NEW DELHI: The biggest brand ambassadors of Harley-Davidson in India will on Sunday ride out in protest against the company’s decision to pull out from the country. The multi-city rally has been named ‘Dark Ride’ and will have 1,000 members of HOG, or Harley Owners Group, and many of the 30-odd dealers of the iconic American brand in India.
HOG is easily one of the most recognisable motorcycling marketing initiatives globally that gives owners a common platform to ride, bond and explore as one large Harley family. But as the company is shutting down its factories in India and transitioning into a partnership with Hero MotoCorp, both riders and dealers are worried.
While bike owners are concerned about the availability of spares and servicing, dealers are unsure about their future as their investments worth crores of rupees are at risk of going waste if Hero doesn’t support them, or Harley refuses a “credible severance package”.
Organisers say Sunday’s protest rally will be held in Delhi, Gurgaon, Indore, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Kolkata, Guwahati, Ludhiana, Chandigarh, Raipur, and Jaipur.
Ajay Tiwari, a businessman from Bhopal who has spent over Rs 30 lakh on his Harley Heritage Softail model, says there has been a shortage of parts over the past six months. “I suspect this is because the winding-up process might have started earlier. I am really unsure of whether to keep my bike or sell it now – which I suspect will fetch me peanuts.”
The company has sent an assurance email to all the customers, but many of them are unsatisfied and say they “feel cheated” by Harley’s decision to quit solo operations.
“Harley is passing the brand to Hero which has a different biking culture. It’s …a huge disappointment,” said Delhi-based businessman and rider Harveen Bali.
Surbhi Manocha, a Bhopal-based professional who has a Harley Street 750 (entry model in India), said she will miss the camaraderie that Harley riders share with each other if the dealership shuts down. “On Sunday, we will ride and also talk about our protest across social media platforms.” Dealers are angry too. Many are calling it a “serious breach of trust and betrayal”.
Harley is understood to be paying the dealers a compensation of Rs 1,500 per square feet of their showroom and service area (minus depreciation), apart from three months of margin money to those who are joining Hero, or six months to those who are not. Harley hasn’t answered a list of questions put to them by TOI.