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H-D Tops In Satisfaction, Ranks In The Middle For Reliability

According to a recent ranking study done by Consumer Reports, homegrown motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson earned a high grade for rider satisfaction, but barely fit into the middle of the pack when it comes to reliability, falling in line well behind the major Japanese manufacturers and fellow domestic entry Victory.

The Consumer Reports study was a bit more involved than a game of darts with motorcycle brands on the board. It included a survey of more than 11,000 of CR’s subscribers who owned a total of 12,300 bikes between the model years 2008 and 2014. The bikes covered ten nameplates and considered the failure rates of four year-old bikes for its reliability rankings. Without further ado, here are CR’s rankings and the failure rate of each brand surveyed:

  • Yamaha/Star with an 11 percent failure rate
  • Suzuki and Honda at 12 percent
  • Kawasaki at 15 percent
  • Victory at 17 percent
  • Harley-Davidson at 26 percent
  • Triumph at 29 percent
  • Ducati at 33 percent
  • BMW at 40 percent
  • Can-Am at 42 percent

With Harleys failing at over 25 percent of the time within four years, you would think that riders would move to another brand, but as CR states:

”…owner satisfaction — i.e., happiness — is an entirely different measure from reliability.”

The magazines satisfaction ratings show the riders that ”said they would definitely buy the same bike if they were to do it all over again.” The top three are:

  • Victory with an 80 percent satisfaction rating
  • Harley-Davidson at 72 percent
  • Honda at 70 percent

It seems that many riders would rather fix a Harley that ride a reliable Yamaha. One interesting point the survey seems to make is that comfort of the ride has more to do with customer satisfaction than number of breakdowns. That is shown by Victory being the only bike to achieve the highest marks for comfort, yet still had a 17 percent failure rate. On the other hand, Harley did poorly for comfort, yet overcame its failure rate as well. Could it be that the bar and shield is synonymous with being a true rider, so image overcomes average reliability and comfort?

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