Harley-Davidson's future: How to sell bikes to the next generation

Harley-Davidson is an American icon built on history. As the company celebrates 120 years, FOX6 News is taking a look at its future.

The challenge is how to sell bikes to the next generation, and it's one Harley-Davidson is still working on.

Motorcycle sales were down 12% in the first quarter of 2023, but overall, Harley's revenues were up 21%. One expert said he thinks the key to Harley's future might not include a throttle.

Up from Roanoke, Texas on their Tri-Glide, Randy and Brenda Mayhood might as well be regulars.

Randy and Brenda Mayhood 

"It's the best mental health (treatment) that I’ve ever gotten is with a Harley," said Randy Mayhood.

The couple hasn't missed a homecoming since Harley's 95th. They came back for the 120th with another passenger, Bear.

"He loves it," said Brenda Mayhood. "As you can see, he has his own little goggles, and he usually has his own seat."

They make a point every anniversary to stop in and buy a commemorative shirt.

That's part of the reason why Marquette professor Alex Milovic said he sees a strong future for Harley, even as it faces a generational challenge.

"The idea here is, perhaps, we can capture revenue with the clothing to then determine our next steps with the motorcycles, our core business unit, so maybe one is helping the other through the pivot, through the transition," said Milovic.


Milovic said he doesn't think the company should worry about the slow sales growth of its e-bike, Livewire.

"The longer the runway, the more likely it is to succeed," said Milovic.

He pointed instead to the strength of the Harley-Davidson community and culture to guide the company into the future.

"It shows you care," said Milovic. "It shows you stand behind the product. You want to be a part of a product, and you want to be a part of history."


Milovic also credited Harley with its approach to the e-bike. It doesn't rumble and roar like traditional motorcycles do, but by using a different name and getting in when they did, he sees Livewire becoming successful in the not-too-distant future.