Harley Davidson's Outrageous Pricing Ripoffs
A 105th Anniversary FXD might cost Harley $200-$300 more to build. How can they charge $5,625 extra?
Even though I consider myself a dyed in the wool Harley rider I am far from being a monopolist. My lifetime list of motorcycles owned breaks down like this (in order of brand and displacement):
Harley Davidson: XLH1000, FLH1200, FXD
Honda: Minitrail, CT70, Stepthru 90, CB100, CR250, CB350 Four, CB550F, XR650, CB650 Nighthawk, CX650 Turbo, CB750 Nighthawk, Gold Wing Aspencade
Kawasaki: KLR650 Tengai, 900 Eliminator, 1300 Voyager 6
Suzuki: Katana, GSX550, DR650, 650 Savage, GS850 Tourer, GSX1100
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Yamaha: RD200, XT500, TT500, SR500, XJ550 Seca, XS650, XJ650 Maxim, 650 Turbo, XS750 Tourer, XJ900 Seca, XS1100 Tourer, FJ1100
These are the bikes I've actually had the pink slip to in my name. If we add on all the motorcycles I've tested over the years for various magazines, then the number goes up into the several hundred. And these tests were not just "kick 'er over and ride around the block" but included several long term tests of over 10,000 miles each. And let's not even discuss the bikes I've raced on track and off road. And mostly crashed...
Therefore to say that I have supremely well-formed calluses on my butt would be an understatement. Now there's a mental image for you! Hope you didn't just hork up your breakfast!
You might also be surprised to learn that the top three all time favorites among my own bikes are: #1) Honda CB350 Four, #2) Yamaha XT500 and #3) Harley XLH1000. My own beloved current FXD doesn't even make the top three. Boohoo.
I am also not at all blind to the fact that to put the name Harley-Davidson outside your Milwaukee or York building allows you to have a license to print money. Harley Davidson's pricing policies have been out of whack since the AMF years and have not really reflected production reality ever since. They justify it by the fact that you're really paying for the name on the tank, and I will certainly grant them that. However, when you look past the hype you find outrageous differences in price right within their own product line.
In anaylizing the 2008 model lineup and pricing structure we find some truly jaw-dropping numbers. First of all, the $6,695 XL883 remains the big bargoon in the Harley stable. Competing in a price category with a bunch of bland commuter bikes, the base Sporty is the cheapest way to get into H.O.G. and many argue the best. Why spend up to three times as much to get (to the uninitiated) more or less the same bike? Especially when after a weekend of savvy mechanical massaging, that "little" 883cc engine can blow away any 2008 Harley box stockers at the quarter mile?
To really get perspective on what a great deal the XL883 is, consider that the Harley's base price is exactly $2,100 cheaper than a Suzuki Burgman 650 Executive. That's a flippin' scooter fer cryin' out loud!!!
So we see that when it wants to, Harley can market a motorcycle which offers superlative value for the dollar. Unfortunately it runs the other way too. Most Harleys are ridiculously overpriced.
Let's consider the typical Harley hype of "Special Editions." Harley has more Special Edition than CNN on a hot news day. What a Harley Special Edition usually consists of is a new paint job, a couple of fancy insets and a whallop at the price tag.
When we look at the 2008 Harley lineup we see two models that just beg to be compared to one another. The FXD Dyna SuperGlide and the FXDWG Dyna WideGlide 105th Anniversary Edition. These motorcycles are pretty well identical in most respects. Let's look at how they differ from one another.
The 105th Anni has a 0.3 Gallon larger tank with speedo, plus a little bit of extra chrome, a touch higher handlebars, a different headlight, a little pad they call a passenger seat, wider muffler ends, smaller air cleaner cover, a little brown scoopythingy in front of the engine, and cast wheels that are a bit different. Oh yeah. And the paint job. Let's not forget the paint job. But that's it. Everything else is absolutely identical in the things that really matter: Engine, Gearbox, Suspension and the Frame.
Don't think that Harley builds an FXD, then takes all the pieces off that it has to in order for it to become a 105th Anni and throws all those bits away, like a corner garage customizer would have to. They build these bikes on an assembly line. When the 105th Anni comes down the line, the assembler just reaches for a different set of handlebars, tank, etc. Therefore when we look at the actual out-of-pocket-to-Harley differential of the bits and pieces that differ on a 105th Anni from the basic FXD, we'd be hard pressed to allow for a couple of hundred bucks, tops.
In that case, can anyone legitimately justify that the 105th Anni costs $5,625 more than the FXD's MSRP of $11,995? Or that I know of several dealerships you can walk into today with cash and a hardass attitude and ride away on a 2008 FXD at $10,500? However, those same dealers wouldn't take a penny off the 105th Anni's price as it's a "Special Edition!" Heck, some of them might even jack the price of the 105th Anni up well past the MSRP. And the truly astounding thing is that they will actually get it! Some stockbroker or daddy's boy is actually going to plunk down nearly $18,000 and ride away.
As for me, I'd take the money that Harley wants for a 105th Anni and I'd go to one of these dealers and get myself a 2008 FXD, and add on a 2008 XL883 just for fun. I'd still have about enough money left over to buy a new Dell PC with 17" flatpanel.
Should it be Shame On You Harley, or would it be better to say Shame On The Suckers Who Pay Those Ridiculous Prices?