US motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson is aiming to boost its sales in the Middle East by tapping into a growing demand from female riders, the head of the company’s Middle East operations told Arabian Business.
“A lot of people misunderstand the concept that Harley is just for men, or just for Western expats,” Paul De Jongh, country manager for Harley Davidson Middle East and North Africa said in an interview. “We are seeing a big growth in interest over the last five years, of not just Western expats, but also Arab expats, locals, as well as women.
“What we have found through our dealers that have that as a demonstration experience, is that a lot of women finally understand that they can ride a motorcycle. It is not too heavy for them, it is not too high for them, and I think that experience has allowed a lot of women to feel more comfortable with it instantly,” he added.
Founded in 1903, the Milwaukee-based motorcycle maker entered the Middle East market in 1988 with its first dealership in Dubai and in the last 24 years has expended its presence to 14 different countries.
While De Jongh claimed a lot of women only ride because their husbands do, in many Arab markets, such as Lebanon and Jordan, he finds a much younger profile of women now love to ride independently.
“Some of the bikes that we have introduced in the last two years are a little more nimble, and a little bit lighter, which appeals to women as well,” he said.
For the first six months of the year, Harley Davidson sold 132,991 motorcycles worldwide, of which 70 percent came from North America region (US and Canada).
“The rest came from outside the US, the region that we belong to, which is Europe, Middle East and Africa, contributing the most significant sales outside the US, with 27,977 motorcycles,” De Jongh said.
“So, 70 percent is from the US, and 90 percent of the remaining 30 percent is from Europe, Middle East and Africa,” he added.
During the 2008 and 2009 downturn, the US manufacturer was forced to undergo restructuring. Having ridden the worst of the downturn, second quarter sales this year were up 14.6 percent year-on-year to US$1.73bn, according to the Wall Street Journal. Overall, sales rose 2.8 percent, with sales in Europe, Middle East and Africa declining 6.4 percent.