Dealernews: How is today’s V-twin customer different?
Kanter: He (or she) is five years older, but there do appear to be more younger riders on Harleys. Today's riders do not have the disposable income they might have had five years ago, and this reflects in what they buy and what style of motorcycle (stock or custom) they ride.
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Big audio systems
Baker: Ten years ago there were a lot of posers with high-dollar custom bikes. In the last five years the posers have been replaced by riders, which is a healthy thing for the V-twin world and is exemplified by the fact that 10 years ago Daytona Bike Week was bigger than Sturgis, but that has flip-flopped.
Yaffe: The passionate customers have remained. Folks who love and live the motorcycle lifestyle still continue to celebrate it and probably always will. The American OEMs are doing a great job of keeping the new models both exciting and innovative while at the same time following the current trend of having one bike that is both a badass custom and able to travel cross country efficiently.
Flintrop: I think that for some of our less affluent customers the dream of buying a Harley [has] moved out of their grasp for the time being. I look forward to a time when they can return in force.
Rymer: I think the customer thinks about owning their motorcycle for a longer period of time than in the past. I also think they are looking for the most bang for the buck more so than previous years. So they are more price conscious and have more knowledge of the product than ever before because of the internet.
Flintrop: The customers have gotten a little bolder. With supply exceeding the demand during the downturn, dealers lost the confidence to ask for retail on even their most popular bikes, and that has put the customer in the driver's seat. They are very value-minded. Internet sales have also changed the face of the parts and Motorclothes departments. Everyone, everywhere, now has competition.
Koshollek: I think the V-twin customer continues to become better educated. They know more about the products that they have interest in. On the demographic side, customers in their retirement years are moving either to trikes or out of the market altogether. Their physical abilities do not enable them to safely and confidently control a big bike.
Dealernews: Who’s going to fill the void left by the aging baby boomer customer base?
Koshollek: Females, Hispanic and African-American V-twin riders are growing in numbers. Harley-Davidson is doing a great job of reaching out to these groups, and everyone in the V-twin market will benefit. Twenty-something riders are attracted to stripped down bikes with a radical style -- similar to what I was attracted to when I started riding. This group likes to do more of the work themselves, primarily because it's cheaper.
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Flintrop: We are back-filling with younger riders and women. Many of the younger riders are focused around the Dark Custom motorcycles. A surprising amount of them are picking Streetglides and Roadglides as their first bikes rather than Sportsters, Softails and Dynas -- much nicer bikes than the 72 XLCH that I started out on.
Baker: Baby boomers are not done yet. They are riding well into their mid-70s. They may not ride as much as they used to, but they still have dreams and the money to make those dreams come true. I know 80-year-old guys who have a lot of bikes but don’t ride much. The American V-twin scene is not just about bikes — it’s about the whole culture surrounding the bikes. They are still customers, and their purchases feed the flame.
Rymer: Year after year we see “empty nest” couples getting back into the sport of motorcycling. I also can see, by the thousands of tourists we accommodate each riding season who are traveling through to the western states, that motorcycle touring is on the upswing. I think this helps to generate more riding, which in itself promotes and brings others to the market. We also have an Air Force base in the area that employs younger men and women who also start riding when they are stationed here or are already riding metric bikes. Once they have been here awhile, they come out to our dealership and we develop a relationship with them through our events. They are attracted to the Harley-Davidson brand either through the Motor Co.’s marketing or ours. (continued)