Harley-Davidson’s Generic & Intensive Growth Strategies

Harley-Davidson generic strategy for competitive advantage, intensive growth strategies, strategic objectives, Porter’s, motorcycles, case study analysis
A Harley-Davidson motorcycle in the Netherlands. Harley-Davidson’s generic strategy (Porter’s model) and intensive growth strategies support competitive advantage and business resilience. (Photo: Public Domain)

Harley-Davidson, Inc. is one of the most prominent motorcycle manufacturers in the world. The company achieved this market position through its generic strategy for competitive advantage and its intensive strategies for growth. Harley-Davidson’s generic competitive strategy (based on Michael Porter’s model) pushes for product innovation. The company uses its innovation processes to ensure competitiveness against other popular motorcycle manufacturers. Also, Harley-Davidson’s intensive growth strategies indicate product innovation along with increased reach in the global motorcycle market. However, the company could benefit from some adjustments in its intensive growth strategies. Harley-Davidson’s generic strategy for competitive advantage and intensive growth strategies are supportive of resilience in the face of market fluctuations.

Harley-Davidson’s generic competitive strategy (Porter’s model) reflects unique product features as a main selling point of the business. The intensive strategies facilitate potential growth for Harley-Davidson through appropriate strategic objectives.

Harley-Davidson’s Generic Strategy (Porter’s Model)

As the fifth largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, Harley-Davidson has used its generic strategy to ensure competitive advantage for this market position. A combination of generic competitive strategies are applied in Harley-Davidson’s business, as follows:

  1. Differentiation Generic Strategy
  2. Focus Generic Strategy

Harley-Davidson applies differentiation as its main generic strategy for competitive advantage. Unique product features are the main point in this generic strategy. For example, Harley-Davidson popularized the chopper motorcycle style through unique customization. However, the company also uses the focus generic strategy in combination with differentiation. The focus generic strategy supports competitive advantage by increasing Harley-Davidson’s customer base in certain market segments. For example, the company focuses on motorcycle enthusiasts, especially those who are interested in the chopper biking culture. A strategic objective linked to the differentiation generic strategy is to build Harley-Davidson’s competitive advantage based on unique product innovation. In relation, the focus differentiation strategy leads to the strategic objective of strengthening the chopper biker culture that enables Harley-Davidson’s competitive advantage in this market segment.

Harley-Davidson’s Intensive Strategies (Intensive Growth Strategies)

Market Penetration. Harley-Davidson’s primary intensive growth strategy is market penetration. The company grows by using this intensive strategy in reaching more customers in its current markets, such as the United States. For example, Harley-Davidson promotes and sells more products to new customers in America. This intensive strategy is the main approach that leads to the company’s continued growth. A strategic objective linked to market penetration is to increase Harley-Davidson’s sales network. Also, the differentiation generic strategy empowers Harley-Davidson to penetrate current markets.

Product Development. Product development used to be Harley-Davidson’s primary intensive strategy for business growth. Product innovation is the key point in this intensive strategy. For example, Harley-Davidson’s customization for the chopper motorcycle style attracts and retains customers. However, now that other motorcycle manufacturers have developed similar styles, Harley-Davidson now uses product development as an intensive growth strategy secondary to market penetration. A strategic objective linked to the product development intensive growth strategy is to increase research and development (R&D) investment that leads to highly competitive unique motorcycles. This intensive growth strategy supports Harley-Davidson’s mission and vision statements through value-added activities and expansion of the product mix. In relation, product development aligns with the differentiation generic competitive strategy.

Market Development. Harley-Davidson applies market development as a supporting intensive growth strategy. The company grows by applying this intensive strategy in entering new markets. For example, Harley-Davidson can establish new operations in more countries. At present, however, this intensive strategy has only a supporting role because the company limits its global expansion. A strategic objective based on this intensive growth strategy is to increase Harley-Davidson’s supplier network to support global expansion and growth. The company can use this intensive growth strategy to support the focus generic strategy for competitive advantage.

  • Gargasas, A., & Mugiene, I. (2012). Intensive growth strategy development trends in logistics services for agricultural organization providing companies. Management Theory and Studies for Rural Business and Infrastructure Development34(5), 47-53.
  • Harley-Davidson, Inc. (2016). About Harley-Davidson.
  • Harley-Davidson, Inc. Form 10-K, 2015.
  • Merchant, H. (2014). Configurations of governance structure, generic strategy, and firm size. Global Strategy Journal4(4), 292-309.
  • Miller, D. (1992). The generic strategy trap. Journal of Business Strategy13(1), 37-41.
  • Parnell, J. A. (1997). New evidence in the generic strategy and business performance debate: A research note. British Journal of Management8(2), 175-181.
  • Varadarajan, P., & Dillon, W. R. (1982). Intensive growth strategies: A closer examination. Journal of Business Research10(4), 503-522.