Harley-Davidson Rents Its Brand

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The way we become brand champions now: Renting!

Sure, everyone wants to ride a Harley-Davidson, but let’s be honest. With near 10% unemployment and employees taking pay cuts just to keep their jobs, who can afford it? So why bother with the upkeep and the winterizing and the inclement weather? Just be a biker when it fits into your schedule![more]

Harley announced this week that it’s expanding its Fly-and-Ride program for Harley Owners Group (HOG) members. The expansion will bring the program from just 37 participating locations to over 300, with about a quarter of all 1,300 dealerships joining in. Through the Fly-and-Ride programs, HOG members can also avail themselves of travel planning and other services.

Harley makes a point to call attention to the HOG member-focused “Fly-and-Ride” portion of its rental business expansion, wisely positioning it as a program for riders who already own a Harley. As the brand notes in the “few reasons to rent a Harley” section of its website:

  • You’re on vacation, ready to cruise along the ocean, wind through the mountains or zip across the desert
  • You want to try another bike (or two) before you buy
  • Your bike is being serviced and you can’t wait to ride
  • You’re traveling on business and want to blow away the boredom

But it’s obvious that the “fly” segment of the program is not a requirement. Fly-and-ride may offer extra perks for HOG members, but its growth goes hand in hand with the expansion of Harley’s overall rental business, which caters to non-HOG overseas tourists as well as domestic ones.

Just how affordable has Harley made it to become a biker? We went through the process of booking a bike (nearly identical to renting a car) from Ventura Harley in Camarillo, CA for a three-day weekend. Total cost for three days on a luxurious 2010 Street Glide? $313.92 That price tag is far more attractive for those who want Harley posturing but cannot afford to go, well, whole hog by splurging on a bike that starts at $18,999.

Harley-Davidson certainly wouldn’t make the comparison, but with the expansion of this program the brand joins programs like Bag, Borrow or Steal (now called Avelle). Having received its big break in the film Sex and the City, Avelle has expanded from renting just bags to also renting designer, watches, sunglasses and jewelry. For the fraction of the astronomical cost of ownership, consumers can strut down the street in Chanel. Or, you know, get on the back of your husband’s full dress 2010 Road King Classic.

The program will certainly only get more popular but one has to wonder if it will maybe cannibalize Harley’s sales business? Even more worrying: if the program becomes too popular, what will die-hard Harley owners and champions think about the brand as they increasingly encounter “wannabes” showing off their rented cred?

Then again, the program could create new customers for the brand as those who have rented Harleys become so enamored with the experience that they decide to buy.

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