Harley-Davidson has been in the Malaysian news quite frequently lately. The legendary American brand sent a wave of shock throughout the industry when it announced its departure from long time partner Naza Prestige Bikes Sdn Bhd, in search of a new partner moving forward.
Rebranding itself from Harley-Davidson of Kuala Lumpur to Harley-Davidson of Petaling Jaya, the brand has since found a new partner and will be based at ‘The Gasket Alley’, opposite of Jaya One.
Exciting times lay ahead for the brand with a brand spanking new showroom due to be officially opened in January, a RM1.5 million service facility capable of servicing up to six bikes at one time, and with a new team of talented industry insiders with decades of industry experience.
We were recently invited to a chat with Johan Kleinsteuber (pictured above), the Singapore-based Managing Director of Harley-Davidson of Asia Emerging Markets. Not ones to turn down a good conversation about bikes, we found ourselves in a meeting room at The Gasket Alley with Johan and his colleagues from Singapore.
We had 10 questions for Johan and he answered them all, and was eager to share his plans for Malaysia, on engaging owners of grey market bikes which has always been a neglected segment of Harley owners for many years, and even on whether or not we will ever see a new Harley-Davidson for below RM50,000. Below are some excerpts from the conversation:
On why a new dealership was needed for Malaysia:
“We made a decision to take a new approach in Malaysia, driven by Harley Davidson’s strategy to grow ridership primarily through our existing customer base as well as reaching out to new customer segments. And we decided to refresh the network and appoint independently owned dealerships throughout the country, to enable us to serve our customers and to make our brand available to a wider segment. That is the idea behind it and is the way we operate in multiple countries, which means either single dealerships or potentially multiple dealerships are owned by separate dealerships.”
How will things change for Harley-Davidson in Malaysia?
“If you have read our 10 year strategy we have big plans rolling out in the next 10 years. We will be launching 100 new products throughout the world. We are planning to grow our international volume by 50%. As such we need to look into network expansion in order to make the brand more accessible and to go to the customers where we think they are. Malaysia, in the Asian context, plays an important part in this equation for Harley-Davidson.”
“We have been in Malaysia since 2008, we have built a very dedicated following of Harley-Davidson riders, and the brand is extremely popular in Malaysia and from what I see, the brand is one of the most popular ones in the region, and we want to capitalise on this by reaching out to our customers and giving them access to the brand and the lifestyle that is associated with the brand and its products.”
On what Harley-Davidson owners can look forward to in the next 2-3 years?
“It is obviously a very exciting time in Malaysia as we grow the network. You know the new facility in Petaling Jaya. We will start service operations in Malaysia this weekend. Harley-Davidson owners will be able to service their bikes here (at the service centre at The Gasket Alley) beginning this weekend. There are trained and dedicated service staff here to address any concerns or any issues that customers may have with their bikes. So we are looking forward to that, and our plans are to grow the network next year, so we are looking at two additional dealerships, one in Penang and one in Malacca. We will continue to assess where there are opportunities in order to reach out to customers. Not to speak of any specific locations, but there is ongoing business case work and as and when we see there is an opportunity, we will then start work. And coupled with the new products we are launching, the MY18 Softail and the CVO’s, I can only recommend the new range of Softail’s, it is a fantastic range of products and extremely well received. I just came from the Bangkok Motor Expo and we had a successful launch there too, we are very excited about that. As and when we offer new products, new locations, we will reach out to as many people as we can and introduce them to the lifestyle, the HOG community, participate in events and that will all happen soon.”
Will Malaysians get the full range of Harley-Davidson models?
“We are looking into bringing in the full range of models beginning with the MY18 Softails and CVO bikes. The plan is to make the full product range accessible to the market. I believe from a model specific perspective it is more about customer demand, we will give the customers what they want.”
On how aftersales service will be improved and engaging owners of grey import and second hand bikes:
“What I can say is that the owners (of grey market bikes) should approach the dealership to see whether there is an opportunity for them to service their bikes here. Personally I will encourage grey market owners to visit authorised workshops. I am a rider myself and I will always want my bike to be in the best condition possible because at the end of the day it is also about safety. Our dealership staff are all fully trained. They have gone through the whole training process and attended the Harley-Davidson university in Bangkok, so they can be assured of the highest level of service quality. Ultimately this is what we want to bring to our customers, to be part of the whole ownership experience.”
On customisation of Harley-Davidson and whether the full range of options will be available:
“We have a catalogue of 10,000 different parts and accessories for our bikes. Our intention is to give the customers the full range of products. I believe the best thing is for the customers to approach the dealer to get any specific part and be able to customise the bike as they want to. At the end of the day a Harley is a reflection of your personality and that is something we obviously encourage.”
Supporting the Harley Owners Group and what will be different from the past:
“Since Sept 22 of this year all HOG chapters in Malaysia are supported by the brand out of HQ. As we open more dealerships we will tackle and address these issues and see how we can reach a proper agreement on chapters. That is on going work.”
Will we ever see a sub-RM50,000 Harley-Davidson in the near future?
“We are in the process of building an assembly facility in Rayong, Thailand and will be operational by the end of 2018. A plant such as that gives us the opportunity to make the brand more accessible throughout the Asian region and to a wider range of customers. Asia in general has a burgeoning middle class with disposable income, it is a good opportunity for Harley-Davidson.”
“Specifically for a sub-RM50,000 bike or what model range it is, we are still working through the demand plans and looking at all scenarios. So at this stage it is still too early to tell. However, the Street 750 and the Street Rod will continue to be assembled in India.”
What is the one thing that will change for Harley-Davidson in Malaysia?
“We had a 10 year partnership with Naza and we thank them for the commitment to making Harley Davidson brand accessible in Malaysia. Going forward we believe we have an opportunity to make the brand even more accessible to consumers in Malaysia. And really carry the brand lifestyle into more segments that are currently not associated with Harley Davidson. Ultimately the key goal is to make the brand more accessible and increase ridership. We want to welcome everyone who want to be part of the lifestyle. Whether it is through events or general merchandise or whether it is through motorcycles. In that sense, Harley Davidson has a lot to offer to everyone. We want that to be accessible. If there is one thing that will change for Harley-Davidson in Malaysia, it is accessibility and a high level of engagement towards Malaysian customers.”
A message for Harley-Davidson owners in Malaysia:
“To Harley Davidson owners and future owners, stay tuned we have great plans for Malaysia and we hope to see you all in our dealerships and in upcoming dealerships. Hope to welcome you there.”