Harley Adds Muscle To Female-Directed Efforts

Harley Davidson

Harley-Davidson and its Buell division will again be presenting sponsors of the 2009 American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) International Women & Motorcycling Conference in Keystone, Colo., in April next year.

The Milwaukee motorcycle manufacturer, which has been beefing up programs aimed at getting more women into motorcycling, sponsored the conference for the first time last year.

The Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), an Irvine, Calif.-based industry organization, says women now account for 12.6% of motorcycle riders, a 29% increase since 2003 and up from 4% in 1990. The Council says that in 2003, about 23.5 million people in the U.S. operated a motorcycle. Women account for 4.3 million of them.

Per the council--which tracks rider trends every five years, and this year for the first time did the survey online--the primary reason for riding is pleasure, followed by commuting and errands. In 2003, commuting and errand riding was in third place.



But riders are getting older, although the increase in rider age over the years may be flattening. The average rider was 32 years old in 1990. By MIC's 1998 survey, the average rider was 38, then 41 in 2003. This year it appears the average rider is 42.

The initial results also suggest consumers are buying newer bikes. The average age for motorcycles in the U.S. was 13.2 years old in 1998, 11.7 years in 2003, and 10.8 years so far in 2008, per MIC.

The AMA reports that it has seen an increase in attendance at the Women and Motorcycling Conference over the years, and anticipates that it will double at the 2009 event with more than 2,200 participants. The conference will have workshops and an opportunity to test-ride new bikes, shop for gear and attend a number of events.

The company, which has had a microsite for female riders at since 2004, this year began offering a downloadable book titled We Ride on, and at dealerships. The 48-page book--intended to get women to ride motorcycles--features information on how and where women can learn to ride, including Harley's "Rider's Edge" class, and how to fit a motorcycle. It also has info on riders groups and "real people" stories.

The company this year started giving women who are new to the brand a ring designed by the company founder's great-granddaughter. The company gave it to women who graduated from Rider's Edge and purchased a new Harley-Davidson or Buell between June and October. Also this year, H-D ran a promotion called "Bikes, Camera, Action!" in which riders could upload two-minute films about women and riding. The winner got a digital video camera, $5,000, a branded leather jacket and a gift certificate to rent a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Harley-Davidson's approximately 680 dealerships across the country are also hosting free women-only garage parties, where women can check out Harley-Davidson motorcycles, gear, and accessories.

The company, which will report fourth-quarter earnings next month, says worldwide retail sales of Harley-Davidson motorcycles dropped 9.6% versus the third quarter of 2007 because of soft U.S. sales. In the U.S., retail sales of Harley-Davidson motorcycles decreased 15.5% in the third quarter.

The heavyweight motorcycle market in the U.S. decreased 3.1% for the same period, per the company. Year-to-date through the third quarter, U.S. Harley-Davidson motorcycle retail sales decreased 11.9%, while the U.S. heavyweight market was down 4.0%, per the company. In the first nine months, H-D reported that its International retail sales increased by 12.6%.

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