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When They Went Their Own Way – Harley-Davidson and Deeley Imports

HINDSIGHT 20/20 : For many years Canada held a unique spot in the Harley-Davidson realm. Unlike most regions of the world, Canada had a private distributor in Canada for Harley-Davidson product in Canada. It was a unique and probably quite profitable position to be in for Deeley Imports. The reasons for the deal longevity may  go all the way back to 1981 when Trev Deeley joined with other investors and Willie G. to buy the then struggle brand from AMF and the fact that Trev’s grandfather started selling Harley bikes in Vancouver only 14 years after the company was founded.

All arrangements are ultimately review and the following is what happened in 2015. 


Harley-Davidson was full of surprises that year. In February, the Motor Company announced it would  end its long-standing distributor arrangement with Deeley Harley Canada.

A historic Canadian family name and a legendary brand will soon go their own ways. Harley-Davidson announced it will   transition to a model of direct distribution to independently owned dealers in Canada by July 31, 2017, when the company’s current agreement ends with Deeley Harley-Davidson Canada, the exclusive distributor of Harley-Davidson products in Canada since 1973. The two companies are also in discussions about a possible agreement to move up the transition in Canadian operations to as early as the third quarter of 2015.

Harley-Davidson has largely migrated to a globally consistent model of direct distribution to independently owned dealers and in recent years has established direct distribution and operations in a number of its major markets including Brazil, Australia, Italy and the Scandinavian countries. Under direct distribution, the company manages sales to dealers, marketing, dealer recruitment and retail capabilities, consumer events and other aspects of its in-market activities, often through wholly owned subsidiaries. Canada remains among the only markets operating through a third-party distributor arrangement.

“The contributions of the Deeley organization to Harley-Davidson’s customers and the business in Canada have been tremendous, and we have the highest regard for the entire Deeley team,” said Harley-Davidson North America vice president and managing director Mike Kennedy. “Deeley has achieved a level of success that has made Canada one of the largest international Harley-Davidson markets over time. We have made this decision to transition to direct
distribution in Canada after long and careful consideration, and solely growing out of our global business strategy.”

“We have a long and proud relationship with Harley-Davidson…” said Deeley Harley-Davidson Canada president and chief operating officer Malcolm Hunter. “It has been a true honour to be part of this business we have all built together. We have accomplished so much and are proud of Deeley’s legacy and our enduring contribution to motorcycling in Canada. The entire Deeley organization will work closely with Harley-Davidson to ensure a seamless transition…” 

The Deeley family name has a lengthy association with Harley-Davidson. In 1917 Fred Deeley Sr. began selling the brand from a former bicycle shop on Granville Street in Vancouver. Fred Jr., took over running the motorcycle operation in 1925. In 1953, grandson Trevor—a legendary figure on the west coast—was appointed general manager of Fred Deeley Motorcycles, and by 1973 had become Harley’s exclusive Canadian distributor. Trev Deeley was famously part of a group of 13 investors led by Willie G. Davidson who in 1981 purchased and revived the then-floundering brand from American Machine and Foundry for a reported $80 million. From that critical point, Harley-Davidson has enjoyed an unprecedented level of success in terms of retail, and brand recognition.

The Canadian distribution company was named Fred Deeley Imports Ltd in honour of the family’s history in the motorcycle business. Harley-Davidson motorcycles and related products are now sold through a worldwide network of more than 1,460 independently owned dealerships.

Canadian Biker Issue #311


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