Selling a Harley-Davidson motorcycle is about more than just selling a bike, it’s about selling a lifestyle, says Steve Beattie, general manager of Harley-Davidson in the UAE.
With sales in the UAE expected to climb 35% in 2013 compared to last year, Beattie said demand for some high-end motorcycles is outpacing supply at his showroom in Dubai.
“This dealership is the top seller in the Middle East and one of the top 10 sellers in Europe/Middle East region. We are definitely seeing a positive trend,” he told AMEInfo.com.
Harley-Davidson has had a presence in Dubai since 1989, but is in the midst of a rapid expansion in the UAE with the opening of a large showroom in Abu Dhabi last October and launch of a new branch in Fujairah this summer. The Fujairah outlet will be more of a destination concept as it will have a café to attract bikers to ride there.
“We also have a boutique in Dubai Mall specifically for selling Harley Davidson clothes, and we are looking to develop that concept into Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Ras Al Kaimah, and Sharjah,” he noted.
Beattie said the upturn in the economy is helping to boost sales of Harley motorbikes, which start at about Dhs37,000 and top out at around Dhs190,000. “For most of our buyers our bikes are aspirational toys. By that I mean, no one needs to own a Harley Davidson, it’s something you do when you have the money to spend and you want to get into that lifestyle,” he noted.
For many owners in Dubai the lifestyle includes joining the Harley Owners Group (HOGs), which has about 370 members, of which about 10% are women.
“As a chapter we ride every Friday morning, and we’ll have between 40-70 riders in a pack. We also ride every Tuesday night and have regular ride-outs and weekends away. So a lot of our riders use it as a release from their normal day-to-day business pressures. Because when you’re riding the bike, there’s only one thing you can think about, and that’s riding the bike,” he said.
Among the challenges of selling Harleys in the UAE are the hot climate, concerns about safety, and the complexities that potential buyers face in getting a motorcycle license as compared to other Western countries. “Once you have a license we provide a lot of rider training because riding in the Middle East is different, there are challenges as there is a lot less awareness on the roads. Most drivers consider bikers to be like the courier riders. The bigger bikes are more visible and a bit louder which helps to create that awareness on the road. But it’s no less safe here than it is anywhere else in the world provided you are more aware,” he said.
There are also challenges in overcoming the perception among some people that Harley-Davidson is an outlaw, weekend-warrior type brand. “In actual fact, our HOG chapters are all about family, fun, and safety, and we do a lot of work for charity. So while there is almost a fear element of a big guy in leather, our typical demographic is a 45-year old doctor,” Beattie said.