June 29, 2015, - 4:06 pm

Harley-Davidson’s War on White Men

By Debbie Schlussel


When I was a grad student in the University of Wisconsin Business School, getting my MBA, I and a few other classmates did some consulting for Harley-Davidson, which is based in nearby Milwaukee. Even though I don’t ride motorcycles, I was proud of our work, as I always thought of Harley as one of the quintessential American companies. But I’m not proud of Harley Davidson anymore. You see, Harley Davidson has decided to go to war against White males–its core customer group.

Women and minorities are the in groups of the day, and White men are out, out, out! OUT. That’s the case even at Harley-Davidson. The company’s current CEO Matt Levatich has decided that the company will no longer make motorcycle models popular among White males. Only bikes that also appeal to women and minorities–and hipsters, who do NOT ride motorcycles in any significant percentage–will be made. That’s like saying the company will only make tampons that appeal to White males. It doesn’t make sense. But that’s what they’re gonna do.

Harley will be more discriminating in deciding which of its models to favor with investments in new engines and other updates, he said. Priority will go to those that can appeal to younger adults, women and minorities as well as the core market of older white men. Some bikes that appeal only to the core audience may be allowed to fade away.

Got that, White male motorcyclists? You are no longer prized–or even wanted–at Harley-Davidson.

I have a motorcycle jacket I bought and had Harley-Davidson motorcycle patches sewn on. I’m thinking of taking them off. I’m in the new target market fore Harley. And I don’t care because I don’t ride . . . and I hate identity politics.

To paraphrase femiwitch hag Gloria Steinem, designing bikes aimed at women, minorities, and hipsters is like designing bikes for fish.

BTW, Harley is also aiming at hipsters who hate gasoline and the combustion engine because that’s proved so successful for the Chevy Volt, right?

Harley also has demonstrated prototypes for a battery-powered LiveWire motorcycle designed for young, urban riders who think gasoline engines are bad for the planet. That sleek bike landed a cameo in the recent movie “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” But Mr. Levatich said Harley won’t be able to start selling the LiveWire for at least two or three years because it needs to await better battery technology.

If Harley-Davidson is really serious about this identity politics BS, the company should start at the top . . . and replace 50-year-old White male CEO Levatich with a 27-year-old Black transsexual lacto-ovo yoga instructor who teaches “The Hidden Philosophy of Autistic Art Therapy Using Q-Tips Dipped Au Jus on Parchment as a Medium” at The New School. After all, that represents all the groups Harley-Davidson thinks is where the gravy is.

Levatich’s oldest son is at Yale, and the elitist Levatich relates his son’s experience at the Ivy League school with how to gain new customers. I relate it to how to lose all of your core customers, to most of whom the more relatable Yale is a brand of lock.

Good luck with that.

Hey, sounds like the Republican Party’s war on its core customer in order to reach minorities and women. And it will be just as “successful.”

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32 Responses

In with the new Coke . . . out with the old Coke.

RIngo on June 29, 2015 at 5:17 pm

This article is crap. Harley knows where their bread is buttered. Older white men have the $20,000-40,000 for one of their bikes. The younger progressive crowd, not so much. Having said that, Harley Davidson does like the smell of money so perhaps an “ISIS Jihadi” model Sportster to do drivebys of gay pride parades might be in the near future.

Conservative Mark on June 29, 2015 at 5:53 pm

“BTW, Harley is also aiming at hipsters who hate gasoline and the combustion engine because that’s proved so successful for the Chevy Volt, right?…DS”

“But Mr. Levatich said Harley won’t be able to start selling the LiveWire for at least two or three years because it needs to await better battery technology.”

Wait till they come out with the ‘sidecar battery’ powered Harley, a hipster’s dream come true! 🙂

theShadow on June 29, 2015 at 6:04 pm

HOG apparently needs to learn the hard way that one of the core principles of marketing is “don’t alienate your core market.” If HOG wants to market to metrosexuals–or whatever–because they think that’s an untapped market, then they should create a new brand under a separate division. Image is especially important in the vehicle business in general, and motorcycles in particular. So if HOG wants to water down its image, HOG’s loss will be the market share gain of others, as the “macho” machine market will be easily taken away from HOG by others, such as Indian Chief, BMW, Ducati, Yamaha, Honda and Kawasaki.

But while we’re on this motorcycle thing, I’ve got a great movie rental recommendation if you’re looking for an intelligent, feel good movie, with lots of visceral thrills. It’s called “The World’s Fastest Indian” (2005), by Roger Donaldson and starring Anthony Hopkins. The movie’s based on a real story about New Zealander Burt Munro. Here’s the trailer:

Ralph Adamo on June 29, 2015 at 6:24 pm

    That’s a great point. No self-respecting male is going to want to be seen on a sissy bike.

    adam on June 30, 2015 at 12:22 am

Whatever they want to do…I ride Triumphs..always have-always will.

Kent on June 29, 2015 at 6:54 pm

…so I can’t wait for Harley to bring to market the REST of their demonstrated proven technology from ‘Age of Ultron’!!!

…I mean:

a SHIELD HeliCarrier!!!!

Stark’s Mark 42 self-aware armor suit!!!

Captain America’s Vibranium shield!!!

Stark’s J.A.R.V.I.S. personal assistant AI!!!!

…truly, “Matt” Levatich has exceeded Jobs’ Apple fore-thinking vision!!!

INDEED, he has truly become the Harley Davidson version of hooli[xyz]’s genius founder, Nelson Bighetti !!!


Nick Fury on June 29, 2015 at 7:25 pm

They should get Bruce Jenner as their spokes-hermaphrodite riding in on their new batery-operated trike – the “Batt-Plugg” that features a wild-west-type saddle horn with the horn placed strategically in the center of the seat that stimulates the rider’s prostate or G-spot (or both.)

DS_ROCKS! on June 29, 2015 at 7:25 pm

Yeah idk about this article, its a stretch Debbie. Harley knows their demo is White, biker types. I ride a bike and I never looked at a bike and said “oh that’s a bike for a Black man” lol.

Harley is just trying to broaden their customer base. It’s just marketing. Yeah this article. I’m not feelin’

MrBigBrain on June 29, 2015 at 8:04 pm


I find this article a bit far fetched. I ride in a MC with a diverse group of men and women, the majority riding Harleys that have been modified to fit that riders personality. With that being said, The majority of Harleys are owned by white males, but that just due to personal preference like younger people who ride “crotch rockets.” And if this is true about Harley Davidsons choices it will hurt sales because its not the bike its the accessories and the riders personality and choice.

Mastiff on June 29, 2015 at 9:06 pm

When I’m bald with a long grey pony tail, am 50+ pounds overweight, and have a wallet on a chain, a Harley might be my choice. Till then, Triumph is my brand. But I hear ya Debbie! When I was at the Harley dealership admiring a Sportster and the salesman asked if I was looking for a bike for my wife, I knew things had gotten wierd.

Bill Roberts on June 29, 2015 at 9:42 pm

With respect to the last sentence in this article . . .
“Hey, sounds like the Republican Party’s war on its core customer in order to reach minorities and women. And it will be just as ‘successful.’ “
. . . and in order to reach the 18-24 age demographic. Who are already lost due to the massive leftist indoctrination they receive in our schools and colleges, the news media, Hollywood, etc.; and whose radicalization is clearly reflected in their participation in the “Occupy Wall Street” and “BDS” movements (not to mention the “anti-police” [pro-criminal] demonstrations), their acting as neo-brownshirts in shutting down of opposing voices on college campuses, and so forth.

ConcernedPatriot on June 29, 2015 at 10:00 pm

Funny timing of this article. I wandered around the local Harley shop with my son last weekend. I didn’t like what I saw and the staff couldn’t be bothered with us. If I had seen something I liked, I would have written a check for it on-the-spot. Then we went to look at Indian Scouts. Just as cool and every bit as American. I didn’t see exactly what I wanted, but the sales guy said I could order anything. I am leaning that way…..Harley isn’t the only show in town.

#1 Vato on June 29, 2015 at 11:54 pm


Your post is over-the-top BS.

Not only is Harley not declaring war on white men, they’re not definite about cancelling the hog bikes. Contrary to your assumption, while older white men are the overwhelming majority of Harley owners, many blacks also own Harleys as well.

The company is struggling, and their CEO is by no means the only person who believes Harley needs to broaden their customer base. Observers including motorcycle enthusiasts,financial analysts,etc have been saying for years that Harley needs to broaden their base. The CEO is trying to keep the company going.

Harley’s problem is their bikes are way overpriced for what they offer, and many of their competitors offer faster more fun-to-ride bikes that are often more reliable than Harley.

Scott on June 30, 2015 at 12:21 am

    Debbie didn’t miss the point. She knows that White men (of varying ages-mostly 30’s and over bc that’s when most can AFFORD one) are the predominant purchasers, although plenty of other races of men love them. Of course there’s nothing wrong with adding products to appeal to a larger market – but not at the expense of the company’s main money-maker. That’s what Debbie was communicating, nothing more.

    DinaK on June 30, 2015 at 10:35 am


      Debbie’s point is nonsensical for the reasons I’ve stated in my previous post.

      By Debbie’s logic, Ford Motor Company declared war on senior citizens when they discontinued the Mercury Grand Marquis (purchased almost exclusively by older buyers) and then eliminating the Mercury brand altogether.

      It’s doubtful she would attack Ford for those moves. In fact she recently made a crack about Michael Savage’s bumper music appealing only to old folks.

      No, her rant about Harley is a case of Debbie getting in her soapbox and trying tovstir things up.

      Scott on June 30, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    Harley actually does own another brand–BUEL–I think that is how it is spelled. They have pretty much run it into the ground. Maybe they should try resurrecting that one.

    John Illinois on June 30, 2015 at 5:12 pm

Debbie, you are missing the point. When you earned your MBA, like me you learned how a vibrant company combines marketing, accounting, sales and all the business-commerce disciplines related to free-markets. Things have changed, we are now in crony-capitalist mode where the skilled manager plays to the political cadre.Companies are ‘green’; companies are ‘brown’; companies are ‘rainbow’, but above all a good manager acquiesces to the political establishment and the central planners.

colnzgprnts on June 30, 2015 at 9:59 am

If they prefer to cater to minorities they should continue to market to the older white male. We are officially the minority in the US now.In fact all whites are now the minority. You can look it up.

Joel C. on June 30, 2015 at 10:26 am

So .. pedophiles and pink electric scooters. Got it …

Jack on June 30, 2015 at 11:40 am

In 1983, President Reagan had a protective tariff imposed on imported motorcycles at the request of Harley Davidson. So this is how HD repays us for helping them survive.

Concerned Citizen on June 30, 2015 at 12:46 pm

Sizzle sells. Overpriced full dress hogs appeal to the “white male” if you will crowd. The jap, italian and british bikes ( I have two Yamaha and a triumph) are coming out with some nice designs. Harley’s recent adventure into new bike styles has not faired well. Two of their bikes come to mind. Also, the price of their bikes is higher than comparable jap and British bikes generally.

FYI the Sportster was created a long time ago as a bike to appeal to women riders. I think it has stuck because it is a good bike and is a lower priced scooter.

Ride on Safely everybody.

Panhandle on June 30, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    Too bad the Sportster was made to compete with the Bonnevilles. Those that bash sportsters are too big of a pussy to ride a proper bike. There’s a reason the big bikes are called geezer glides and garbage wagons.

    hailsatan666 on January 23, 2016 at 11:49 am

Panhandle , Harley did indeed aim the sportster at Women riders. Check out Marianne Faithful in “Girl on a motorcycle” from 1968.

although the last pic shows Alain and Marianne on a real Bike,a Norton .

But at that time Harley was but a shadow of it’s pre and post war self and was heading down hill fast.
This latest effort is merely the result of marketing bumph fed to the CEO by sycophants keen on cementing their roles in the structure of the company. Mostly of the decline it’s experiencing right now doesn’t get worse.
They stopped building Buels years ago when buyer realised it was a great chassis with an ordinary engine and you could buy real performance from kawasaki or Suzuki cheaper. The name Hyabusa puts the wind up any Harley owner with dreams of high performance.

Aron B on July 1, 2015 at 4:20 am

Just got off a Harley Heritage Softail owned by an older white male professional. No way Harley is going to alienate their core buyers! P.S. He also owns a Triumph Bonneville.

PaulaMalka on July 2, 2015 at 12:42 pm

Personally I like the Indian product line better. Soooo I believe their business will pick up if what you said about Harleys business plan pans out. We still have choices.

Rudy on July 2, 2015 at 6:55 pm

In the end it will not work. Money and profits will matter to every business. That is the only motive to start a for-profit business in the first place. Hence, the market forces will eventually determine which of the models and which demographics to cater.

Rex on July 3, 2015 at 1:59 am

You know it’s over when Harley Davidson dumps profits for politics. What a week gay marriage , rebel flag hysteria and illegal Mexicans pushing Trump around. I iterate – it’s over.

A Charles Martel fan on July 3, 2015 at 3:18 pm

i have a suggestion as to why the Harley boys may want to spread their wings a little. It may be because the non-riding world sees Harley Riders like this:


But more importantly is how the riding world sees them — a bunch of over-tatted squids who just spent way too much money on a under-engineered pos that’s basically just held together with thread lock. I doubt if most of ’em could change an air filter or clean a carb.

The only people to ever make Harley’s look cool were Hell’s Angels. For the rest of you twits, get over your mid-life crisis and buy a real bike.

Caleb on July 8, 2015 at 2:57 am

What is wrong with America??? Everything white is so wrong nowadays.

That guy should be terminated from Harley-Davidson!

Beano on July 8, 2015 at 3:10 am

Next they will be coming out with a pink bike complete with side car seat for gay marriage ceremonies!

F Harley Davidson – can’t wait to see their stock plunge!

Mrobs on July 14, 2015 at 2:37 pm

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