Home News Indian Motorcycle Gaining on Harley-Davidson Market Share

Indian Motorcycle Gaining on Harley-Davidson Market Share

Harley-Davidson Market Share

Demand for an American-made alternative to Harley-Davidson

continues to run hot.


Harley-Davidson Market Share (NYSE:HOG) might not have anything to worry about yet from Indian

Motorcycle, but those objects in its rearview mirror are getting closer than they appear. The big bike rival

from Polaris Industries (NYSE:PII) crossed over into double-digit market share in September, and

there doesn’t appear to be many obstacles in its way to continue gaining ground on the industry leader.


A patch of rough pavement

There’s no doubt the U.S. motorcycle market is in decline, something both Harley-Davidson and Polaris agree on. But

whereas Harley’s sales are stuck in a continuous downward spiral, Polaris has been able to notch substantial sales

growth quarter after quarter.

U.S. sales for Harley-Davidson tumbled 8{6afdcdf14f1f3d0d6d046bdd6bb6844d1d6f78a435ef85ae323b1d28ccc5d3f7} in the third quarter, the 11th quarter out of the past 12 they’ve fallen

(and the one quarter it did gain was a negligible 33 more bikes in the period than it did the year before).



In contrast, Polaris saw Indian motorcycle retail sales rise 16{6afdcdf14f1f3d0d6d046bdd6bb6844d1d6f78a435ef85ae323b1d28ccc5d3f7} over the year-ago period. Indian has not had a single

quarter where sales didn’t rise by at least double-digit percentages since Polaris reintroduced the motorcycle after

buying the Indian brand out of bankruptcy in 2011 (the first bikes were released for the 2014 model year).


While Polaris is much more tight-lipped with its numbers than Harley — which is exceptionally forthcoming about

sales and shipment numbers in each of its markets — and it started from a nonexistent base, the early gains were

going to look astronomical. However, the fact that it has been able to build on those sales year in and year out is

a testament to the brand’s strength.


Too far, too fast

That’s partially a result of Harley-Davidson being a victim of its own success. In the early 2000s, strong demand

led to difficulty in getting enough bikes to the market. Then Harley kicked production into overdrive and in 2006

shipments hit a record 349,000 units, making its motorcycles ubiquitous on the roads.


It’s quite possible that alone would have caused Harley-Davidson to suffer a drop in sales afterward as they were no

longer quite so unique, despite the mystique the brand still carries with it even today. But then the financial markets

imploded and wiped out its core customer. The weekend warrior could no longer afford to purchase Harley’s big,

expensive bikes. By 2010, shipments had fallen to 210,500 bikes.


While Harley-Davidson has since built its numbers back up from the depths of the recession — last year, it shipped

262,000 bikes worldwide — they’re down once again from their post-recession highs.


Harley-Davidson Market Share chart

Rise of a legend

It may be no coincidence that the decrease occurred with the resurrection of the historic Indian Motorcycle. While

Polaris Industries had its big bike Victory brand, it wasn’t until the launch of Indian that sales really picked up, with

motorcycle segment sales doubling that first quarter they hit the market.


Sales grew to $708 million last year, a threefold increase since those first bikes hit the market. While that’s not all

Indian, because Polaris also introduced its three-wheeled Slingshot motorcycle, the gains are mostly the result of

Indian. Earlier this year, Polaris shut down production of Victory to focus all of its attention on the historic

motorcycle brand.


Polaris reported Indian crossed over the 10{6afdcdf14f1f3d0d6d046bdd6bb6844d1d6f78a435ef85ae323b1d28ccc5d3f7} threshold for market share in September, and though Harley-Davidson

also says its market share increased to 53.1{6afdcdf14f1f3d0d6d046bdd6bb6844d1d6f78a435ef85ae323b1d28ccc5d3f7}, they’re not quite analogous. Harley measures its share on bikes with

engine displacements of 601 cubic centimeters and above whereas Polaris looks at bikes 900 cc’s and higher.


Although a lot of the market share gains may have come from foreign big bike makers like Honda Motors with its

Gold Wing line of bikes and Suzuki, if we were able to examine Harley-Davidson’s share of that much narrower

subset, we’d see Polaris Industries and Indian Motorcycles are narrowing the gap between them and Harley-Davidson

much more quickly than it appears.



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