Motorcycles first appeared in 1885. The authors of this type of transport were Germans Daimler and Maybach. Not surprisingly, at the beginning of the last century, the main production was concentrated in the Old World. In America, this industry was in its infancy.
In 1903, the brothers Walter and Arthur Davidson, along with William Harley, assembled their first motorcycle. I must say that in the country they were not the first creators of the new transport. For example, founded in 1901, “Indian motorcycle company” for a long time became the main competitor for the firm “Harley-Davidson”.
Initially, its products were not much different from analogues. In fact, the first motorcycle was then a normal bicycle, which had a single-cylinder engine. He used the leather belt to drive the rear wheel. There were also pedals and chains usual for a bicycle with which help it was possible to disperse means to necessary speed or to help with lifting uphill. The first engine had a volume of 165 cubic centimeters and was like all existing analogs.
The motorcycle parts were made by hand. That device moved at a speed of 7-8 km / h, which was comparable to fast walking. The second model was already assembled on the basis of a more powerful engine, and it went on sale. The “real” motorcycle weighed about 13 kilograms and had a 405cc engine. Work on the creation of the first models was conducted in a shed in the courtyard of the Davidson house. But most of the team made the team from the railway workshops.
In its first year, the company produced only three motorcycles, and in 1904 it was eight. In 1905 – 16, and in 1906 – already 50. In January 1905, and the first advertisement came out, reporting the start of sales of first engines, and then of motorcycles. In 1906, the first Harley and Davidson factory began operating on Avenue Street. It was a wooden building measuring 12 by 18 meters.
If the first models were exceptionally black, then a variant with a gray color appeared later. Thanks to this color scheme and low noise of engines, bikers even nicknamed those motorcycles “a gray quiet friend.” However, the company sought to create a more powerful and powerful engine, which was the reason for the creation of the famous V-Twin with a power of 7 horsepower.
The fact is that in 1907 William Harley graduated as a mechanical engineer, which allowed him to do his favorite work better. The factory got the second floor, which allowed in 1907 to produce 150 motorcycles. The company managed to conclude an agreement with the local police, which allowed to increase volumes. Thanks to the new engine it was possible to reach a maximum speed of 97 km / h, and sales from 1908 to 1909 grew from 450 to 1150 pieces.
The new Harley had vacuum valves, a belt drive was used, which made it different from its counterparts. And although the obvious defects led to a rapid abandonment of the model, the layout of the V-Twin itself was used again in 1911. This time the device received also mechanical control of the valves and the use of a chain calibrator. Technology began to develop, as early as 1912 the company introduced its first version of the gearbox. In 1913, a chain transmission was developed, and the next year – two-speed. In 1912, the company increased the volume of its engines – from 812 “cubes” to 1000.
In 1913, a brick building, standing just three years, was demolished. Instead, it appeared already a luxurious five-story house made of red brick and reinforced concrete. By 1914, the company had bypassed its main rival, the “Indian”. In that year, 16284 Harley was released.
In 1916, the first documented use of motorcycles by the company occurred in hostilities. With the help of these two-wheeled vehicles, the Mexican insurgents carried out their raids on American cities. Local authorities, under the leadership of General Pershing, performed on Indian motorcycles.
During the First World War, the company received an official military order from the British Army – 500 motorcycles. After the entry into hostilities and America, the Harleys were also needed by the US military. By 1920, the company had become the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world. Its products were sold by dealers in 67 countries. In total, more than 28 thousand cars were produced annually. And in 1921, the racer Otto Walker on a motorcycle from Harley-Davidson won the race at an average speed of over 160 km / h.
In 1919, small “V-Twins” appeared on 578 cm³. And in 1921 there was also the famous 74th model with the engine capacity of 1200 cm³. The company has constantly improved the design of its engine, but it has not been possible to get rid of the typical problems for it – quick wear, constant clogging, difficulties with maintenance. But the competitors from the “Indian Motorcycle Company” at that time let out and less efficient engines, but worked to perfection. As a result, the management of Harley-Davidson realized that it’s time to create their own V-shaped motors with a longitudinal arrangement.
The first such Harley-Davidson motorcycles had a Flathead V-twin engine with a volume of 730 cm³. This motor became a real classic, released before 1973 on tricycles, military and even racing models. However, a successful engine appeared just before the Great Depression. During this period, the company’s sales fell by half, but it still managed to survive.
In the mid-1930s, when the economy stabilized, Harley-Davidson unexpectedly gained a winning position in the market. With a significant demand for motorcycles, there were practically no quality offers. The company quickly increased sales, not forgetting the development of new engines. As early as 1931 the development of Panhead began, which appeared only five years later.
Suddenly, the era of the founders of the company came to an abrupt end. In 1937, William Davidson died, and in 1942 his brother Walter died. In 1943, she did not become William Harley. In 1950, Arthur Davidson, the last of the founding fathers of the company, died in a car accident. We can say that this is the end of an important stage in the life of the famous brand. But in this difficult period the company did not flinch and continued the business started. True to the popularity of cult for American bikers series “K” and “KN” began to affect the British model, in abundance poured into the American market after the end of World War II.
In 1957, the light saw a new engine “V-Twin” with a volume of 883 cm³. The new motorcycle received a gearbox, advised with an engine. Such a block design became the basis of the famous “XL Sportster”, the racing leader of the next ten years. Since the 1950s, the brand’s fans have received an improved suspension, additional lights, an improved windshield. Since 1958, Harley-Davidson motorcycles have received an electric starter, which entailed the installation of a capacious battery and weight gain. As a result, in full equipment, motorcycles reached a mass of 360 kilograms.
And the competitors did not doze off. They thoroughly “bitten” the American giant with its cheap, but at the same time high-quality products. The Harley-Davidson brand was held in high esteem by the army, police, and a few fans. They, by the way, adored to improve the design of motorcycles. And in the 1960s the company significantly deteriorated its reputation. At one time, she generally imported into Italy Italian motorcycles.
In 1965, the private structure became a joint-stock company, and four years later it became a part of the American Machine Building and Steel Company. Many fans have not suffered such a loss of personality by their favorite brand.
But in the 1970s a new take-off of Harley-Davidson was celebrated. After the cult film “Easy Rider” with two choppers, the brands and shares of the company crawled upward, and the interest in “Harleys” revived in the society. In 1971, the model FX Super Glide came out, immediately became a hit. In the Glide family in five years, there were already 11 successful models.
Design and design achievements of the 70’s turned out to be relatively successful, but atypical for Harley-Davidson. It became clear that the new owners of AMF are developing the brand in the wrong direction. That was decided by Harley-Davidson’s board of directors to buy out its controlling interest, which happened in 1981. The brand regains its independence, it only remains to regain the dominant status.
The company immediately offered its customers for an additional fee several important innovations: a new engine layout, five-speed transmission, belt drives. Gradually, Harley-Davidson regains its cult status, its shares are constantly growing in price.
The marketing policy of the company is to create a community of loyal consumers to the brand. No wonder they say that Harley-Davidson is a lifestyle. The brand buyer realizes his long-standing dream of acquiring a beautiful and stylish device, reliable and with infrequent driving, and with rare maintenance.
Powerful and beautiful motorcycles are a symbol of a road open for travel and some introduction to the elite fraternity of motorcyclists. It is no coincidence that the models from Harley-Davidson constantly win in the nomination of the most economical and comfortable motorcycles. Today the company has a turnover of 5 billion dollars, of which 140 million – a net profit. Glory to the brand is forging more than 6,300 employees.