed is doing so well in India. Among enthusiasts, the Royal Enfield Interceptor was dubbed the “Harley Killer”. As it offered the same classic look but was much more nimble than what Harley-Davidson was offering. So they made a deal with Hero MotoCorp in an attempt to stay relevant in India letting them sell motorcycles and parts under the Harley-Davidson brand.

But Why Hero MotoCorp?

Hero MotoCorp is the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturing brand and is a household name in the Indian subcontinent. Harley Davidson’s aim is to provide a smooth and luxurious driving experience. Their bikes however failed to provide that experience on Indian road. This is because the company has no knowledge about the roads in India. None of their bikes come equipped to handle them with ease. Hero MotoCorp (previously known as Hero Honda) has been making motorcycles in India for over 36 years. And their experience and knowledge with Indian roads is what helped them survive for this long.

Will This Help Harley-Davidson Or Hurt It Even More?

This is also not the first time Harley-Davidson is working with Hero MotoCorp. Way back in 2014, Hero MotoCorp bought a 49.2% stake in Erik Buell Racing. Which is a Harley-Davidson owned company hoping to borrow their technology for Indian bikes. Their Karizma R and ZMR was based on Erik Buell Racing’s 1190RS. These bikes made disastrous sales in India marking that venture as a failure.

This is not the first time an underperforming company tied up with one of the high volume manufacturers in India. Not too long ago Kawasaki made a very similar agreement with Bajaj. Which did very little in favor of the Japanese company. Even in the 4-wheeler space with Fiat and Tata. Fiat saw little-to-no change in popularity and sales.

The Issues

To all this you might say that Harley Davidson is already quite popular in India. And if all the parts are being manufactured and assembled in India, it will only make the bikes cheaper. But there lies the problem, Hero MotoCorp may be the largest 2-wheeler manufacturing company in the world but their brand identity is not synonymous with Smooth and Luxurious, and when you see a Hero Splendor next to a Harley Davidson Fat Boy, you might not think much of it, but a layman in the world of 2-wheelers might have a lower opinion on the brand.
Even if somehow they manage to cross all these hurdles the fact that Harley Davidson motorcycles are not made for Indian roads is still looming over their head. Riding a Harley through a narrow road with 6 other vehicles breathing on your neck is extremely uncomfortable and borderline dangerous due to its unwieldy size. Moreover the bike runs hotter than a coal engine on city roads unless you’re at cruising speeds.
It’s highly unlikely that Harley-Davidson will be able to overcome these issues without making some serious changes to the way they make their motorcycles. Which we know is not happening in the near future as their Rewire plan is focused completely on their existing line-up and improving current manufacturing inefficiencies. Harley-Davidson is not going to become a household name in India after making this deal like how some people are hoping it will, but only time will tell.

I don’t care about all this, I just want a Harley bro!

“Per a distribution agreement, Hero MotoCorp will sell and service Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and sell parts and accessories and general merchandise riding gear and apparel through a network of brand-exclusive Harley-Davidson dealers and Hero’s existing dealership network in India. As part of a Licensing agreement, Hero MotoCorp will develop and sell a range of premium motorcycles under the Harley-Davidson brand name,” the company said in a regulatory filing. The dates are yet to be confirmed but soon enough you’ll be able to buy a Harley-Davidson in a Hero MotoCorp dealership.

Image Credits:

Featured Image: Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash
Harley-Davidson Neon Sign: Photo by Donald Teel on Unsplash
Harley-Davidson Fuel Tank: Photo by Henry & Co. on Unsplash
Hero Splendor: Larry Tomlinson, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Hero Karizma ZMR: Hero Displays Updated Karizma R, ZMR At Auto Expo [Live] by Motorbeam
Harley-Davidson Livewire: Photo by Harley-Davidson on Unsplash
Harley-Davidson Livewire Hillside: Photo by Harley-Davidson on Unsplash
Harley-Davidson Low Rider: Photo by Raspopova Marina on Unsplash
Harley-Davidson Graffiti: Photo by Harley-Davidson on Unsplash
Harley-Davidson Iron 883: Photo by Harley-Davidson on Unsplash
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