Until recently, the words “certified pre-owned” were only used in BMW car dealerships or Lexus auto advertisements. Just not any longer: Harley-Davidson is adapting the used car market model that many manufacturers have been using for years and introducing it to motorcycles. The Motor Company is launching a new initiative called Harley-Davidson Approved, which it claims is the first certified pre-owned motorcycle programmer sponsored by Harley-dealer Davidson’s network. When purchasing a used bike, some people can find that knowing it has been well-maintained and tested goes a long way toward giving them peace of mind. After all, the tried-and-true Craigslist alternative isn’t always a sure thing.
According to the press release, every pre-owned motorcycle in the scheme is subjected to a thorough 110-point inspection by qualified Harley technicians. It comes with a 12-month extended warranty on the engine and transmission. If you purchase an H-D Certified vehicle, you will also receive a free one-year membership in HOG (Harley Owners Group), which includes advantages such as roadside assistance and is likely to convince some hesitant buyers. Harley-Davidson says it would also fund pre-owned bikes for interested customers.
So, why bikes aren’t you qualified for the Harley-Davidson programmed? Pre-owned bikes with open recalls or a blocked VIN, those that have been in a big crash, or those that have just missed daily scheduled service are not exempt. Harleys qualifying for the scheme must be more than five model years old, must have fewer than 25,000 miles on the clock, and cannot be equipped with aftermarket engine or transmission modifications, as well as significant chassis or electrical improvements. That eliminates a substantial number of bikes, but it is not an uncommon qualification in the CPO community, whether four-wheel or two-wheel. In reality, while CPO systems are primarily synonymous with the car industry, Triumph Motorcycles launched its own in the United States last year. Ducati currently offers one in Europe called Ducati Approved.
It’s also not shocking that Harley-Davidson is taking the approach, owing to its Hardwire restructuring plan, which suggested the company wanted to fix “excess inventory,” which most of us assumed meant new bike offerings. Still, CEO Jochen Zeitz believes the adoption of used bike sales would only strengthen the Harley brand. “H-D Certified is a strategic initiative to improve our competitive position and is part of our new approach to the used motorcycle marketplace, aligned to The Hardwire’s strategic goals while promoting growth,” he said. We assume that this service will increase Harley-Davidson desirability and improve the overall consumer experience by encouraging more customers to access our bikes and providing them with more interest in their purchase.”
Will it, however, broaden the brand’s appeal to younger riders as a means of providing a palatable replacement for low-margin “entry-level” new models now that Harley-Davidson has primarily phased them out of its portfolio (we’re looking at you, Street 500)? When you consider that the cheapest and smallest new Harley available in the US is the nearly 900cc $9,499 Sportster Iron 883, a used version of that just might seem appealing to a low-salary Gen Z rider, but we’re not entirely sure that H-D shouldn’t introduce a lower-cost, small-displacement model, anyway; there’s a whole other subset of potential customers out there that might want something another hand Honda Rebels.
For some new users, the worth of a CPO bike might be uncertain, at least in terms of cost, but if the added comfort of a warranty and roadside assistance—as well as peace of mind—are essential, CPO is the way to go.