Matt Levatich, Harley Davidson's chief operating officer, said the company will offer bikes that are more physically and financially accessible at the Reuters Global Manufacturing and Transportation Summit this week. Increasing market share in emerging markets seems to be the goal.
"In the past, our market was predominantly core customers in the United States," Levatich said. "We see an opportunity, not to make (scooter-sized) bikes by any stretch, but to make Harley-Davidsons that are physically and financially accessible for emerging markets, for international markets, for the United States for that matter."
No plans are being made for manufacture outside of the US, although "complete-knock-down" assembly plants are being used in India and Brazil to get around tariff regulations in those countries. Harley Davidson has had issues with international partnerships in the past, specifically an Italian distributor who didn't promote the larger bikes as the company wished. Harley Davidson has so far resisted partnering with Chinese companies for the manufacture of motorcycles for sale in Asia.
"We feel we were aided in waiting a little bit and not getting in early with a JV partner that had a different idea of what the Harley brand could be or should be," Levatich said. "Part of the decision to go in on our own was because of the cleanup work we've had to do, a lot of the cleanup work was where we were buying out distributors and resetting the market."
The less expensive motorcycles are planned to be marketed in the US as well as emerging markets worldwide. Currently, Harley Davidson's exports amount to about 35% of it's sales, up from 25% just a few years ago. The motor company plans to have 40% of it's sales as exports by 2014.