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‘Harley is about a sense of freedom’

Murali Gopalan | Updated on January 20, 2018

Marc McAllister, Harley-Davidsson Asia Pacific chief

Asia-Pacific chief Marc McAllister says the company is keeping pace with mobility challenges

Marc McAllister is not unaware of the fact that the mobility landscape across the world is changing rapidly. Yet, what does that mean for a brand like Harley-Davidson?

“When talking about mobility and the role of two-wheelers, our view is the role of leisure motorcycling for the customer,” says the Vice-President and Managing Director, Harley-Davidson Asia-Pacific. Harley, he adds, is approaching a new era of mobility where trends and demographics are evident in Asia-Pacific with young urbanised customers being the key influencers.

“It is just not about developing products like Street but we are also working on a project which is about building an electric vehicle that satisfies customer needs on the Harley experience in a new way,” says McAllister. It is also about being at the leading edge of where mobility is selling. This pretty much means that Harley is looking at the whole space of lifestyle experiences and leisure motorcycling. According to McAllister, the urban customer in the new mobility era is hungry for experiences and this is where motorcycles deliver something tangible and accessible. “We live in an increasingly digital world and how do we really liberate ourselves and get free from this environment? Motorcycling helps out here and Harley-Davidson in particular is designed to really liberate you into a new sense of freedom,” he says. Japan, for instance, has an ageing population and as customers move into different life stages, they look to experience Harley in different ways. This is what prompted the creation of the three-wheeled Trike “which is a big opportunity for people who want to cruise in a different way”.

Creating experiences

As McAllister reiterates, Harley is a personal experience company which endeavours to create an unrivalled experience whether it is in Mumbai or Tokyo. The global strategy is to focus on what customers want of Harley and deliver that.

While developing the Street (500c and 750cc), feedback was sought from people in Mumbai, Delhi, Tokyo, Shanghai and Sao Paolo. “Urbanisation is driving a need in customers’ mind for a different type of access for Harley Davidson. The Street is smaller, more nimble and better designed for an urbanised environment,” says McAllister.

At its many customer events held across the world, what comes through clearly to Harley is that customers at a Chinese rally may perhaps react differently from Indians in terms of dressing. Yet, the core motivation of motorcycling and liberation are common drivers across the world. “I have worked with different customers and this sense of liberation/desire for freedom with a Harley is a common thread worldwide even though it could manifest differently,” says McAllister.

Asia-Pacific is a significant part of the roadmap for Harley and the opportunity in India particularly represents “a huge piece of the growth”. The Asia-Pacific strategy reflects the vision in terms of growing demand for products and driving the brand. As McAllister says, the job on hand is to ensure that people are aware of Harley “and we do this beyond bikes through apparels, events, rallies and the whole experience”.

The next step is to drive reach which involves enhancing the dealer network followed by leveraging digital channels. Asia-Pacific is the largest share of the retail push for the future. While Harley has been around in mature markets like Australia and Japan for over 100 years, mainland Asia in the form of India, India and ASEAN represent “phenomenal growth opportunities”.

As the world’s largest two-wheeler market, India offers huge potential and McAllister believes it is important to be in tune with what the customer wants. “Since the time we have been here, we have been working on growing our strategy of awareness and reach across the market,” he says.

Published on May 11, 2016

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