The Harley-Davidson (Harley) Pan America adventure touring motorcycle seems to be earning the respect of many adventure riders. Media reviews of the bike and its specs/capabilities have been overall very positive. Its performance is up to par for machines in its class, and the bike’s pricing is also within category norms.
But some people have voiced concerns over how Harley may treat the Pan America in showrooms. Will it take a central role among Harley’s other core bikes? Or will it receive the “second-tier” treatment that many people say Buell motorcycles experienced?
Pan America treatment
So we reached out to one of our inmates who works at a Harley dealership. We asked Pfaff Harley-Davidson‘s sales Manager Alex Ulleri (Angry Phoenix), about the Pan America and how Harley intends to market and support the bike overall. Alex has very considerable dirt bike and ADV bike experience just recently parting with his KTM 790 Adventure R. That means that Alex is in the know about Harley’s cruiser machines as well as ADV bikes.
We first asked Alex whether he had ridden the new Pan America, and he said that he had not. As you already likely know, new bikes are just beginning to hit showroom floors now. So he has not yet had the opportunity to ride the machine.
Dealer truck loaded with Pan Americas and competitor machines
But Alex did point out the commitment that Harley is making to the bike. The MoCo is sending a truck loaded with Pan Americas and the competition’s machines, including BMW’s big GS, the Ducati Multistrada, the KTM 1290 Super Adventure R, and similar bikes to dealers.
The truck is touring North America and will offload all the bikes at dealerships so that their staff members can ride the Pan America as well as the competition’s machines. To me, that says a lot about Harley’s commitment to the Pan America and its confidence in its performance and capability. It seems the MoCo truly believes that the Pan America can legitimately compete with the big names in ADV motorcycling. So from the get-go, it seems that Harley wants its dealers and dealer associates to ride and understand the Pan America.
Training dealers on the Pan America and off-road
Even better, Harley is clearly committing to training its dealers about the Pan America. Months earlier, Harley set up an online learning center. The center contains 50 online modules that provide lots of information about the Pan America and the off-road and adventure categories.
Pan America technical topics
To ensure that its dealers participated in the center, it created a competition with prizes for dealers who complete the Pan America online learning center modules. While the competition is a nice touch, it’s the depth of the training that is the highlight.
Pan America specific modules include topics such as:
- Showing the Pan America’s strengths and the competition’s strengths, portraying all in a positive light.
- A comparison of the tech specs of the competitor’s machines versus those of the Pan America.
- Training on the technology found in the Pan America, such as the bike’s traction control, etc.
Training on ADV/Off-road
But what is really interesting about the learning center is its concentration on the ADV/off-road community. Harley’s training modules stress what the ADV/off-road community wants and enjoys. For example, the training includes modules that:
- Provide an overview of the ADV/off-road segment
- Encourage dealer staff members to receive ADV and off-road training
- Modules also encourage dealer staff members to research ADV-related topics, including ADV motorcycle models and the ADV aftermarket.
Concentration on the ADV/Off-road community
Perhaps even more interesting are the modules that concentrate on the ADV community. Harley’s training modules messaged the importance of understanding the ADV community at more than surface level. The training encourages dealers to join local ADV clubs and participate in forums like ADVrider to understand the community. They and even suggest that dealers purchase competitor machines and have staff members ride them to understand the capabilities and differences between the Pan America and the competition.
According to Alex, Harley is providing the most training he has ever seen, including the training for the LiveWire.
Of course, if the dealerships treat the Pan America and its clientele as second-class citizens, the bike will likely fail. But according to Alex, dealers will treat the Pan America as a valued and important Harley product. He said that he attended a 2-day online training session with dealer personnel from the US, Canada, and Europe. From his perspective, all of the participants were excited about the Pan America and asked intelligent questions.
However, Alex did say that not all dealerships are the same (as is the case with any motorcycle brand), and the reception the bike receives could vary by dealership. At the dealership where he works, both the owner and several employees want to buy a Pan America. And he adds that there are many dirt riders at his dealership and would guess that most dealerships will likely be similar.
Pan Americas in the dealership
Many have voiced concern that Harley’s core bikes will be front and center at dealerships while the Pan America languishes in some dark, dusty corner of the dealership. And they point to Buell as an example. So will the Pan America be receiving a similar treatment?
Not according to Alex. He says that the old guard of Harley dealerships is long gone. He’s been selling Harley’s for six years, and the dealership’s mindsets have changed. Harley wants the Pan America to be a key part of its motorcycle lineup.
To ensure this happens, Harley is sending dealers a Pan America-specific display fixture to showcase the new machine. Alex said that the display is “insanely well built.” It will house the Pan America and Harley-branded accessories for both the machine and Pan America riders. Each dealership will get one display stand, and Harley expects dealers to place it in a very conspicuous part of the sales floor.
Harley is serious about the Pan America and ADV community
Ultimately, Alex thinks that the Pan America will be a success at Harley dealerships. All of their initial allotment of five Pan Americas have already been sold. He hopes that current Harley owners will accept the new category of machines into the Harley ethos. From his perspective, Harley dealerships will push for togetherness. Harley’s goal is for everyone to live under one roof. To his dealership, it doesn’t matter what type of bike you ride as long as you ride.
Outlook for the Pan America
By the time I had completed my chat with Alex, one thing had become clear. Harley-Davidson is serious about the Pan America and the ADV segment. If what Alex says is true, the Pan America will be front and center at dealerships with a knowledgeable staff to assist anyone interested in the newest big ADV category machine.