Why Is Harley So Shy to Advertise the Street 500?

It was only during the last fortnight or so when this rather natural question came to my mind: why is Harley so shy in advertising their smallest motorcycle, the Street 500? I mean, there is a lot of hype around its bigger sibling, the Street 750, and looking back we see that… there actually isn’t too much to see when it comes to the half-liter liquid-cooled twin.
Both bikes have been introduced with quite a lot of clamor back in 2013 and Harley insisted in telling everyone how they will revolutionize the whole segment. Truth is, the two Street bikes are indeed something new for Harley, as they represent the first truly new machines the bar and shield company delivers in quite a long period of time.

The engine was even baptized Revolution X to stress out the novelty factor, and to show that Harley can still make interesting moves in the liquid-cooled power plant department. Both bikes technically share the same engine, but Street 500 uses a narrower bore, hence the smaller displacement. Still, the Street 750 gets all the fame, whereas the 500 model is slowly fading away in the shade.

I was expecting to see the Street 500 showcased at all the shows Harley attended, but it wasn’t meant to be. If I was a bit more paranoid I’d even say Harley is more like trying to hide the Street 500. Why this is happening is still a mystery, but maybe asking this question publicly would reveal more hidden info in this matter.

Street 750 and 500 have been created because Harley seems to have understood that the huge inertia and conservative character of the brand are in a way deterring younger customers, alongside with the very high price tags. It was more than once when journalists around the world observed that H-D’s demographic is slowly dwindling, as Harley is perceived to be more and more a bike for mid-life or even older customers.

Milwaukee machines still account for around half of the total number of bikes sold in the US each year, but this fact is not reversing or improving the demographic changes. Harley has, of course, figured out that something new, affordable and still all-Harley was needed, hence the Street bikes. I was maybe expecting too much from a bike which was just not going to be as much Harley as the rest of Milwaukee machines… but even so, having these low-priced, smaller-displacement machines strongly and aggressively advertised seemed like a good way to kickstart desire in this new field.

The bigger of the two Street sisters got plenty of exposure, and Harley even started to make very cool commercials for it. Last week I wrote a short article on a very nice Street 750 commercial and how H-D seems to become even better at the “sell that mojo” game. I am still expecting to see the same happening for the Street 500, but I guess it’s not going to be.

Bike designers have used the Street 750 platform as a basis for interesting concepts such as a flat tracker, or even a full-fledged bagger, but this popularity did not spread to the small bike.

I spent some time today switching countries on the H-D website and seeing that the Street 500 was only available in few countries was truly disappointing. Honestly, making inroads in new markets and alluring more young customers whose limited financial resources make the Street 500 the perfect choice, and one of the pivotal models for reshaping the customer pool. Some say that people who buy a Harley seldom opt for other brands in the future. So having the Street 500 as the first Harley for as many customers as possible would have been an ideal “hook”… but it’s not happening.

It may be a little bit too soon to say that Harley-Davidson seems to have ditched the Street 500, and I might even be wrong anticipating this, but as things look now, the future of this model is rather… modest. A bike which is not advertised properly will not sell, and models which don’t sell well get ditched.

An iconic manufacturer as it may be, we must not forget that Harley-Davidson is a corporation and corporations have to keep stockholders happy. Bikes which don’t sell are definitely not making stake holders happy, and if things don’t change, we might have to wave the small Street good-bye. Or maybe it will not be ditched completely, but maintained as a “last resort option” for riders in emerging markets and poor countries who desperately want a chunk of H-D-branded metal.

I don’t know exactly why, but to me these two bikes seem to have sort of missed the target, or at least missed hitting the bull’s eye as Milwaukee most likely hoped they would. Diehard H-D fans are not even considering the Street bikes as being authentic Harley and it looks like they’re even very vocal on the matter when it is brought into the discussion. I happened to hear a guy say something like “I wound not recommend getting one of those bikes to a new rider.”

Have your say, maybe we’ll find out more about the future of the Harley Street 500…
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