Five Minutes with Harley-Davidson Canada Boss Ignacio Inaki Isusi

2017 Toronto Motorcycle Show

Harley-Davidson will celebrate its 100th anniversary in Canada in 2017. The quintessentially American motorcycle company has undergone some changes here in the past couple of years, and we now have an official Harley-Davidson Canada. As of December, 2016 it is headed up by Ignacio “Inaki” Isusi.

Inaki was raised in Spain and after earning a Bachelor of Arts in Law and Economics from IE Business School, came to Harley-Davidson from Ford Motor Company in 2004. His most recent posting was as the Managing Director for Mexico where he oversaw the 110th anniversary celebrations of the brand in that country.

Having worked in Harley-Davidson’s dealership expansion in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, as well as Brazil, Mexico and the Americas, Inaki has seen the full breadth of Harley’s customer reach.

We spent five minutes with Inaki during the Toronto Motorcycle Show to find out where Canada fits in the mix.

JB: How is Canada different to other markets for Harley-Davidson?

II: I think there is a commonality to how our brand is represented and how our customers see the brand.

Canada is a really exciting melting pot of cultures – which makes it a little different. Because normally you would see that in developing markets, but clearly Canada is economic-wise and motorcycle-wise a developed market.

That is the biggest difference I’ve seen. A very strong set of diverse communities. It’s fascinating.

JB: How does the Canadian Consumer differ from other markets?

II: I’ve been involved in Spain, England, Mexico, Brazil and now Canada. I haven’t worked a lot with the American consumer – though I’ve worked there.

I think the core values are the same. That desire for freedom, that expression of individuality in group or solo riding, that perception of the brand in the customers’ terms and making the brand “yours”.

What you see very clearly is different in Canada compared to other markets is the choice of the product. Normally in other markets it’s more geared to the Sportster, the Street family and even the Dynas. In Canada the mix is much more similar to the US. Touring, customs, trikes and softails and the other families are a bit under indexed when it comes to consumer choice.

2017 Toronto Motorcycle Show

JB: How can Harley-Davidson help to bring more riders to the sport?

II: That’s two things. One is the actual product you bring to market and the next five years are going to be extremely exciting there. That’s going to help us to inspire our existing, nascent, customer base and it’s going to help us fulfil other customer needs; other ways of perceiving the brand. That’s the product side.

On the emotional side, how we go from the idea and the vision we have for this company to the customer – it requires product of course – but it involves our dealership network, and our corporate experiences to the customer. That’s a clear example of where we can influence the Canadian motorcycle rider, and the Harley enthusiast, and bring those experiences and products to consumers in their own terms.

We are testing different things, for example our 1903 Café we opened in Toronto last year, and the partnership with [motorcycle app] Eat Sleep Ride, and events like the Life in HD tour and many others which we are developing.

The product side is very strong, the emotional side is something we are developing and something we need to develop in order to attract the next group of customers to our lifestyle, our brand and ultimately make their lives happier and more fulfilled.

JB:  Obviously you are new to this role, and it’s a new role as there has been an overhaul of Harley-Davidson’s presence in Canada. What other changes do you see happening here in Canada?

II: I think we need to put the customer first. When it comes to corporate structures, the customer doesn’t see the value in that. What they want is a great product at a great price and for the product to fulfil what they were looking for in it. And in our case our motorcycles fulfill that need for freedom, for expression, that need for the open road and yet also the need for urban mobility. So the corporate changes are not something that … we need to get past that.

Our past structure fulfilled great things. It put us on the map here, and allowed us to grow over 100 years from zero to being the leader in the heavyweight segment. And the reason I say that is that being the leader means you have been doing something right – it doesn’t come by chance.

Harley-Davidson being here offered advantages in price, we were able to have more competitive pricing, it is offering more advantages in terms of availability of product. More closeness to the organization in terms of us passing on the needs for product development not only in bikes but also in accessories and in clothing.

Whatever we do, needs to benefit the customer. It doesn’t matter if I am here as the Managing Director or someone else. We are creating our long-term plan, and that plan needs to benefit the customer.

JB:  You mentioned the role of product in luring in new customers, what HD products get you most excited?

II: I’ve had products in all the lines we have. Right now I have an XR1200. I loved that when it was launched. But I was living in Europe and it was closer to European tastes, so when I got the opportunity I purchased it.

Right now this year, I’m looking at a Road Glide. The new Milwaukee engine is great, great suspension, lots of other little features that are numerous but add up to a great experience.

When we launched the Roadster last year, just in looks and feel and agility –  I loved that.  But right now the Road Glide will be more suited to me. So that’s the bike I would go to right now.

Although every time we launch a new bike I want that to be my bike!

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Jacob Black

Jacob Black

Jacob is a writer and a journalist who enjoys cars, driving and jokes. Sometimes he writes a series of jokes and loosely connects them to a car he was driving. Jacob Black is not a werewolf.