Harley-Davidson struggling to attract millennial riders

Posted at 5:40 PM, Jul 14, 2017

One would be hard pressed to name a more iconic motorcycle than Harley-Davidson. But times are changing, and now the Harley is shifting its strategy to stay on top.

The rev of a motorcycle engine is a familiar sound for Scott Ingram, who has been riding since he was four years old. Over the years one bike in particular has always stood out to him.

"The first Harley I rode was when I was 15," Ingram says. "My family's got four or five Harleys right now." 

But when it came to getting a bike of his own, he went in a different direction. Ingram chose a sports bike over a Harley.

"The biggest thing with that is a little more power to it," Ingram says. "I can lead into turns, can go hit the mountains and just have a good time."

And many millennial motorcycle riders are making the same choice.

"The culture behind it is the old guys ride the Harley," Ingram says. "Everybody kind of gears towards that. You see Harley you picture an older guy with the beard, cut off sleeves, rolling down the street and having a good time."

That perception of Harley-Davidson may be hurting the iconic brand. This week, an investment management firm downgraded its rating of the company citing millennials who are adopting motorcycling at a far lower rate than previous generations.

Matt Weddle manages Mile High Harley-Davidson in Parker, Colorado and says the company is working to meet the needs of the millennial customer. 

"Understanding that Harley needs to change the status quo and how they are doing things to draw the millennials in they've developed a whole new motorcycle."

It's not just a temporary change.

"We understand that we need to be bringing new blood into the sport and into Harley specifically," Weddle says. "It's just an investment in the future."

Ingram says it's a step in the right direction.

"I think as my generation gets older everybody will transition to Harleys it's just a little bit of a missing gap between millennials and the older generation right now."

And soon his ride down the road may look a little different.