Take a Ford F-150 and sprinkle the ageless Harley-Davidson name on the sides of the truck, the hubcaps and throughout the truck's jet black leather interior. Top it off with a Harleyesque sleek orange pinstripe and a dual-outlet muffler with chrome slash-cut tips, and what do you get?
A brand-new, 'built in Detroit, dressed in Milwaukee' Harley-Davidson F-150, due in Ford dealerships in spring.
The truck is a product of the five-year agreement between Ford Motor Co. and Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson Motor Co. that began in March 1999 - a campaign designed to strengthen the already thriving F-150 brand and make Ford a bigger player in the accessories market.
Bob Masone, Ford Division's F-150 brand manager, describes the partnership as a 'deep multidimensional relationship that benefits both Harley-Davidson and Ford in many ways.' It's not just dollar signs that bind the companies, says Masone; it's a mutual contribution of teaching, technique and brand recognition.
Jim Schroer, vice president of global marketing at Ford Motor Co., says Ford is paying Harley somewhere in the 'single-digit millions' for using the Harley name. Masone says 'the payoff for Ford is that we are able to develop a truck that customers are crazy about, while working with a great company.'
Ford said that it will make fewer than 10,000 of the special-edition trucks, and that dealers have already ordered all of them. But the company sees benefits that go far beyond those 10,000 sales.
Masone says Harley is impressive in the areas of customer satisfaction and loyalty. The company dominates the U.S. heavyweight motorcycle industry with a 47 percent market share, and 44 percent of the company's $2.6 billion in 1998 sales came from repeat buyers.
Masone says Ford can learn from Harley's management style. 'Harley-Davidson's highest level of management gets out and goes to the Harley events. They get a visceral experience of what is going on at the consumer level. To be honest, that is something we need to do more of.'
Masone also sees 'significant activity happening on an accessories and merchandise front,' another area where Harley thrives. 'The consumers who won't have access to (the Harley-edition F-150) will be able to dress up their own trucks with exclusive bed liners, bug shields, or running boards with the Harley-Davidson brand, and we will be the sole licensing automotive partner with Harley-Davidson.' The accessories will be available only through Ford.
The automaker also has begun sponsoring events such as Harley's 'Love Ride' in Glendale, Calif., an annual event for cycle enthusiasts that raises millions for charity. At the November 1999 rally, a pre-production version of the Harley Davidson F-150 was on display and given away as the top prize in a raffle drawing.
Ford also has splashed its name on the Harley-Davidson Superbike racing program in the American Motorcyclist Association racing series. Jim O'Connor, president of Ford Division, says the sponsorship 'is a logical step for us given our strong commitment to other race series around the world. For the future, we are working on a number of great projects that will benefit both companies and emphasize the strong links between Harley-Davidson and pickup truck buyers.'