Harley-Davidson Invites Wall Street Into Its Dealerships

The introduction of a LiveWire electric motorcycle indicates it’s no longer business as common during Harley-Davidson (NYSE:HOG), a association built on gasoline, grease, and shrill pipes. It’s not a new form of bike that signals vast changes are entrance to a motorcycle company, though, it’s a annulment on prohibiting private equity firms from owning a dealerships that means Harley is not a same business it was.

Owners, not investors

It’s a long-standing Harley-Davidson process that private equity firms can’t possess a Harley motorcycle shop. The bike builder has always speedy a family character of tenure and demanded a owners be onsite to broach one-on-one patron service. The company’s play process primer privately states, “A play owner(s) sets a tinge for a whole dealership, and we trust it is vicious to a Harley-Davidson knowledge that there is an particular owners who is onsite and actively concerned in a dealership operations.”

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That meant dealers were focused on flourishing sales. They wanted to win patron faithfulness so those business would lapse for motorcycle upkeep and repairs and buy rigging in a association store trustworthy to each showroom. And yes, when it was time to buy a new bike, they’d come behind to a dealership for that too.

For that reason, dealers couldn’t possess some-more than 6 dealerships so they weren’t widespread too thin. And if they wanted to buy another dealership, they had to be in a tip 33% for dealership opening to be considered.

Welcoming a monied interests

The motorcycle attention has evolved, though. Interest in heavy, big-bore bikes is on a decline and sales are tough to come by. So Harley-Davidson has altered too. At a play webinar in December, Harley-Davidson suggested that not usually can a play buy as many as 10 dealerships now (albeit still carrying to be a tip performer), yet private equity will also be means to deposit in dealerships.

That’s a poignant change, given it means people no longer need to be infancy owners, and a owners no longer has to be onsite during a dealership. Essentially, Harley-Davidson is enlivening absentee tenure of a shops, yet a motorcycle association says it is not perplexing to adopt a automobile dealership owners model.

The eminence is not insignificant. In a automobile play model, a automobile manufacturer sets a tinge for how a play operates and a incentives that should be offering to accommodate financial objectives. It is a top-down structure in that a play is unequivocally some-more of a ubiquitous manager than an owners who calls a shots.

Allowing private equity firms to buy dealerships usually accentuates that profit-at-all-costs mentality, as streamlining, slicing costs, and squeezing margins out of each dilemma takes dominance over good employee, customer, and village relations. PE firms also typically deposit in a business with an eye on an exit strategy, not a lifetime joining that many Harley dealers make. 

Seeds of change planted final year

Harley-Davidson, however, has been hinting during this change ever given phenomenon a More Roads to Harley roadmap final summer. For example, a renovate of a company’s website and opening a storefront on Amazon.com to sell some-more attire and branded rigging was a proceed hazard to dealers, who get a good apportionment of their increase from such sales. Clothes with Harley logos and bike accessories lift a vast markup, so by directing consumers to a company’s website or to Amazon and divided from a dealers’ stores, Harley’s holding income out of their pockets and putting it in a possess coffers instead.

The change in concentration to abroad markets summarized in a roadmap might also be behind since a motorcycle association is vouchsafing in PE firms.

Its prophesy of a Harley of tomorrow is one in that general markets paint half a sales volume; currently over 60% of sales come from a U.S. Many of a radical new bikes Harley’s scheming to deliver over a subsequent few years — tiny electric scooters and bicycles as good as journey furloughed bikes — will initial be introduced in unfamiliar markets.

It could really good be that to enhance a series of dealers globally, Harley is looking to Wall Street to financial a dreams, as it wants to open 25 to 35 new full-line dealerships each year by 2022.

Altering a dealership we knew

Harley-Davidson mouthpiece Erin Barbeau has settled that a motorcycle association is not perplexing to criticise a existent play network, and is creation changes to assistance promote growth. She also explained many dealers are vehement by a opportunities these changes paint given they can assistance a best dealers get even improved and grow bigger.

There is positively law to that, yet by permitting private equity firms with their scandalous short-term meditative to buy into a play network, while no longer perfectionist owners indeed be onsite to run their businesses, Harley-Davidson is changing a season of what compartment now has been a close-knit, family character of using a business, and a top-down proceed might divide even some-more motorcycle buyers.

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