Harley-Davidson added 502,000 new riders last year, but more than Boomers are leaving

Had net gain of 52,000 riders last year

harley-davidson riders

Last updated on September 30th, 2019 at 12:12 pm

Under the plan it originally announced in 2017, Harley-Davidson is already more than a quarter of the way to its goal of 2 million new riders by 2027.

The Milwaukee-based motorcycle maker added 502,000 new riders in 2018, according to an analyst note from Baird.

The only problem is the company also lost 450,000 riders last year, leaving a net gain of 52,000.

“Company data showed entrants and departures across the age spectrum (not all those exiting are Boomers),” the Baird report said. “That data suggests reaching the third year of ridership is a key milestone to creating riders for life, supporting the need to foster engagement and a community experience.”

In 2017, Harley announced a 10-year strategy to transition the company from a focus on building motorcycles to building riders as the industry confronted declining participation in the sport. Last year, Harley said it would invest in accelerating those plans through $825 million in investments that included smaller and electric motorcycles along with other initiatives.

Having a more nuanced understanding of ridership data led Harley to update its new rider target. The company is now aiming to have 4 million riders in the U.S. by 2027, up from 3 million in 2017. Harley announced the new target the same day it hosted analysts, including from Milwaukee-based Baird, for an update on its plans.

Baird analysts said they liked the company’s vision and strategy to build ridership and expand internationally.

“The product roadmap lays the foundation for growth, with a number of important products launching over the next 12-24 months. Net, Harley-Davidson has a meaningful opportunity to expand the rider base, but the team needs time to deliver on the plan,” the Baird report said.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He spent also five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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