Harley-Davidson Motorcycles - Company History
The Harley-Davidson motorcycle manufacturer was founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin during the first decade of the 21st century and despite various trials and tribulations, it is still a hugely popular manufacturer of cult motorcycles made for cruising.
Their first engine conceived was by a 21 year old William S. Harley in 1901 who created a small 116 cc engine designed to be attached to the frame of a traditional motorcycle which he worked with his friend Arthur Davidson to "work". The only issue was that this contraption couldn't cope with the modest hills of Milwaukee and so they began work on the first true "Harley-Davidson" motorcycle which had a 405 cc engine.
Over the next few years they moved from offering engines to the do-it-yourself trade to selling complete motorcycles. By 1907 Harley had graduated from university with a degree in mechanical engineering and had expanded their small factory with another floor and were rapidly expanding - reaching 150 motorcycles in that year. And by 1913 they had expanded again by knocking down that factory and creating a new 5-story one and reached sales of 16,284 in 1914.
At that rate it didn't take them long to become the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, which they achieved in 1920 with 28,189 machines being produced and sold in 67 countries.
During the great depression their sales fell from 21,000 in 1929 to just 3,703 in 1933, however, they continued their innovation and developed other models, including the Flathead.
During the 1950's their reputation was tarnished, partly because they sought a 40% tax on imported motorcycles and were charged with restrictive practices, but also because the portrayal of their machines by Hollywood as machines for outlaw biker gangs.
In 1969 the company was bought by American Machinery and Foundry who revolutionised their working practices and staffing levels. The impact of this was the calling of a number of strikes and reduced product quality and the almost complete collapse of the company.
In 1981 the company was sold again to a group of thirteen investors who also revolutionised production methods and called for a 45% import duty on motorbikes over 700 cc - which President Reagan imposed in 1983.
Today there are a number of different model designations. For the Sportster variations (apart from the XR1000 and the XR1200) Harley-Davidson use the prefix XL such as the 1,100 cc XL 1100 and the 1,200 cc XL 1200, whilst there are model variations such as the 12000 cc XL XLH Sportster.
The Dyna model is an interesting one. It uses the big-twin engine which is denoted by the letter "F", small-diameter telescopic forms similar to those used on the Sportster which is denoted by "X" and the Dyna chassis (D) - so the Dyna models have the designations which begin with FXD such as the FXDL Dyna Low Rider, the FXDS Convertible and the FXDWG Dyna Wide Glide.
The Softail utilises the big-twin (F) and the Softail chassis (ST) and to create the FXST then other variations such as FXSTB Bad Boy, FXSTC Softail Custom, FXSTS Softail Springer and the FXWG Wide Glide.
Whilst the Harley-Davidson touring bikes were denoted by FL and there are good number of variations such as FLHR Electra Glide Road King, FLHR Road King and the FLHS Electra Glide Sport.
And then there are the Revolution models which begin with VR and then followed by letters which denote the model variation such as the VRSC V-Rod.
Harley-Davidson Motorcycles - Address
Oxford Business Park,
6000 Garsington Road,
Harley-Davidson Europe Limited - Financial Information
After a pre-tax loss of £8.169m in 2005, they made a very healthy £30.474m pre-tax profit in 2007.
Harley Davidson Motorcycles - Useful Resources
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