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MS asked in Cars & TransportationMotorcycles · 2 months ago

I have some questions for motorcycle, particularly Harley Davidson and Japanese motorcycles, enthusiasts. Please read below,?

I was reading a brief history of Harley Davidson motorcycles. Hundreds and thousands of HD motorcycles were produced for the US Army in WW1 and WW2. It enjoyed a venerable status up until the early 70s, when it was unable to compete against the high quality, high performance Japanese motorcycles which were manufactured using "state-of-the-art computer controlled machinery and manufacturing techniques." Facing bankruptcy, HD initially persuaded the Reagan administration in the early 80s to impose heavy tariffs on imported vehicles, but later dropped the demand for high tariffs and resorted to importing Japanese made brakes, forks, shock absorbers, carburetors and electronics to improve its quality. This is going on even to this day. My questions are..Why didn't HD see the competition coming from the Japanese early enough? What were these "state-of-the-art computer controlled machinery and manufacturing techniques" the Japanese used, that American motorcycle manufacturers, like HD, did not use? Why didn't HD and other American motorcycle manufacturers adopt latest technology to compete against the Japanese? The HD top management cannot be too tunnel visioned or short-sighted in seeing the competition coming from Japan. Can anyone answer these questions. 

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  • adam
    Lv 4
    2 months ago
    Favourite answer

    HD was sold to AMF in 1971 . A bowling ball company with no clue about motorcycles. HD was still building a big heavy road bike , It had the sportster but that was in now way anything like the inline fours coming from Japan. Heres what you dont know : AMF invested in the CAD CAM machinery that was used after 1985 to build the EVO models. Totally modern equipment . The big problems were from 1971 to 1985 . Shovelheads made under AMF. very poor quality controls. There were bikes that right out of the delivery crate didnt run. The mantra of shovelhead riders still is RIDE WRENCH REPEAT. Harley did indeed get protection from higher import tarrifs but got their act together and had the government lower the tarrif earler than scheduled. Gone were the days of oil leaking poor performance machines. Sort of. The big heavy road bikes were still the mainstay. However the FXR designed by Eric Buell had debuted in 1982. The first FXR used a shovel motor, but its had a new frame design and it could CORNER. It quickly became a sought after machine by club guys. To this day its hard to find one for sale . It was superseded by the Dyna. Also coveted by patch holders . HD never had outdated building techniques. Just terrible quality control and an antique motorcycle design . As of now they are still using that common crankpin and pushrods but have finally gone liquid cooled and 4 valve heads . In addition EFI and ABS . Bluetooth interface . Key fob keyless ignitions are all available. Ousorsing started with the front ends . SHOWA forks are used. The reason? It cost less to build . Blame unions.  If the entire machine was USA built its sticker price would skyrocket. So many electronic parts and other pieces are made elsewhere. Japanese components are high quality but now HD is using many Chinese made parts and that stuff is JUNK. As of now HD is introducing bikes like the Bronx and the Pan America . Totally unlike the traditional HD. The hope is to attract buyers that would never buy HD. 

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  • Anonymous
    2 months ago

    For the reasons that the Japanese industries had been bombed almost out of existence. When they were re-started (often with US investment or assistance) they started with state-of-the-art machinery. So they were able to achieve costs, qualities and quantities that US industry could not. H-D, in common with many other US industries, did not have the cash or the incentive to rebuild their factories. This left them way behind the curve of development and they turned to another method of marketing – patriotism (combined with a lack of other US competition). But they had lost their pre-eminence earlier than your story. The British motorcycle industries (Triumph, BSA, Norton) were also hampered by lack of investment but they were making "better" bikes than H-D and younger riders turned to them in droves – and this added to the financial pressures on H-D.

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  • Anonymous
    2 months ago

    You innovate or stagnate.  HD management did not innovate.  That is all.

    • adam
      Lv 4
      2 months agoReport

      whenever they try its buyers reject it. V Rod is prime example

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  • Scott
    Lv 7
    2 months ago

    HD was sold to American Machine and Foundry (AMF) in the 70's. They produced the crappy, low quality models. It wasn't until a group of employees purchased the company back from AMF before the quality improved.

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  • 2 months ago

    I am sure that HD management could see what would happen, but a major problem was that their clientele did not want anything modern, or especially modern Japanese.  Up until the 1970's most anything from Japan was considered by Americans as 'junk'.  This attitude changed in the 70's for automobiles as Honda and Toyota became legendary for their reliability.

    The HD company has tried to modernize their bikes several times, but their has been total resistance from their clientele to anything but the old design Harley.  

    .

    The average Harley rider would rather spend a small fortune on a new bike that was designed 60-70 years ago than anything modern. They would then spend another small fortune 'hot rodding 'the Harley so that they could almost keep up to the Japanese bikes.

    It does not make much sense to me, and maybe not to the HD management, but they have done very well marketing their old motorcycles,  ....and most anything else with the Harley Davidson name on it.

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  • JetDoc
    Lv 7
    2 months ago

    Harley-Davidson went downhill a lot earlier than the 1980's. The company lost sales and fell on hard times in the 1960's and in 1969 they sold a controlling interest in the company to sporting goods manufacturer AMF. AMF had no real interest in building motorcycles, and pretty much let the motorcycle division stumble along without proper management or investment in upgraded production equipment. By the time Harley was sold back to an investment group in 1981, the damage had been done.

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