William S. Harley and Walter and Arthur Davidson founded the Harley Davidson Company in 1903. This company has manufactured motorcycles in a number of styles and product lines and continues to manufacture motorcycles at a number of plants in the United States. Although HD has experienced periods of stagnation and even decline, the company has returned to a position of leadership in its field, and as of this writing, displays a number of strengths.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the market for HD motorcycles suffered because the company no longer produced a quality line of motorcycles. HD has since reversed that trend and today leads the world in the over-850-cc class. HD also ensures quality customer service through its network of more than 1,300 dealers worldwide. These dealers receive guidance from HD on tailor and customize the motorcycles to suit the needs of local consumers.
While HD once symbolized an outlaw biker culture for many, it has since attracted a wide range of followers and consumers. Individuals of all ages, ethnicities, educational and income levels purchase HD motorcycles. The company’s quality line of bikes and their attendant high price encourages consumers to see HD as a premier brand meant for the serious motorcycle enthusiast. HD has transformed into a company whose products represent the freedom of the open road, offering a vision of escape and adventure. HD has become ubiquitous in popular culture through more than 100 other companies that purchase licenses from HD to affix the HD label to toys, videogames and shoes.
The company generates an inclusive community by selling a wide range of equipment, clothing and accessories that bike owners can use or wear; these include special-edition saddlebags and decals, t-shirts, leather jackets and helmets. HD started H.O.G., the Harley Owners Group in 1983 to host rallies and partner with local dealers. Motorcycle owners also form clubs and organizations devoted to their shared interest in HD motorcycles. Even those that do not ride or own an HD motorcycle wear the clothing in the expectation of one day joining HD’s community of riders.
HD began trading publicly in 1965. The stock has split several times since then and has performed consistently well on the S&P 500 index. Sales have increased throughout 2011 and provided returns for shareholders. HD sold nearly 50,000 motorcycles worldwide in the first quarter of 2011; these sales provided $833.4 million in revenue. In addition to revenue earned from the sales of new motorcycles, HD also derives income from its licenses, selling parts, its own line of merchandise and a financial services arm that provides loans and motorcycle insurance.