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Sun 15 May 2011 11:42 AM

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Harley-Davidson sales jump on Arab popularity

More than 75% of biker club members in the region are Arabs, says senior executive

Harley-Davidson sales jump on Arab popularity
Harley-Davidson has fifteen dealerships in the Middle East and North Africa and opened a subsidiary office in the UAE last year

Motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson has seen a dramatic rise in the number of
Arab nationals buying its motorcycles and joining its riding club, a senior
executive has said.

Gone are the days when Harley-Davidson fans were limited to the Middle
East’s expatriates, the popularity of the brand and its lifestyle is fast
picking up among Arabs.

Five years ago the majority of members for the region’s Harley Owners Group
– or HOG  – were expatriates but now more than 75 percent are Arab, Rob Lindley,
managing director and vice president for Harley-Davidson’s Europe, Middle East
and Africa operations, said.

“If you were to back a few years I think you would say it was an expat
business. But that’s changed massively. Our [dealership] partners are saying
that ….more than half of their business, or 75 percent plus, is now with local
customers so there is a real engagement in the culture,” he said.

Harley-Davidson is ramping up its operations in the Middle East amid
increased interest. Year to date, the US-based firm has seen a 19 percent
increase in sales compared to 2010 and plans to open dealerships in Libya,
Pakistan, Iraq and Algeria, said Lindley.

Last year the firm, which has fifteen dealerships in the Middle East and
North Africa, opened its first subsidiary office in the UAE to oversee growth
in the region.

Customers of the Harley-Davidson are automatically given a one-year
membership to HOG, a sponsored community marketing club which organises group
meetings and rides.

In Saudi Arabia, where the firm has three chapters, nearly all HOG members
are local Saudis, said Lindley. 

“If you take the Saudi chapters - Jeddah and Riyadh - these are pretty much
all local [members]. We have three dealerships and each one has a chapter,” he

In addition to adding to the number of dealerships in the region,
Harley-Davidson also hopes to increase the number of its HOG members, he said.

“We sell a lifestyle,” he said. “It’s much more than just a motorcycle, it’s
all the things that go with it, the clothing, the rallies and events, the whole
experience of being part of Harley-Davidson and there is no question that
people are getting that here.”

HOG members spend around 30 percent more than other Harley owners on
lifestyle items such as clothing and Harley-Davidson sponsored events.

The motorcycle maker saw a 3.5 percent increase in first quarter sales of
new motorcycles, with net income of $119.3m for the period compared to $68.7m
in 2010.


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