Featured Rider: Vaughn Beals

Photo Compliments AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum

Photo Compliments AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum

 

There are many “what-ifs” that apply to the motorcycle industry. What if the crash of 1929 had never happened? What if more motorcycle manufacturers survived the recessions, Great Depression, World Wars? After Indian closed its doors in 1953, Harley-Davidson was the only remaining American motorcycle manufacturer. What if a guy like Vaughn Beals, hired in 1975 by AMF, had never come along? What if he had not been so bold as to rally about a dozen people, including Willie G. Davidson in 1981 to risk a lot and buy the company from AMF for about $75,000,000? What if Beals had not been successful in getting government approved five year’s tariff relief from expanding import of touring sized motorcycles starting in 1983? And what if Beals had been happy with status quo on sinking quality, inefficient production systems, before and after the buyout? Would Harley-Davidson even exist today, or become another victim of big business practices; buyouts, selloffs, and other practices uncomfortable to their brand loyal customers?
Beals and his team also “invented” the wonderful Harley Owners Group, a masterful way to bring customers and dealers together through dealer based events, building loyalty and sales. In this era Harley also worked hard to protect its brand from unauthorized use and began to formulate dealership designs. Apparel and licensed goods efforts ramped up tremendously, and thoughts of a serious Harley-Davidson Museum were certainly in the works.
Did Vaughn Beals do it all himself? No. But he was the person at the top, Chief Executive Officer of Harley-Davidson between 1981 and 1989, and chairman from 1981 to 1996. He selected and managed his staff, made tough decisions and started the path toward amazing international success. Some would say he laid the ground work for the CEOs that followed him. From annual sales of around 25,000 units in the 1960’s, now over 250,000 Harleys come off the production lines each year, and total revenues, according to the New York Times are $6.3 Billion dollars. Vaughn Beals earned the Distinguished Service Citation from the Automotive Hall of Fame and was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2008.
2 replies
  1. Robert Collins
    Robert Collins says:

    One cannot truly appreciate what Vaughun Beals and the 12 other people did with Harley Davidson to save that company until they buy the book Well Made in America by Peter C Reed. It is available at Amazon at other venues now. It explains how close Harley Davidson, the wonderful motorcycle company of America, was at one time 24 hours from the foreclosure. It is well worth the time spent reading it and makes one very grateful for the work that was done to save the company.

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