• Harley Davidson Set To Attack Asian Market

  • Harley's Chinese Tie-In But news of the H-D/Qianjiang joint venture has dried up recently
  • Still-Born 338R Based on the Benelli 302. The famed Italian brand is owned by Qianjiang.
  • Hero Motorcycles Sells more motorcycles than any other manufacturer in the world. It's production facilities and knowledge of the Asian market could prove vital for H-D
  • Harley Davidson It's first venture into setting up its own manufacturing in India wasn't a success. Tie-in with Hero could change all that.
  • Harley Davidson Fat Boy Large and expensive models such as this weren't what the Asian market wanted.

Tie-In With Hero MotorCorp About To Bear fruit

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Harley Davidson is set to renew its attack on the lucrative Asian market through its partnership with Hero MotorCorp, the Indian motorcycle manufacturing giant. The first model will be a retro-style mid-capacity roadster.

Harley Davidson To re-Enter Asian Market

Harley Davidson Set To Attack Asian Market
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Harley’s Chinese Tie-In
But news of the H-D/Qianjiang joint venture has dried up recently

Harley Davidson has long realised the importance of success in the Asian market. The company spent 11 years trying to establish the brand in India, albeit with its existing line-up of large capacity - and expensive - cruisers. It pulled out due to disappointing sales and huge overheads incurred in setting its own production operation up there.

Harley Davidson Set To Attack Asian Market
- image 1019043
Hero Motorcycles
Sells more motorcycles than any other manufacturer in the world. It’s production facilities and knowledge of the Asian market could prove vital for H-D

It wasn’t a complete withdrawal, however, as the American company signed a deal with India’s - and reportedly the world’s - biggest motorcycle manufacturer, Hero MotorCorp,
to handle distribution and sales of imported models, while piggy-backing off its manufacturing capabilities to develop new more cost-effective models for the Asian market. In return, Harley Davidson would work with Hero to help develop a line of larger Hero models which would go head to head with rival Bajaj, which has a development tie-up with Triumph.

Harley Davidson Set To Attack Asian Market
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Harley Davidson
It’s first venture into setting up its own manufacturing in India wasn’t a success. Tie-in with Hero could change all that.

Now, the first fruits of the H-D/Hero partnership are being teased, with the announcement at an investor event of a new mid-size retro-styled model to wear the H-D badge. No images or details were revealed.

It’s not the first time Harley has been down this road: in 2019, a prototype small H-D built in conjunction with China’s QJ Motors was spied. Called the 338R, it shared much with the Benelli 302R, also built by QJ Motors.

Harley Davidson Set To Attack Asian Market
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Still-Born 338R
Based on the Benelli 302. The famed Italian brand is owned by Qianjiang.

That model seemed to be a victim of Harley management’s re-structure, with then-CEO Jochen Zeitz insisting the company would concentrate on its core business of large cruisers at the expense of new markets.

But it was clear that any manufacturer worth its salt was taking the Asian market seriously, even if it meant moving away from its comfort zone. Partnering with an experienced Asian manufacturer who understands the market and who already has production facilities has long been seen as the golden ticket to playing seriously in new markets demanding motorcycles that are a long way from what you are used to building.

Harley Davidson Set To Attack Asian Market
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Harley Davidson Fat Boy
Large and expensive models such as this weren’t what the Asian market wanted.

Harley’s deal with Hero is a win-win for both parties: Harley gets the benefit of Hero’s production and region-specific model expertise while Hero can learn from Harley’s expertise in large-capacity motorcycle manufacture.

For the time being, there are no details of the new Harley/Hero but it is coming. Whether it will be seen outside Asia is another matter but it’s an important step in the direction of survival for the iconic American brand.

Harry Fisher
Harry Fisher
Motorcycling Contributor
Born and raised in England, he has lived in South Africa with his family since 2002. Harry has owned examples of Triumph, Norton, BSA, MV Agusta, Honda, BMW, Ducati, Harley Davidson, Kawasaki and Moto Morini motorcycles. He regrets selling all of them.  Read full bio
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