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You're going to hear it somewhere, so you may as well get it here: as-yet unsubstantiated rumours of a private equity giant, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, being interested in buying Harley-Davidson are running round the web, with doom-mongers and the disaffected having a field day.

There's a lot of parallels being drawn between how the family-owned business was absorbed into the evil AMF empire and what a potential new owner might do to The Motor Company, but before clarifying a few details, it's worth reminding people that these are UNSUBSTANTIATED RUMOURS at this point.

Clarifying a few details?

Harley-Davidson went into the AMF deal because they needed AMF's money to turn the small - in global terms - manufacturer producing 15,575 motorcycles (excluding the Italian models), into one producing more than 50,000 in a dozen years. There were some major changes in production methods to accommodate this, and changing the source of some of the components to off-shore suppliers, both of which didn't go down too well with some, but the company that the management bought back in the 1980s was a stronger and more viable one than went into the AMF deal, and was the foundation of the Motor Company we know today. They are cited as the days when quality suffered, which can be seen in retrospect as growing pains, but in that time period, the XR750 was created, the FLHT frame was developed and much of the development of  Evolution engine was done. Rubber-mounting was introduced together with belt drives, 5-speed gearboxes and a range of motorcycles of infinitely more variety than the two FLs, two XLs and the Servicar that were produced in 1969.

And there's no saying how much of the passion of that original management buyout group remains in the higher ranks today: business strategies have changed since 1981 and the company has grown massively in the thirty years since buyback: against that background, how much difference would a change in ownership have?

There is a worst case scenario, which is that squabbling money men cream off the profits, but anyone with an idea of the history of motorcycle manufacturing the in the USA will know how that story ends, and there is a positive story with regards to the recent influence of Private Equity in the US Motorcycle industry, in terms of the passion that is driving Harley's long time rival, Indian, forwards.

Until the dust settles, and either Harley-Davidson or Kohlberg Kravis Roberts breaks their silence, there's little point in speculating as to what is happening behind closed, but there is every reason to be confident as to Harley-Davidson's future.

It might even be a positive next stage in The Motor Company's evolution.

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