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Harley’s European assault

Published: 29 September 2018

Updated: 26 September 2018

Harley-Davidson got everyone’s eyebrows dancing recently with their bold new Harley Pan America adventure bike and naked Streetfighter – but while both will be brave attacks on new markets for the US giant, H-D Vice President Marc McAllister says they have the expertise to pull it off.

He told MCN: “Our product development power gives us the ability to understand what the product needs to be technically and engineer a very capable motorcycle.”

Targeting the European adventure bike market is incredibly important for Harley, due to declining sales in the US and competition from the likes of Indian.

McAllister believes the adventure class in Europe, which saw 160,000 bikes sold last year, offers the firm a real growth opportunity.

Harley-Davidson Pan America adventure bike unveiled in July 2018

He said: “We want to grow our international audience to 50% of our business [it is currently 40%] and these bikes are part of the portfolio that will do it. These bikes gives us access to new segments and new riders that will certainly help.”

However, McAllister doesn’t think it’s the complete change in brand direction that some have suggested: “We’ve had leanings in the off-road space for years – 50 or 60 years ago we were doing epic things with our military bikes off-road. We need to meet customer’s tastes and tastes are leaning towards adventure.

“We are looking forward to conquest sales. A lot of riders see Harley-Davidson as aspirational and as far as the technical capabilities of the vehicles – we are confident that we will be superior in those segments as we go to market. We are not afraid of the technical competition.”

A BMW GS rival with the technology to beat it at its own game on an off-road? It’s a very bold claim for a firm that has never been a player in the sector. The proof will be in the riding.

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