2011 Harley-Davidson Sportster SuperLow 883

I love love love love love love love love love love ALMOST everything about the new 2011 Harley-Davidson Sportster SuperLow 883. It's the one motorcycle from any manufacturer so far released in as a 2011 that I'd crawl across 5 miles of broken glass just to grovel in the shadow of the dealership that features it in its store window.

Of course, my old bud Willie G. after 28 years still is not taking my advice on how to run his swiftly failing company (and if he had, he's be Wall Street's darling right now). So... there are some really serious problems with the 2011 Harley-Davidson Sportster SuperLow 883 that will keep it from selling in the numbers that it should. Here we go!

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Tank - Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, I know, I know. The peanut tank doesn't hold enough fuel... it didn't hold enough in the Ironhead era and it doesn't hold enough in the second decade of the millennium. So what? The solution is not to provide 4.5 gallons of capacity in a boring swoopy tank that looks like it just came off the Kymco assembly line! There are countless options to reimagining the peanut tank without resorting to the Korean styling handbook: Make the peanut tank wider, or really use some good old American ingenuity, and place a secondary tank below the saddle with a fuel pump running a line right through the inside of that big ugly frame member over the top of the rear cylinder! What's wrong with you, HD? I've been telling you how to run your business since 1982 Daytona and you STILL won't listen to me! If you had, you'd actually be selling bikes now... wow... what a concept. Sales! Riders come into your dealerships, give you money, and ride your bikes out. I know Harley management hasn't seen that in a few years, so I can understand how they have forgotten it.

Seat - Where does HD get off on continuing to plunk solo seats on their lower end bikes? What's the cost at the factory level to stretch out the saddle to make a fairly small pillion, like ten bucks? Stop being so damn cheap and wake up to smell the coffee, HD. Even if the mythological loner riders of Harley lore don't have any friends, they still have to carry a stack of books to school or a bag of groceries back from the store. Give them something to strap it on to! Sheesh!

Paint - Stop being greedy ravenous idiots and charging $500 for a paint job. It's another addition that costs you $10 at the factory. Total and typical HD ripoff. By the way, the only really nice paint job is the two tone Birch White with Sedona Orange that you're raping your customers an extra half a grand to get. The blue is pedestrian and... Merlot Sunglo? You've been drinking too much Merlot if you think that this disgusting dark purplish brown fecal color belongs on this bike.

Tach - WTF, HD? Motorcycle riders aren't 1990 Subaru Justy owners. We like to know what that big expensive lump of iron between our legs is doing, so throw in a damn tach. OK, so maybe it's not $10 at the factory like the paint and saddle extension, but it's not more than twice that. For $20 let the rider see the revs, for cryin' out loud!

Price - Crazy, stupid, demented, lunatic, senseless, delirious, outrageous, unreasonable, crackbrained, demented, witless, irrational, and outright screwy. In this economy where 26% of all Americans no longer have a credit rating at all, you don't charge eight grand and up for an entry level bike, up a full thousand bucks from last year! Ya, I know, you put a few new parts on this one... so what? $5,999 is the exact MSRP you should be selling this bike at! Shame on you, HD! Cut your bloated and inefficient management, or pay them what they're worth (too bad the minimum wage in Wisconsin is $7.25 an hour as the entire current Harley Davidson executive team put together isn't worth that much)!!! Start cranking out bikes real Americans can afford, not just dope dealing Angels and retired petroleum CEOs! At 80 large, the name of the bike will be prophetic: SuperLow will indicate its sales figures!

So Harley execs... Smarten up and fly right. If you want to make sure that HD doesn't go the way of the dodo bird wake up to the new economic realities of your customers. They want Hawgs, but they damn well can't afford them. If this is an entry level bike, then the 2011 lineup is showing that the (possibly very short) future of Harley Davidson will only bring more of the same clueless management which has sunk the greatest and most historically significant motorcycle manufacturer in the Western Hemisphere.

Wanna fix HD? Fire the entire board and execs. Give me the reins, get the hell out of the way, and I'll show you how to spark the Great Harley Renaissance and move no less than 500,000 bikes in 2012. Yeah. No crap.

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22 comments

neognosis 6 years ago

tach? pillion?

If they put those things on the Iron, I would not have wanted it. You don't get it, but that's ok. I don't think you are the market for these bikes anyway.

I am also reasonably certain that a nice paint job does not cost only 10 dollars.

And lastly, i think the idea of putting an auxilary tank with a pump below the... whatever he heck you said is pretty outlandish.

Here's a few challenges for you:

1-write a hub on a harley product where you don't mention Willie G. Younger riders don't even know who or care who he is or if you know him or not.

2- stop making falcaious claims that harley is not selling bikes. In a previous hub, you were presened with MC registration stats that show that MC owners register more new harleys in the US than all other MC makers COMBINED.

3- Write a harley hub where you don't beg for a job. We get it, you think you can market the bikes better. Enough already.

Further, I like the solo seat, I think a tach is unnecessary and clutters up the front of the bike, and pricing them lower will damage the brand. Apparently you fancy yourself something of a motorcycle expert (though it would appear that most people under 50 find your ideas unappealing) but you are obviously not a marketing professional.

Your opinions are duly noted, and most of us are thankful that you are not in charge at HD.


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 6 years ago from Toronto Author

Your opinion is duly noted and most of me is thankful that your perspective is as worthy as your spelling of "falcaious". :)


HootieWho 6 years ago

Hal,

Have you any insight into the rumored HD Thumper to replace the Buell Blast? If this rumor were to become a reality, the price point of the SuperLow would make sense ans as I provided on the 883N Hub, the competition is all priced over the 883L or within a few hundred bucks less.

Vstar Midnight Custom: $6790

2010 HD Sportster Low: $6999

Triumph Bonneville: $7,699

Boulevard M50: $7,799

HD Iron 833: $7999

HD SuperLow: $7999

Honda Shadow Phantom: $7999

Honda Shadow RS: $7999

Vulcan 900 Custom: $8349

Moto Guzzi V7: $8,490

Some of the above are garbage throw away bikes and other are really cool (Triumph and Guzzi) but they all are priced pretty closely. I am not sure a lower price point will bring in flocks of new buyers. Maybe, but I am not convinced. I remember from my limited marketing courses that a low price can have a negative affect on sales and brand perception(contrary to conventional wisdom).


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 6 years ago from Toronto Author

A single cylinder Sporty has been rumored for years, but I think it would be a mistake to come up with an HD branded Suzuki Savage. HD is known for V-twins and the market would eat up a $4999 650 Harley Vee. Sure, underpricing a conventional item in a conventional market can be a negative, but this is not a conventional item or market. The economy has devastated more than a quarter of all US adults to the point where they can't finance a Big Mac. A lot of people are forced to pay cash for their wheels these days, and they sure aren't going to go go shell out $37,000 for a CVO Ultra Classic Electra Glide. As long as HD continues to depend on the higher margins on the way overpriced bikes, they're just going to turn themselves into a Ferrari-Rolls-Bugatti niche brand. Sure, they're great cars, and how many working Joes do you know own one?


Neognosis 6 years ago

I am a working class joe, and i can afford an 8k bike. I think the iron is priced right, appeals to my demographic. I think the sportster superlow will not appeal to my demographic. Which explains why you like it. Our ideas of what is pleasing seem to seldom converge. It will be interesting toncompare iron sales with superlow sales after a year, and analyze who bought what.


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 6 years ago from Toronto Author

Good. See ya in a year! Bye! :)


HootieWho 6 years ago

"$37,000 for a CVO Ultra Classic Electra Glide."

What does this have to do with your point? The CVOs always sell out and they are limited to a few thousand each. Those are the least of HD worries. Even in 2008 and 2009 the CVO barges sold out. There are plenty of enough douchey baby boomers (with lots of money) around to buy those. Not everyone is poor.

You are correct that the SuperLow pricing is unfortunately a little high. Its not way high but a little high. It should have been priced just below the Bonneville at 7,500 and 8,000 with the upgraded paint.

The seat I am ok with, but I think they should have added a nice looking rack (in the P/A catalog) for stuff as you say. Its not really meant for a passenger anyway, at least without boosting the rear suspension travel (and then it would not be super low).

Tach - Sure, why not. The Bonneville has one and this is clearly targeted at the Bonnie. The Bonnie is selling like crazy in Europe and fast here as well. It seems obvious to be that was the target.


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 6 years ago from Toronto Author

My point is that HD has been living high off the Hawg on the silly asses who will gladly pay $5K more for an already overpriced bike because it's got a flame paint job. The time, energy and resources spent on creating a handful of CVOs for the elitist bunch should have been spent on crafting a coherent lower end policy and bikes to match. There is absolutely no reason on earth why a basic FX should cost almost $6K more than a basic XL. Essentially the only diff is the engine and no one has adequately shown me why an FX motor is worth that much more than an XL. All HDs are way overpriced, and that is the #1 reason why their sales are in the dumper.

The low end lineup should be:

650 XL $4999

883 XL $5999

1200 XL $7999

FX $9999

Now from there if you want a springer front end or a softail or a chromed bust of Evel Knievel on the tank or whatever, then you can pay the outrageous current MSRPs. But the policy they have now is killing their lower end sales and that is where the volume is. The volume needed to keep HD's head above water and keep their workforce working!


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 6 years ago from Toronto Author

I answered in Iron too. A bit fast on the draw. :)


HootieWho 6 years ago

650 XL $4999

883 XL $5999

1200 XL $7999

FX $9999

Hal - I totally disagreed with your position regarding the Iron; however, I agree with you here.

HD would shock the industry and clean up at those prices (if quality and materials stayed the same). I don't know if if is feasible until they lean the manufacturing process (it got fat and sloppy when profits were easy). But if they could hit those price points it would be awesome...and I think they can.

The 883n and the 1200n are really the same bikes except for the larger bore. Suspension, materials, equipment are all the same, just some minor aesthetic differences. If the 883 can make money at $8K why could the 1200 not as well? It cant cost any more to make a 1200, if it does I would be surprised. I don't think getting the 1200 down to 8k is the problem, I just don't think there is as much room for the 883 to get cheaper until they get lean. Maybe just get rid of the 883 all together if enough space can not be made.

So I agree. The 650 would have to desirable and not just the cheap HD. I beleive a little Street Tracker could accomplish that and be a good Riders Edge bike (400lbs).


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 6 years ago from Toronto Author

Well, let's look at a Hyundai Accent vs the FX. It has way more bits and bobs on the engine (and twice the cylinders), water cooling, four wheels, twice the suspension (and more complex), far more involved drivetrain, plus well over a thousand pounds of metal, plastic, cloth, glass, etc. Damn it, Hyundai sure isn't losing money on selling it at $9999!

The actual factory cost difference between two identical Sporties of the two displacements is effectively zero. Maybe five bucks for the extra metal in the pistons. Big deal.

The 650 XL has to be as identical to the 883 as the 883 is to the 1200. Just sleeve the 883 down and let it rip.

You're completely right. HD got fat and sloppy. And the reason why I'm so damn irate about it is that due to their laziness and stupidity they are truly risking torpedoing the entire company. Yes, Virginia, there may be no HD this Xmas.


Neognosis 6 years ago

I have an idea! Why doesn't Mercedes come out with a four cylinder model with plasic parts, no carpeting inside, and make it in only two colors. And price it at 9,999 to compete with the the Hyundai.

Oh, wait, that would damage the mercedes brand and the people who can afford the expensive mercedes will not really want one anymore.

Aren't Hyundai's made in Korea?

If you want a cheap bike, buy a cheap bike. But it won't be american. If you want a bike made by americans, you have to pay. Because american labor is not cheap. In my mind, 8K is not an outrageous sum to pay for an american made motorcycle with a displacement of nearly 900 CCs.

If you are so convinced that there is such a great market for cheap american made bikes, why aren't you securing a business loan and starting an americna company that makes cheap bikes for around 5K? That way, you can attract the market you think is untapped by harley, and harley can further their brand reputation of being "the dream motorcycle" that people envy and lust after and pay a lot of money for. You can be the motorcycle version of Hyundai and Harley can keep being the Mercedes version of motorcycles.

There is a reason that car companies start another brand when they want to market cheap cars. Did you never take even a single marketing class in college?


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 6 years ago from Toronto Author

Wow, Neo. How dense are you? Or is it because you're an HD Exec? Actually the latter might explain it. Let me outline it for you in basic language that even you can understand: HD is on the verge of bankruptcy because they've been catering to the Mercedes demographic to the point of excluding the vast lower end market and thus bleeding to death. You AND the HD execs just don't have a clue, do you? I guess neither one of you will understand until the doors of the factories close.


Penectomy 6 years ago

Just to be Devils advocate...

Harley could be the Lexus of Motorcycles circa 1992....

Same as the Mercedes but half the price! I don't think lowering the price is a bad thing. I believe it would be a very good move in many ways. From my previous comments on the 883n hub you may know that I disagree there, but this actually makes sense. Hal, may be out of touch with styling and colors, but I agree with his market positioning.

FYI:

The Vrod dropped over $2K this year and now cost less than it did in 2002! - and since 2002 they gave it Brembos, ABS, a bigger engine(1130 to 1250), a bigger tire, a bigger fuel tank and painted it. So value has also increased. (Sadly it sells poorly)

The Wideglide dropped $3k from last year!

Maybe HD IS reducing price and has a similar vision as Hal? Don't be so quick to crap on his point.

Also, look no further than Triumph, those guys price aggressively and STILL maintain a premium image. Triumph is the brand to watch - they could steal HD customers very quickly. They don't carry the stigma of the big 4 and maintain brand cache.


Neognosis 6 years ago

By "dense," do you mean "educated?"

Let me outline it for you: HD is not on the verge of bankruptcy.

HD still outsells all other cruiser brands COMBINED.

Harley simply is not a "lower end" bike.

Their strategy of attracting a new generation of riders with the dark custom line, starting with the well-priced Iron 883, seems to be working.

I'm sorry you don't like the look, but younger riders in the target demographic sure do.

Do you have a target date of when the prophetic "the doors of the factory close" will happen? Give us a year, give or take, so we will know when we can expect you to concede that you were mistaken.

Sales are down all over. Cheap bikes do still sell well, however. But that's not HD's business. I think, as apparently do the marketing professionals that work for Harley (it's not their execs, they hire a team to market for them)that it will bode better for HD to weather the current economic storm and emerge badly damaged, but still with a reputation as a premium mark, rather than to destroy the mark's reputation with cheap bikes.

But only time will tell. if HD goes under and goes out of business in the next 5 years, I'll gladly admit that they, and I, were wrong. Do you posess the fortitude and integrity to do the same?


Neognosis 6 years ago

What say you all about the chrome yellow color they replaces silver denim with on the Iron 883? Is it just me, or do the 2011 colors seem sort of... weird?


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 6 years ago from Toronto Author

Pene: HD is in panic mode because they're seeing Chapter 11 approaching inexorably and they're slicing prices, but on the wrong bikes. They have no concept whatsoever that their only salvation lies in cranking out several hundred thousand lower end reasonably priced bikes. Totally clueless management.

Neo: HD shipments for the first six months of 2010 dropped more than 15 percent from 2009 which was a disaster year. Who cares if you're beating the competition in a particular niche? They have enormous bike ranges to keep them alive, HD is just living on cruisers. They are vacillating on shutting down the Milwaukee plant, they killed Buell and are giving away MV, and they are on their last legs unless something is done QUICK. Unless they do a 180 they will not be around in 5 years, and you can admit whatever then. Yes, I hate most of the 2011 colors right across the range. 2 out of 3 of the SuperLow's are SuperCrap.


Neognosis 6 years ago

Riiighhttt... the people who built the brand, refined and exploited the image, and who do this for a living don't have any clue.. but you know what to do?

Again, why don't you start a cheap american bike company if there's so much money to be made and you have so much industry experience and know-how?

Ok, if you are still alive in 5 years, we will expect a concession speech if harley is still around without having to have resorted to the strategy you outlined.

BTW, "shipments" refers to what is shipped to dealers. Not what is sold. They cut back shipments to reflect the shrinking market due to economic forecasts. This has been their business model for years, contrary to flooding the market with cheap bikes, as you suggest.


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 6 years ago from Toronto Author

I don't like the "if you are still alive in 5 years" comment, dude. I know where you can stick your life expectancy forecasts. Now you really take a hike. Bye.


Skema Rangkaian 6 years ago

very cool motorcycle...


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Hal Licino 6 years ago from Toronto Author

Yeah, if you leave it in a snowdrift... then it would look like a frozen piece of coal. :)


Penectomy 6 years ago

Hi Hal,

What do you think of this idea from the MoCo? Sportsters built to order? No mention of price but I have heard rumors of an across the line (XL)decrease (similar concept, but not equal value, to the Vrod $2K price decrease this year).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0QGJdwGO24&feature...

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