When we hear the brand Harley-Davidson, we immediately associate it with an all-American machine. But did you know that this is just an image the company maintains today?
Harley-Davidson is the epitome of classic Americana. It is often depicted as an icon in its class. However, the modern Harley-Davidson bikes are made almost entirely from foreign parts.
Harley-Davidson was founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1903. William S. Harley and Walter Davidson built their first motor-bicycle and introduced it to the public then. The company was soon incorporated in 1907.
The four founders of the iconic brand were composed of three Davidson brothers and William Harley:
- Walter Davidson – the acting first president
- Arthur Davidson – first general sales manager and secretary
- William Davidson – first works manager
- William Harley – chief engineer and treasurer
Interestingly enough, the four agreed to take on Harley-Davidson despite most members being the Davidson brothers. They found it fair that Harley’s name goes first since the original idea for the motorcycle came from him.
The first engine built was a buckle crank, a single-cylinder engine with pedals, and a leather drive belt. The first models couldn’t climb up a hill without the rider pedaling it. Through continuous research and improvement, they soon perfected the 2-cylinder V-Twin in 1909. This engine can reach speeds up to 60 mph.
Their popularity rose when they first sponsored The Wrecking Crew, a racing team known for their daredevil performances. They soon found themselves working with USPS, the Army, and ultimately the police in the 1950s. The police force was known for cultivating the culture of the Wild West look, riding their Harleys with saddlebags while wearing boots and breeches.
In today’s world, Harley-Davidson is a status symbol, usually representing freedom and the all-American bike. Harleys can be found in almost any country, enjoyed by young and old alike. (Source: Harley-Davidson Insurance)
Globalization and Foreign Parts
The brand reached international fame and the notion that you think of a Harley when you think of a motorcycle. In today’s world, access to different manufacturers both in and out of the country is possible. And sometimes manufacturers in other countries produce better, if not at par with, than the domestic suppliers. Offshore factories can also have cheaper parts.
Though the Milwaukee-based company strives to use and produce parts and accessories domestically, it does employ manufacturers from other countries like:
- Showa in Japan for its suspension
- Brembo in Italy for its brake and clutch assembly
- Austria for engine pistons
- Japan, Mexico, and China for electrical components and wiring harnesses
- Australia for its wheels
Global companies, Harley included, seek better deals and manufacturers to get them what they specifically need, in the amount they specifically ask for. Harley has also established factories and assembly plants in different countries such as Thailand, India, and Brazil.
In this light, most consumers do not mind having products that are made in different countries. Consumers care more about the brand and the price tag than where it was manufactured, except some who prefer that their Harleys are built in the US.
Even though foreign parts offer better production and sometimes better performance, it also provides lower costs for their services. This enables Harley-Davidson to have still a price tag that is within reach. (Source: JS Online)