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Case Details:

Case Code : HROB096
Case Length : 14 Pages
Period : 1992-2007
Pub Date : 2007
Teaching Note :Not Available
Organization : Harley-Davidson
Industry : Automobile - Motorcycles
Countries : US

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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Background Note

In 1903, H-D was established at Milwaukee in the US by William S. Harley (William) and Arthur Davidson (Arthur). William was born in Milwaukee on December 29, 1880. He worked in a bicycle factory when he was just 15 years old. Arthur, a childhood friend of William, also started working at a young age. Both of them had a mechanical inclination and learned as much as they could about bicycles and later on about motorized bikes. They manufactured their first motorcycle in a 10x15 feet wooden shed with a hand-written sign on the door that read, 'Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Company'. H-D extended its operations and the two were joined by Arthur's brother Walter.

In 1906, H-D started a new factory at Chestnut Street, 28x80 feet in size, which later was named Juneau Avenue. The company's employee strength was increased to six full-time employees. In the same year, it also came out with its first motorcycle catalog. On September 17, 1907, the name 'Harley-Davidson Motor Company' was incorporated.4

In 1908, H-D sold the first motorcycle for police duty to the Detroit Police Department in Michigan in the US. The V-twin powered motorcycle was introduced by the company in 1909 and for the first time, the company also started selling motorcycle spare parts. The V-twin powered motorcycle, which could travel at a speed of 60 miles per hour, was the fastest motorcycle at that time. The popular 'Bar & Shield' logo was used for the first time in 1910 (Refer to Exhibit I for a picture of this logo). It was trademarked at the US Patent office after a year.

In 1917, during the First World War, there was an increased demand for the US motorcycles overseas.

This increase in demand made H-D a leader in innovative engineering in the 1920s with the introduction of new features like the teardrop gas tank and front brake. The teardrop gas tank and front brake were introduced for customizing H-D's motorcycles according to the needs of the US Army. Twenty thousand motorcycles were sold by H-D to the US Army. However, in the late 1920s, the motorcycle industry in the US suffered a downturn as a result of the Great Depression which started off in the US and gradually extended to other parts of the world. H-D and Indian Motorcycle Company5 were the only two motorcycle companies which were able to survive in the US...

Excerpts >>


5] Set up in 1901 in Springfield, Massachusetts, Indian Motorcycle Company was the oldest motorcycle brand in the US and at one time was the world's largest producer of motorcycles.


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