Harley-Davidson management gets a shake-up

Harley-Davidson and BMW had the worst reliability in Consumer Reports' survey.

Harley-Davidson chief marketing officer Mark-Hans Richter has left the company, leaving industry watchers wondering: What next?

While marketing bigwigs aren’t normally important news, in the MoCo’s case, this probably is significant. High-profile designers like Pierre Terblanche create headlines when they change jobs, because they indicate a company is changing direction.

For a company like Harley-Davidson, that’s  driven as much by marketing and lifestyle appeal as it is by technological development, a change at the top like this means the times, they are a’changin.

The news is even more interesting when we look back at reports of Harley-Davidson’s Q3 sales slide, and its subsequent announcement that the company was dumping lots of money into its marketing program, laying off 250 workers to free up cash for a 65 per cent increase in the marketing budget.

More money, plus a change at the top — what does it mean? Are we going to see the same old star-spangled, eagle-draped, freedom-espousing slogans of the past, or is the company going to go bravely where it never has before (at least, not since the 1950s). Will we see more machines like the Street 500 and Street 750, or the Livewire? Or will we see more CVO machines marketed at Rich Urban Bikers and their ilk? Just guessing, looking at population demographics, the answer to that question is going to be very important to the MoCo’s long-term survival.

Richter had been with Harley-Davidson since 2007. He will be replaced by Sean Cummings, the VP who was also formerly managing director for Harley-Davidson’s Latin America region.


  1. Zac, now if you want to talk about being “extremely limited in function”…that would be a 24hp nearly 400pound Chinese dirt bike that you’ve been a one man PR machine about. Why on earth would anyone spend 5 grand CDN on that POS when barely used and clearly superior DRZ400s (still have mine!) and KLR650s and etc. etc.are available for the same $.

  2. Nonsense, any Harley owner quickly learns not to take this kind of crap seriously. I remember Peter Egan selling his Road King a few years ago and writing a whole column sounding a bit relieved about not having to listen to the nonsense anymore. It could easily be a full time job debating all the got-ma-MBA from Tim Hortons types trashing Harley and their strategies – it’s as if Harley ISN’T a phenomenally successful company that even today has balance sheets that most companies would envy. Why bother, really.
    But I will always speak up when someone who works in the industry like Zac pushes out nonsense. Even Zac’s response here clearly speaks again to his bias, saying “fact is (Harleys) are extremely limited in function”. Really? The best selling Harleys are their FLH (touring) platforms, that clearly function really well, especially for the millions who’ve chosen to buy them over several decades. Having ridden them coast to coast, and having tried and owned nearly every brand out there, I wouldn’t prefer anything else for doing any kind of real distance on North American roads.

  3. Zac, your slip is showing. You used to be a bit better at hiding whatever bias you have against Harley, but now you can’t tell even the most basic news story without using it as an opportunity to slag the company. All the while showing so much enthusiasm for pieces of shite like the Cyclone RX3.

    • I think it’s refreshing: Finally a motojournalist who isn’t wholly owned by Hardley-Ableson’s Marketing department.

      The SlowMoCo needs to realize that Marketing can only whore out a brand for so long: People have realized that Cadillac is a relabelled Chevy, Lincoln is a rebadged Ford Exploder, and slumping sales mean people are realizing that HD is selling slow, heavy junk. With really good paint, admittedly.

    • The riding population is aging, and HD has relied a long time (too long ?) on the older, richer biker to pay its bills. Their accessory marketing has been brilliant – take a look at one of their catalogues sometime – BUT the product lineup has been derivative and confusing. For the Motor Company to move forward changes must be made. Polaris, through Victory and Indian, are taking a pretty strong run at a younger North American target market with newer, innovative products. The Street 500s and 750s seem to be a huge case of no one cares, at least on this side of the big pond. Everyone is looking toward electrics, but HD seems most likely to have a mass market model first.
      Get in, sit down, shut up and hang on – its going to be an interesting ride…

    • I have nothing against the MoCo. I have a couple Harley T-shirts in the closet, and if you’ve been around here long enough (and I think you have), you’ll remember I rode one out to AZ back in 2013 and enjoyed it. It doesn’t change the fact they are extremely limited in function, but I think they have their purpose.

      If I’m guilty of showing enthusiasm for the RX3, it’s because it’s someone thinking outside the box. That’s pretty rare these days.

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