Harley-Davidson currently maintains facilities throughout the world where state-of-the-art equipment and design, allows the company to produce world-class motorcycles. Harley-Davidson professes their commitment to customer experience in their mission, “Fulfilling dreams of personal freedom is more than a phrase. It’s our purpose and our passion. We bring a commitment of exceptional customer experiences to everything we do – from the innovation of our products to the precision of our manufacturing…”
The current status of the organization as an American icon, and the long-term plans for Harley-Davidson show that their dedication to providing the ultimate customer experience has paid off.
William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson in Milwaukee, Wisconsin founded Harley-Davidson in 1901, when Harley designed an innovative new vehicle by attaching an 116cc engine to a bicycle frame. The first functional motorcycle was created in 1903 with a 405cc engine. After providing an estimated 15,000 motorcycles to the war effort in WWI, Harley-Davidson became the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world by 1920. Today, the company produces over 150,000 motorcycles per year and maintains high brand loyalty. The Harley-Davidson corporate office is still currently located in Milwaukee.
This company has gone through its fair share of ups and downs including numerous ownership arrangements and two different subsidiary arrangements, one with Aermacchi, from 1974-1978 and another with Buell, from 1987-2009. Harley-Davidson also successfully overcame periods of financial crisis, decline in product quality, as well as intense global competition, to become the world's fifth largest motorcycle manufacturer.
Throughout the century long stretch of being in business, Harley-Davidson maintained its position as a top brand. The organization gained global notoriety and respect as cultural icon by securing a strong brand community that identified with the culture surrounding the Harley-Davidson name.
Changes to the competition field that came with the addition of global opponents in the 80’s, allowing Japanese motorcycle companies to join the market in the United States, presented one of the biggest hurdles to Harley-Davidson during their 113 years in operations.
Major changes in business operations through the end of the 1980s and into the 1990s, initiated by Harley-Davidson CEO Rich Teerlink, formerly the CFO prior to 1988, transformed the company to succeed in the new global environment. Teerlink worked with his executive team, and outside consultant Lee Ozley, to initiate fundamental cultural and structural changes that laid the foundation for long-term business success.
The dominant philosophy behind the transformation of the company was a deep belief, that motivating all employees to take responsibility and lead was the key to success. Harley-Davidson further developed their philosophy to cultivate commitment rather than just compliance, with the leadership promoting a vision of collaboration to support a culture of continuous learning, through emphasis on information sharing and communication.
The company now enjoys global success as the first authorized Harley-Davidson dealership in mainland China opened in 2006. Three years later, operations were expanded to India, and by 2014, international sales accounted for more than 36 percent of Harley-Davidson’s overall sales. Zacks Investment Research in 2015 confirmed Harley-Davidson’s reporting profit of $752.2 million, while revenue was reported as $5.31 billion.
The Harley-Davidson brand continues to live on through marketing efforts that support and maintain the identity through partnering with events such as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally held in South Dakota. The annual Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota, draws many Harley-Davidson owners to the event, this has been true since the first rally in 1938. To commemorate this historic event and to align marketing efforts, Harley-Davidson released a special-edition FXB Sturgis model in 1980.
After the 75th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Harley-Davidson and the City of Sturgis, S.D. decided to set their sights on the future. In honor of the 75th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, the company and city officials are finalizing an agreement covering the next 75 years making Harley-Davidson the official motorcycle of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.