Harley Davidson Revving Up Asia Expansion

Originally aired on Channel NewsAsia on April 7, 2017

My Channel NewsAsia story from earlier this week is something for the petrolheads: I talked to Harley-Davidson Asia about their expansion plans in Asia and Thailand.

TRANSCRIPT

A grand entrance for one of the most iconic brands in the world, synonymous with roaring engines, big bikes and all that’s 'Made in the USA'.

For over a hundred years, Harley Davidson has captivated the hearts and minds of motorcycle fans around the world. One region in particular has seen an increased interest and that's here in Asia, where the company is revving up into this new emerging market.

Facing slower demand at home, the motorcycle maker from the state of Wisconsin is focusing on foreign markets, which made up 38 percent of total sales last year.

Harley-Davidson has increased the number of dealerships in Southeast Asia as it sets its sights on the growing Asian middle class with increasing disposable income.

"In line with our international growth strategy to grow our international brand presence, we’re continuing that here in Asia and in Thailand for example we recently opened our sixth authentic Harley-Davidson dealership," says Peter Mackenzie, Harley-Davidson's Managing Director for Asia & Emerging Markets. "Part of that strategy is to be more accessible to more customers. So our increased dealer footprint presence enables us to interact with more customers at a regional level."

But a different market also necessitates a different approach. While Harley-Davidson is famous for its iconic, big choppers - called 'hogs' by their fans - they don't fit on some of the heavily congested roads in this region, roads that are mostly dominated by smaller commuter bikes.

"In order to be more accessible and more relevant, we’ve - you know - whether riding a small commuter bike or merging into a larger-scale bike, that relevance is there to acceptance of motorcycling. Models such as our Street 750 and our Street Rod, tend to be a more nimble and more urban bike for perhaps that heavily congested city environment," Mr. Mackenzie.

Despite high import taxes in countries such as India and Indonesia, Harley-Davidson is determined to head out on the highways of Asia.

Saksith Saiyasombut, Channel NewsAsia, Bangkok