Those bulging and honking things that we call “trikes” seem to be the ace in the sleeve for the eternal US motorcycle company, who wants to tap into growing demand of car drivers who don’t ride two-wheelers.
The Milwaukee-based company counts the Asian country as its largest market outside the core region of North America and has started delivering the three-wheel Tri Glide this month to Japanese customers, at a starting price of 4 million yen ($39,000).
“It’s a relatively easy way into Harley-Davidson,” Stuart Farrell, head of the company’s operations in Japan, said in an interview in Tokyo. “You can park it next to a nice car and people will still look.”
According to the National Police Agency, in Japan the legislation regarding this type of motorized vehicle is very permissive, as riders don’t need a helmet, can use the highways, while the trike itself is classified as an automobile – which means anyone without a motorcycle permit can ride them.
While data from the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association say that two-wheeler sales have declined every year since 1986 through 2012, Harley-Davidson sales were up in 2013 by 1% to 10,642 units – the third annual increase.