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Survey shows Harley dealers expecting 2018 growth

Outreach to riders age 30-under took step forward in Q4

Harley-Davidson dealerships in the U.S. reported somewhat strong sales in pre-owned bikes and in the service department, but overall business conditions and sales of new bikes were average compared to Q4 2016, according to a recent survey.

The Powersports Business/BMO Capital Markets Q4 2017 Dealer Survey found that F&I sales during the quarter trended to somewhat strong. Dealers were given the option to reply very strong, somewhat strong, average, somewhat weak or very weak. 

The survey respondents were primarily dealer principals or general managers, and represented an even mix of dealerships with one location or two-three locations. The vast majority of respondents generate $5-40 million in revenue annually.

Harley-Davidson dealers in general were
most excited about the 2018 Softail lineup,
along with the Road Glide and Street Glide
Special. Photo by Dave McMahon/
Powersports Business

Here’s a look at some of the other findings from Harley-Davidson dealers in the U.S. who completed the survey. Five dealers who completed the survey were selected at random to receive a $500 gift card.

Outreach to riders age 30-under took a significant step forward in Q4 2017 compared to the year-ago period. Asked to rate their dealership’s performance to outreach demographics compared to Q4 2016, half of dealers responded “better,” with the remainder replying either “about the same” or “worse.” More than 3 out of 4 dealers said their outreach to minorities was “about the same,” while about 40 percent said their outreach to women was “better” and another 60 percent said it was “about the same.”

Compared to Q4 2016, half of Harley-Davidson described new unit sales in Q4 2017 as flat. More than 30 percent said their new unit sales increased by 5 percent during Q4 2017.

About 2 out of 3 dealers reported their business performance as “on plan” for the quarter, with 1 in 3 “below plan.” No dealers were reported as being “above plan.”

Weather appeared to a non-issue for Harley-Davidson dealers in Q4, with half of them responding that it had “no impact.”

Looking ahead to calendar 2018, more than 80 percent of dealers said they expect their new unit sales growth to be at about 5 percent.

Given the chance to comment about what 2018 models excited them the most, the new Softail lineup was the overwhelming favorite, with the new Road Glide and Street Glide Specials also receiving plaudits. All responses to all PSB dealer surveys are anonymous.

“The new Softail lineup is getting traction,” a dealer replied. “The product is excellent and we only need warm riding weather to get people on these bikes to demo and purchase.”


As for 2018 models that they have been disappointed with, dealers who replied tended to think that the Street family of bikes remains flat.

About 3 in 4 Harley-Davidson dealers characterized their Q4 2017 inventory as “about right,” with the remaining dealers split between “too heavy” and “too low.”

Two out of 3 dealers said their profit margin now vs. a year ago was either “about the same or somewhat better.”


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