A Harley Davidson dealer in Delhi shares his anxiety over the US luxury motor company's sudden exit from India

A Harley Davidson dealer in Delhi shares his anxiety over the US luxury motor company's sudden exit from India
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  • Gaurav Gulati, the owner of the biggest Harley Davidson showroom in Delhi, told Business Insider that dealers never imagined something like this coming their way; and Harley’s exit has left all of them in a lurch.
  • The Harley dealers association revealed that many are reaching out for servicing requirements that they are unable to handle as the brand has stopped supplying spare parts.
  • The American motorcycle manufacturer on September 24 announced that it would shut down the manufacturing facility in Bawal and significantly reduce the size of its sales office in Gurgaon as part of its planned restructuring.
After years of mounting losses, Harley-Davidson's exit from India has turned out to be a nightmare for its dealers. Despite the red flags and rumours in the market, the dealers never imagined something like this coming their way, and this move has left all of them in a lurch. While Harley has tied up with India’s largest two-wheeler maker, Hero MotoCorp, to sell its bikes in India, there is still a lot of uncertainty that both dealers and customers face.

"The impact is as bad as probably you had a bad dream. You were sleeping on a plush bed in a plush environment, and suddenly you were seen on the road," Gaurav Gulati told Business Insider, while sharing his 10-years journey from a Harley rider to the owner of the biggest Harley Davidson showroom in Delhi.

Earlier in August 2020, when the media reports surfaced about Harley's exit plan, the dealer committee did bring it up with the company. Still they refuted reports saying "it's all speculation and there's nothing firm," he added.

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In fact, the dealers association for Harley revealed to Business Insider that the brand had asked many of its dealers to make room for the new stock in September, just before announcing the formal exit.

“The brand kept on promising a growth mode that would include the introduction of a new smaller segment of bikes and several methods to improve our sales and for dealers to make profit finally. Instead, the company decided to exit India and has left us in the lurch. We are now left with uncertainty about the fate of our investments and future business outlooks”, it said.

Dealers and customers stuck in a limbo

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The dealers who had months of inventory lying with them haven’t sold a bike since then as customers are uncertain about the servicing and amenities available to them after Harley completes its exit from India.

Gulati is one of those dealers — “I haven’t sold even a bike since the beginning of October.” Although there are a series of enquiries coming their way, no one is buying it, he said.

Not just dealers, Harley’s customers in India are also facing troubles. The dealers association revealed that many were reaching out for servicing requirements that they are unable to handle as the brand has stopped supplying spare parts.

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“We as dealers are responsible towards our customers, but since the brand has not been communicating with us, we don’t know how to respond to the customer’s questions about their investments,” it said.

Harley is offering ‘undervalued compensation’ for years of losses

The biggest grouse that dealers are putting forth is around compensation. There has been no official word on this front, but in an informal meeting held post the exit announcement, Harley did offer a compensatory amount.

But the dealers believe that the ‘undervalued compensation’ is not even a fraction of losses that they have borne over the past years. The association is ‘thoroughly disappointed’ with these terms and feels that ‘the brand has let us down by not valuing an integral part of its brotherhood.’
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According to Gulati over the period of time investment with recurring losses will be around ₹12-14 crores for his “only showroom”. And, Harley has nearly 35 dealerships just in India.

What’s next?

The Harley-Davidson’s dealers association is looking at taking legal action against the US cult bike manufacturer, over measly compensation. “We are currently seeking the legal opinion of our advisors, AZB & Partners. Dealer paperwork is being reviewed to help us arrive at the best legal remedy to be adopted,” the association told Business Insider.

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The Hero-Harley tie-up may bring in some solutions for Harley riders, but it will not compensate the dealer losses accrued due to their abrupt ill-planned exit, the association added.

The American motorcycle manufacturer on September 24 announced that it would shut down the manufacturing facility in Bawal and significantly reduce the size of its sales office in Gurgaon as part of its planned restructuring. The move came after COVID-19 dented the company’s profit due to poor sales forcing the bike maker to exit the Indian market.

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